Lake Tahoe has always ranked high on our list of favorite places to visit in the United States, but visiting with kids was a completely different experience! Instead of fancy restaurants and intense hikes, we pursued family-friendly establishments and easy outdoor activities.
Our kids love to adventure, but aren’t fans of long hikes or being out the entire day, so we’ve mastered the art of doing smaller excursions with one or two full day trips in between. We also like to take advantage of local parks and really get a feel for the culture and vibe of the place, so our recommendations tend to reflect that travel style.
Below is our family’s list of our top 10 things to do with adventurous kids in Lake Tahoe.
- Sand Harbor Beach – This is the perfect full day trip for families! If you’re visiting in the peak season, arrive early and go on a weekday if you can. If you don’t have your own paddle boards, you can rent from the park or during the off-season, from a number of local outfitters. In the winter, they even have sleigh rides! I highly recommend making advance reservations. Our kids favorite part was paddling over to the rocks and scrambling from rock to rock over the water. There is also beautiful paved walkway and bike trail if being on the water isn’t your thing. After a little adventuring on the water, take your picnic or grab a bite from the cafe and head to the south side of the park to relax the afternoon away on the beach. This is one of the best places to watch sunset in Tahoe, so plan the entire day here and have your camera ready!
- Take a Bike Ride and visit a local Brewery – Rent some bikes and head out on the South Tahoe bike trail. You can access it from a number of locations, if you have your own bikes, free parking is available at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. This an easy ride for kids, with very little elevation, and winds through the forest, along the road and near some local beaches. In the fall, it’s especially delightful with the changing color of the aspen leaves.
- Visit a Local Brewery – During your bike ride, you can stop at a local spot like the Hanger which has yard games and plenty of space for the kids to run around, or you can drive over to the South Lake Brewing to enjoy a local brew. If you love hazy or juicy IPAs and seasonal blondes, SLB is going to be your favorite spot! Both breweries have rotating food trucks, if you are lucky Rad pizza will be serving up their woodfire pizzas – yum.
- Drive around the Lake – No visit to Lake Tahoe is complete without a drive around the lake. If starting in South Lake Tahoe, you’ll want to drive west first, if starting in North Lake Tahoe or Truckee, head east and then south around the lake. Driving clockwise will allow you to take advantage of pull-offs and all the views that driving around the lake affords. There really is no fool-proof guide for driving the lake…the parking lots get crowded, no matter the season, so if there is a place you really want to see, start early and pack an extra dose of patience. Also, don’t be afraid to pull off and explore unmarked spots where others have clearly paved the way before you. Some of our favorite hikes and vistas have been unexpected, if you really want to know where we stopped, shoot us a message on instagram @slow.the.heck.down and we will share some pins with you. 🙂
- Bijou Bike Park & Disc Golf Course – As you know, no visit to a new city is complete without a visit to the local disc golf course! The bonus points for this course is that it’s right next to a BMX track, pump track and Slopestyle mountain biking courses. Our kids had a blast riding their bikes with the local kids, playing at the park and throwing discs on the first 9 holes of disc golf (Gerald finished the full 22 and loved it!).
- Emerald Bay State Park – About 12 miles from South Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay is the jewel of Tahoe. During the summer months, you can tour historic Vikingsholm and explore the lakefront via a moderately difficult (400ft) elevation gain from the highway above. There is also an informative pullout above that explores some of the history and gives you a stunning view of the bay.
- Go to the Beach! There’s nothing better than a day spent playing in the sun and swimming in the cool waters of Tahoe. A day pass to the state beaches in CA will run you $10 for the day and gives you access to a number of beautiful beaches on the California side, including Baldwin Beach, D.L.Bliss State park, and our namesake, Pope Beach! The Nevada side has an equal number of stunning beaches, a $10 day pass will give you access to those as well, including Sand Harbor (see above) and Nevada Beach in Zephyr Cove (one of our favorites!). Just a note that if it’s busy you should hang out at the beach you’ve found parking at–the last thing you want to do is leave and not find a spot to park anywhere. So our recommendation is to choose your beach and stay as long as you want. Lots of restaurants will deliver or you can use uber eats to order your favorite take out.
- Take a Boat Ride – The lake really is best enjoyed from the water, a number of companies offer cruises of the area, and you can even take a hot air ballon ride that will land you right on the water. We saw one touching down and it was so cool! We plan to go up in one the next time we visit.
- Taylor Creek Visitor Center – Since we homeschool, we love a good nature center and Taylor Creek does not disappoint! You can learn about (and possibly see) salmon spawning, discover a beaver dam, see a number of birds, and learn all about the Lake Tahoe ecosystem. The web of trails will also take you through the woods, marshes and meadows where you will encounter a variety of trees, plants, and wildlife. Some visitors have even seen bears feasting on salmon in the creek! At the end of the trails there is a beautiful natural beach where our kids played for hours. This is a must-visit for families!
- Go on a hike! – This one seems obvious, but the Lake Tahoe area has an incredible number of hikes at a variety of levels for you and your family to enjoy. Hikes that involve bouldering or water are always big hits for our family, so we tend to seek those out. We usually talk to the locals to gauge the best hikes for our family in the season we are visiting, but we have also had good success using the AllTrails app. I love that you can download maps to your app so that you can access them even if you lose cell service.
I hope this helps your family get a jump start on your Lake Tahoe vacation. As always, pack lots of water, gatorade and snacks for your outdoor adventures. It’s amazing how a flavored drink, applesauce pouch or bag of fruit snacks can help keep the little ones energized and entertained throughout there day’s activities! And if you have any questions, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love connecting with other travel-loving families!