In September, hundreds of racers and spectators from around the globe flock to North Lake Tahoe for the Spartan World Championship. While this nature-lover’s paradise in the Sierra Nevada mountain range is known for winter skiing, we think the real fun is found when the snow melts. For thrills beyond the race course, check out these seven adventurous and active things to do in Tahoe.
Insider tip: Whatever you do, plan to be up and out the door by 6 a.m. to beat the crowds.
7 Active Things To Do in Tahoe:
1. The Aerial Tram at Squaw Valley
Whether you’re joining in this epic event or not, we suggest checking out the race venue. Squaw Valley was host to the 1960 Winter Olympics and is now the second-largest ski area in Lake Tahoe. Take the year-round Aerial Tram up to High Camp for the most spectacular view. I can tell you from experience, it’s worth the $39.
The Tram climbs high above the ground, past rocky cliffs, to an elevation of 8,200 feet at High Camp. Once up top, choose from miles of hiking trails, visit the pocket-sized Olympic Museum, swim in the pool or hot tub, or just soak in the glorious view.
Insider tip: It’s windy and cooler at High Camp so bring an extra layer.
2. Hike Mount Tallac
Prefer to reach the peak on your own two feet? The 10.2-mile Mount Tallac Trail is rated difficult, which means you’ve totally got it, Spartan. It’s a popular out and back hike near South Lake Tahoe. Often referred to as the “jewel in the crown of mountains which ring Lake Tahoe,” Mount Tallac is the Lake’s tallest peak, sitting at 9,735 feet above sea level.
“The trail ends in what has to be one of the most incredible views in the High Sierras, with sweeping mountain and lake views,” said All Trails hiker Justin Luthey. “You’ll find varied terrain throughout, beginning with sandy rocky path and changing to large boulders and rock scrambling.”
This hike could take up to seven hours, so start early (think 5-6 a.m.) to combat the heat. And bring plenty of water.
Insider tip: A wilderness permit is required, but you can self-issue a day hike permit at the trailhead. And it’s free.
3. Kayak at Emerald Bay State Park
The most iconic image of Lake Tahoe—you know, the one with Fannette Island placed perfectly in the middle of the bay—is likely the view from Emerald Bay State. Take in the scenery and get an upper body workout with a kayak ride here.
Emerald Bay kayaking is one of the most popular active things to do in Tahoe, so arrive by 8 a.m. to get a parking spot (cost: $10). Then you have a 1-mile downhill walk from the parking lot to the bay. The kayak rental doesn’t open until 10 a.m. so enjoy your coffee and explore the beautiful Vikingsholm building while you wait.
When the clock strikes 10 a.m., rent a kayak for $25 cash (leaving your photo ID as collateral). You can paddle to Fannette Island in 10 minutes and explore. Can you find the remains of the old tea house? Read one Californian blogger’s review here.
4. Mountain Bike the Flume Trail
On the northeast corner of Lake Tahoe, in Nevada, the Flume Trail Mountain Bike Ride is a moderately-difficult 14-miles. With spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevadas, it’s worth the 1,000 feet in elevation gain. It's a popular active thing to do in Tahoe but the trails are well-maintained.
If you don’t have mountain biking gear, Flume Trail Mountain Bikes has got you covered, but plan ahead and rent a bike online as reservations fill up quickly. Check in at their shop in Incline Village and they’ll equip you with a bike and helmet and shuttle you to the trailhead at Spooner Lake State Park.
While sections of the trail are steep, Max Jones, owner of Flume Trail Mountain Bikes, says that shouldn’t scare you. “If you’re fairly athletic with a good sense of adventure, you don’t really need to be bike-fit,” said Jones.
Note: Bring a filled hydration pack to wear on your back while biking.
5. SUP on Kings Beach
You’re by one of the world’s best lakes, so stand up paddleboarding (SUP) better be on your list of active things to do in Tahoe. And it’s best on Tahoe’s North Shore at King’s Beach.
A no-wake-zone extending 600 feet from shore as well as a 5 MPH speed limit mean you won’t worry about motorboats speeding by and throwing you off your board.
You’ll find plenty of places right on the beach to rent a paddleboard, from $25 hourly to $80 daily. Take a leisurely paddle with views of the mountains, or push yourself for a hardcore ab workout.
Insider tip: Don’t forget the sunblock.
6. Treetop Adventure Park
Can’t quite make it to the top of the Spartan rope climb or the eight-foot wall? You can still rise to dizzying heights at Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks.
Tucked into three spots around Tahoe, including Squaw Valley, these aerial treks through forests of scented pine and cedar boast 5-10 courses. Look forward to rope swings, bridges, climbing walls, zip lines, swinging logs, tightropes, and cargo nets. Best part? No burpees required.
There’s a course for every level of athleticism and age, which means you can bring your 5-year-old on this active thing to do in Tahoe! The entire experience takes about 2-3 hours. You’ll be strapped into fall protection and fitted with a helmet. Reserve a session starting at $50 for adults, $40 kids.
7. Rock Climbing
Some say the Sierra Nevada boasts the best summer climbing in all of California. Now’s the time to find out. Whether you’re an expert like Spartan Pro Team Member, Nicole Mericle (who credits rock climbing with improving her grip strength) or a beginner, the mountains and crags in the Lake Tahoe area offer the perfect setting for rock climbing.
There are companies like Tahoe Adventure Company and Alpenglow Expeditions that will hook you up with a climbing guide and gear. Both have beginner, intermediate and advanced rock climbing options. Get past your fear of heights and add this to your active things to do in Tahoe list.