7 experiences to have in South Lake Tahoe

Whether it’s summer or winter, Lake Tahoe’s south shore offers plenty of epic experiences among some of Mother Nature’s most widescreen landscapes…

Team Wanderlust
05 August 2023
Promoted by
Audley California

For a state known for its beauty and diversity of landscapes, even South Lake Tahoe holds an enviable position. It is located among the Sierra Nevada mountains against the largest alpine lake in North America – the shoreline is 72 miles alone. There is so much to see and do in this area, and here are Audley’s favourites…

1. Walk one of the many hiking trails

Trace the Rubicon Trail in Emerald Bay State Park (Shutterstock)

South Lake Tahoe is, as the name gives away, on the southern end of the vast Lake Tahoe, an astonishingly blue and pure alpine lake. The mountains of the Sierra Nevada rise around the town. “The vivid blue lake and surrounding alpine forest and mountains make this an outdoor adventure playground,” says Audley USA specialist Monty.

Emerald Bay, known for its striking turquoise waters and mountainous surroundings, is the jewel of the area and a short drive from South Lake Tahoe. Emerald Bay State Park has many trails, but one of the highlights is the Rubicon Trail, a 6.5-mile-long walk through the lakeside conifers. There are also dozens of trails right out of South Lake Tahoe, including a short mile-long trot to Vikingsholm, a mansion built in 1929.

2. Sample South Lake Tahoe’s craft beer scene

South Lake Brewing Co. is one of many breweries in South Lake Tahoe (Visit California)

California is the spiritual home of the new wave of craft beer, and South Lake Tahoe is no different. This is the place to be if you want to find a hazy IPA or sessionable pale ale bursting with flavour and aroma. It helps, too, that you’ll likely enjoy that schooner with a view. Perfect for that early evening pint after a day of skiing, or snowshoeing, or mountain biking, or paddleboarding, or hiking, or… well, you get the idea.

There are several breweries in town, enough for a beer trail. Take in the Angora IPA with hints of mango and pine at South Lake Brewing Co, or pop into Tahoe Cold Water Brewery for all-grain beers paired with a seasonal, locally charged menu. The Brewery, Lake Tahoe’s original brewpub for steaks and suds. And at Lake Tahoe Aleworxs, customers can pour their pints.

3. Take to a mountain bike trail

South Lake Tahoe is ripe for mountain biking adventures (Visit California)

There are few more exhilarating pleasures than hurtling down a mountain on two wheels, springing over rocky trails and weaving through conifer forests. Lake Tahoe’s mountain biking trails are legendary, with people travelling here from across the country. There are two mountain bike shuttles out of the town, too, so you can quickly get to the trailhead.

One of the most famous descents in the area is the Mr Toad’s Wild Ride (Saxon Creek Trail), a rocky technical downhill that goes on for six fun miles. The tricky 14-mile Flume Trail traverses several steep mountains with spectacular views over Lake Tahoe.

And for road cyclists, the 72-mile loop around Lake Tahoe is one of the world’s most beautiful routes. There are plenty of bike rental locations.

4. Go on a paddling adventure

Go kayaking on South Lake Tahoe’s calm waters (Shutterstock)

See that water? Deep blues, vibrant greens, sparkling turquoise. Now imagine silently paddling across its still waters, lost in the scenery and wonder of the mountains surrounding you. Paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe is the most relaxing way to soak in the view. It is, after all, the deepest alpine lake in North America. The uncommonly clear and blue waters are because of the cold winters it enjoys and the efforts of organisations such as Tahoe Regional Protection Agency and Keep Tahoe Blue. Our favourite paddleboarding destinations include D.L. Bliss State Park, Kiva Beach, Cave Rock and, of course, Emerald Bay.

Plenty of operators rent paddleboards, such as South Tahoe Standup Paddle, Kayak Tahoe and SUP South Lake Tahoe, who will rent even car racks so you head anywhere around the lake.

5. Hire a boat and explore the lake

Explore Lake Tahoe by boat (Shutterstock)

Lake Tahoe is one of Planet Earth’s natural wonders. It is the largest alpine lake in North America, the second deepest in the United States at 501 metres, and around 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. The shoreline is 72 miles long, and the surface area is 191 square miles. It is also one of the purest bodies of water on the globe, surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range. In short, it’s big, deep and beautiful. The size of it means there are dozens of areas to explore.

One of the best ways to explore it is by boat. Hire a vessel and explore the coves, beaches, and swimming holes, or just cast a line and hope for a bite for the evening’s barbecue.

6. Soak up history at Tallac Historic Site

Tallac Historic Site is an informative echo of the California Gold Rush (Audley)

The Washoe people have lived around Lake Tahoe for more than 6,000 years. And then, in 1848, the incursion of people following the California Gold Rush swiftly led to the establishment of mining and logging communities around the lake. By the late 1800s, steamboats shuttled workers and visitors across the lake. As early as 1864, tourists were coming to Lake Tahoe.

The oldest remaining resort is Tallac Historic Site, a former complex that once saw wealthy San Franciscans enjoy the lake 100 years ago. It is three miles away from South Lake Tahoe and comprises wooden buildings from the resort and those from the estates of three wealthy families. There are a couple of museums and pleasant paths around the estate to the shoreline.

About the experts

“A trip to Lake Tahoe is the quintessential Californian family holiday,” Audley USA specialist Monty says. “I recommend staying in South Lake Tahoe, which has more activities and eateries than other regions of the lake.” As you can see, Audley knows South Lake Tahoe. Ever since 2012, in fact, when Audley began helping visitors get the best out of US destinations, including California.

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