Only a two-hour drive from Sacramento, cobalt-blue Lake Tahoe is Northern California’s mountain playground. The lake's North Shore towns—Tahoe City, Truckee, Kings Beach, and Carnelian Bay—set the stage for summertime fun by the lake and wintertime snow play. Whatever your favorite season, these communities have vacations covered with gear rentals and tours, ample dining and nightlife options, and lodgings that range from luxury resorts to knotty-pine cabins. Combine all that with North Shore's cozy mountain-town vibes and you have a perfect recipe for alpine play, lakeside dining, and fireside chats.
Play on the Water
In summer, the mountain wildflowers appear at Lake Tahoe, and so do the water toys—stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, speed boats, and almost anything that floats.
For family-friendly fun, rent an inner tube or raft and float the Truckee River. In Tahoe City, Truckee River Rafting or Truckee River Raft Company can set you up with gear to gently bob downstream to River Ranch Lodge, an 1888 stone-and-timber tavern. Nab lunch on the deck, then ride a shuttle back to your starting point.
Explore Mountain Trails
See Lake Tahoe from way up high by hiking a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile path that traverses the basin's high ridgeline. For an easy half-day jaunt, stroll to Picnic Rock from Brockway Summit to savor blue-water views or wander through the wildflowers at Page Meadows. Other great North Shore hikes include the trek to Castle Peak's volcanic turrets or the half-day ascent up Shirley Canyon at Palisades Tahoe.
There are also plenty of hikes accessible to all: The paved, 10-mile Truckee River Trail is popular with cyclists, walkers, and runners. The 2.6-mile out-and-back Pine Drop Trail is also paved and ends at an outdoor recreation center. The 2.2-mile Olympic Village Bike Trail has a small section that is paved where you will share the road with cars, but otherwise, is a peaceful route appropriate for hikers of all ages and abilities.
Any meal at Lake Tahoe tastes better with a view of its remarkably blue waters. In Carnelian Bay, score a spot on Gar Woods' lakefront deck for fish tacos and rum-rich cocktails. Cozy up with baked brie and braised short ribs at Jake's on the Lake in Tahoe City, or reserve a table at Christy Hill for Mediterranean-inspired cuisine paired with a lofty lake view. Near Homewood, Sunnyside Lodge doles out fish tacos and a summer-party atmosphere—even in January—while West Shore Cafe delivers on lakefront apres-ski warm-ups and date-night dining.
Know before you go: As part of an effort to reduce litter, both North Lake Tahoe and South Lake Tahoe have banned the sale of single-use water bottles at city-run and permitted events, and this ban will extend to all businesses in the spring of 2024. So be sure to pack a reusable water bottle—you’ll be able to fill it up with the local high-quality tap water at free water filling stations at local businesses and recreation areas.