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South Lake Tahoe is more than just the Southend of the gorgeous lake. It's a thriving town which is a hub for travelers from across the globe. We spent four days in South Lake Tahoe, exploring the area, hiking, dining and of course, swimming in the lake! Here's a quick overview of fun things to do in South Lake Tahoe. We've tried some of them - but not all. The ones we haven't tried, I'm saving for a future visit to the area!
1. Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay is considered the “crown jewel” of Lake Tahoe, and it is easily accessible from the South Lake Tahoe area via Highway 89. In 1969, this area was declared a National Natural Landmark. The park contains 1,533 acres of land, and it has the distinction of being the only California State Park to also include the land that is underwater.
Visitors to the park will find plenty to do including hiking, biking, and water sports. Plus, there are always stunning views to enjoy. One of the best spots for enjoying the vistas is at Inspiration Point where there are paved walkways and a tower that stands 600 feet over the lake.
I would have to say, visiting Emerald Bay State Park was the highlight of our own visit. The views were just gorgeous and it's a fantastic drive there and back from town.
Location: 138 Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe Hours: Sunrise to Sunset Admission: No entry admission but parking fees apply
You can learn more about Emerald Bay State Park here.
2. Heavenly Ski Resort
The Heavenly ski resort is perched in an ideal spot for picturesque views of Lake Tahoe’s sapphire waters. You can find plenty of entertainment whether you visit in the summer or winter. Summer activities include gemstone panning, the Ridge Rider mountain coaster, a climbing wall, zip lines, and a ropes course. In the winter there is skiing of course, and the runs offer thrills for different types of skiers. Plus, you can go snow tubing or take UTV tours. The scenic gondola ride gives you a view of the lake and the mountains which are unparalleled, and it is available in the summer and winter months.
Location: 1001 Heavenly Village Way, South Lake Tahoe Hours: 9 am to 5 pm Admission: Varies by activity
If you would like more information about the Heavenly Ski Resort, you will find it here.
3. Eldorado Beach
Lake Tahoe is pretty cold but on a hot summer day that can actually be quite nice. If you're visiting anytime between June and September, you should try one of the beaches.
We haven't tried this one, but it comes highly recomended and it's the beach that's closest to South Lake Tahoe.
El Dorado Beach is open all year long, and it is a good place for swimming, picnicking, or enjoying the view. The boat ramp allows you to launch your boat or kayak with ease. The restroom facilities and the snack bar are only open during the warmer months, but people are still free to visit the beach. The boat ramp may be closed due to water levels at some times of the year.
Location: 800 El Dorado Ave, South Lake Tahoe Hours: Hours vary Admission: There is a fee for using the boat ramp
If you are interested in learning more about the beach, you will find the website here.
We did visit the beach during our visit to Lake Tahoe, but the beach we samples was further up north, in the Nevada section of the lake. If you're interested, check out my post about visiting Sand Harbor Beach in Lake Tahoe.
4. Lower Eagle Falls
To reach the Lower Eagle Falls, you have to take a 2-mile hike. The trailhead is located off of Highway 89, and it is considered one of the best hikes in the area due to the verdant scenery and the payoff of the cascading falls at the end. The hike is accessible all year long, but it is advised to bring trekking poles if you plan on doing it in the winter. The majority of the trail is within the trees, and it can get a bit icy in the winter months. There are public restrooms located near the trailhead.
Location: Off of Highway 89 near the Eagle Falls Picnic Area Hours: Sunrise to Sunset Admission: Parking fees may apply and a wilderness permit is required
Learn more about Lower Eagle Falls here.
5. Adventure Mountain
The Adventure Mountain ski resort is located at the top of Echo Summit, and it contains more than 40 acres of land for sledding, tubing, and other snow games. The property is family-owned, and it is also the highest sledding resort in the entire Tahoe Basin. Visitors don’t need to bring any supplies like tubes, sleds, and helmets can all be rented on site. The sledding trails are groomed to make the most of the experience, and there is a lodge area where snacks and hot chocolate can be purchased.
Location: Hwy 50, Echo Summit, South Lake Tahoe Hours: Open seven days per week from December to April, weekdays 10 am-4 pm, weekends 9 am-4pm Admission: Entry fees range from $35-$45 per vehicle
You can find more details about Adventure Mountain here.
6. South Lake Tahoe Nightlife
There are a lot of nightlife options on the Southern shore of Lake Tahoe. The proximity to the Nevada border means you can visit the many casino options which are just moments away. Whether you like to spend your time dancing in a packed nightclub, sipping a cocktail in a bar, or relaxing in a brewery, South Lake Tahoe likely has a spot you will enjoy.
One of the most popular options for those that like a big party is the PEEK Nightclub which is located inside Harrah’s. This also happens to be the biggest club in the area with 6,700 square feet of dance floor and bars. Celebrity DJs visit the club often, and there is a dress code that is very strictly enforced.
Opal in MontBleu Casino
Another favorite is Opal which can be found in the MontBleu Casino. This is a smaller venue, but it is still very popular especially with people celebrating bachelor and bachelorette parties.
South Lake Brewing Company
For those that want things to be a little bit quieter and more laid back, The South Lake Brewing Company will probably be more your cup of tea. This craft brewery offers tasting hours until 10 pm on the weekends, and there are usually happy hour specials to enjoy.
Things to do in South Lake Tahoe in the Winter
For those planning to be in the South Lake Tahoe area in the winter months, there are plenty of snow-filled options to keep you entertained. Skiing is obviously a big choice with one of the highest vertical drops in all of California being found at the Heavenly Ski Resort. There are places to go snowshoeing around Emerald Bay, as well as spots for cross country skiing.
Sledding and snow tubing can be done at the Adventure Mountain which is also a great place for having snowball fights or building snowmen. If you have a few days where you are feeling too chilled to hang out outside, then there are the casinos and spas that can be visited.
Things to do in South Lake Tahoe in the Spring
Traveling to the South Lake Tahoe area in the spring means there will be less crowding, and many of the accommodations will be cheaper. The weather is fairly mild with temperatures in the 50s. It is pretty rainy in March, but by April there are more clear days which makes it a good time for outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking.
The milder weather means you can enjoy the wildflowers and lush greenery without getting too sweaty from your exertion. It is also a good time to take advantage of the golf courses because they won’t be as crowded as they will be later in the summer. Lake Tahoe Golf Course is a public course located off of Emerald Bay Road that is surrounded by gorgeous views.
Visiting the many casinos nearby is also an option in the Spring months. The Hard Rock Hotel, Montbleu Resort, and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe all offer gambling opportunities as well as world-class restaurants and spa treatments.
Places to Stay in South Lake Tahoe
There is a multitude of accommodations to be found in the South Lake Tahoe area, and they come in all different price ranges.
For those that tend to go for the budget accommodations, the Black Jack Inn may be a good choice. It has a score of 8.7 on Booking, and it is located near the border which puts it in walking distance of some of the casinos. Rooms can be booked to suit up to four people, and there is a family room that contains a double bed and bunk beds. Rooms come with microwaves and refrigerators, and there is free WiFi provided.
Those seeking lodgings in a moderate price range may enjoy the lodge-like offerings at the Alpenrose Inn. These individually decorated rooms are well-appointed and comfortable, and the property is in easy walking distance of restaurants and casinos. The inn provides a daily continental breakfast, and guests at the hotel are given semi-private beach passes. There is also a seasonal hot tub and an outdoor seating area with a firepit. Rooms can be booked for two, three, or four people. The larger family room contains 360 sq feet of living space.
For something a little plusher, the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is a good option. This property is within walking distance of the Heavenly Ski Resort Gondola and the shopping options at the Heavenly Village. There is an indoor pool, hot tub, and three separate garden atriums for guests to explore. The property has a restaurant on site that serves American and Asian cuisine. Guests will find many upscale amenities such as concierge service, large family suites with separate living and dining spaces, and rooftop seating areas that provide excellent views of the mountains and the lake. There are standard rooms available as well as premium suites that can sleep up to four.