Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Winter

December 8 2021, 6:31pm

Wintertime is here, and it’s the perfect time of year to take advantage of the time off work and school to enjoy a trip to Lake Tahoe! An outdoor-lover’s paradise, Lake Tahoe is a famous ski destination, but there are even things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter if you’re not too fond of the slopes.

Lake Tahoe is an excellent wintertime travel destination. The lake’s beauty provides the backdrop to some of your favorite winter activities like ice skating, snowmobiling, and even a holiday village!

So, dress warm because you’ll be spending lots of time outdoors this season as you enjoy the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter. But don’t worry, there’s never a cozy fireplace too far away to warm up before heading out on your next adventure.

lake tahoe

Ski the Slopes

Sweeping views of Lake Tahoe as you rip down the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Mountain Range make skiing among the most popular things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter. With 15 ski resorts and ample natural snow all season, it’s no wonder why it’s one of California’s top places to go skiing.

Lake Tahoe is a ski destination for all ages and skill levels. Whether it’s your first-time skiing or you’re ready to take on the world-class slopes in Squaw Valley that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, there’s always the perfect resort to enjoy designated runs.

The most popular ski resorts in Lake Tahoe are:

·      Palisades Tahoe

·      Heavenly Mountain

·      Diamond Peak

·      Sugar Bowl

Peaks reach well over 8,500-ft, providing breath-taking views over the lake while skiing down the slopes. Spend the day on the slopes before retreating to cozy accommodation in the ski resorts, which host travelers the entire winter season. Many of the resorts offer equipment rentals and lessons for beginners.

Snowboarding is an alternative to enjoy on the slopes at these ski resorts. Lake Tahoe also has routes designated for cross-country skiing.

Ice Skating

There’s nothing more magical than ice skating in the crisp winter air beneath the twinkle of string lights hanging overhead. If you’re looking for a break from the slopes, ice skating ranks among the best Lake Tahoe winter activities that are not skiing. And the good news is that you won’t have to venture far away to enjoy this winter activity.

It’s rare that Lake Tahoe freezes over to ice skate on the lake, but the surrounding resorts allow plenty of opportunities to lace up your skates and hit the ice! Ice Skating is often the centerpiece of the ski resorts that creates a fun, family-friendly atmosphere.

The best places to go ice skating in Lake Tahoe are:

·      Heavenly Village Ice Rink

·      Northstar Village Ice Skating Rink

·      Olympic Ice Pavilion

·      South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena

You can enjoy a few hours of skating accompanied by music and decorations during the holidays. In addition, several rinks offer free skating lessons for kids and adults.

While most of the ice skating rinks in Lake Tahoe are open-air, South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena is a new addition that offers an NHL-regulated sized indoor rink open all year round.

Scenic Gondola Rides

Skiing isn’t the only way to get access to the best views overlooking Lake Tahoe. While most people hop on the gondola in anticipation of shredding the slopes, they might be missing out on one of the best parts about visiting Lake Tahoe in the winter.

Heavenly Ski Resort has opened up its gondolas to all visitors, even if you aren’t planning on skiing. These scenic gondola rides provide panoramic views of Lake Tahoe en route to the top of Heavenly Mountain, where the fun is just beginning.

The scenic gondola ride at Lake Tahoe starts at the mountain base near the resort and takes riders on a 2.4-mile journey to High Camp located on the mountain summit.

The gondolas are specially designed for leisure with an enclosed capsule to keep warm from the winter breeze but surrounded on each side by windows to give perfect views of the Lake on either side. The gondolas pass over the snowy slopes and snow-covered trees, making anyone appreciate the lake’s beauty during the winter.

At High Camp, there are several options for dining or simply taking in the mountain-top views before heading back down.


Suit up with your helmet, goggles, and gloves to get ready for an adrenaline-filled snowmobile ride at Lake Tahoe. Snowmobiling is a top activity for the entire family that gives you a more immersive experience through the snow-covered landscape surrounding the lake.

Several companies around Lake Tahoe offer snowmobile tours and rentals to those seeking a fun winter adventure. Guided tours are perfect for beginners and families. Hundreds of miles of groomed trails winding around Lake Tahoe take you on tree-lined paths before emerging at amazing viewpoints that make the ride worth it.

For those a bit more experienced, inquire about snowmobile rentals that allow you to take the machines out for a few hours to venture into the backcountry routes to discover hidden views of the lake only accessible by those daring enough to explore.

A few of the popular snowmobile trails in Lake Tahoe are:

·      Tahoe Rim Trail

·      Hope Valley Snow Park

·      Donner Summit

·      Yuba Pass Winter Trails

Rental and tour companies offer snowmobiles designed for single-riders and two-riders.

Sledding and Tubing

If you thought that high elevation ski slopes were the only downhill fun available at Lake Tahoe, then you’re in for a big surprise. Lake Tahoe is a popular destination for sledding and tubing for those in need of Lake Tahoe winter activities that are not skiing but want just as much fun on the snowy hills in the area—and there are plenty of them.

Sledding at Lake Tahoe isn’t like your typical neighborhood park hills. In the winter, snow covers large hills that even give adults a rush of fun as they glide down the slopes. And they’re fun enough to make the trek to the top many times over during your day out.

The best places for sledding and tubing in Lake Tahoe are:

·      Granlibakken

·      Boreal Mountain Playground

·      Kingvale Tubbing and Sledding Center

These sites are specially designed for sledding and have groomed slopes for a smooth ride downhill. The entire family is welcome, and you can even find rentals for tubes and sleds onsite.

An insider tip: there are places at Lake Tahoe to find free sledding hills. There are well-known hills at Tahoe Meadows or across the street from Emerald Bay. While these hills aren’t maintained, they’re still just as fun to ride down and an excellent choice for budget travelers.

Winter kayaking

If you’re someone who embraces the cold, you have a chance to get one of the unique experiences in Lake Tahoe when you go winter kayaking. Most people think that lake activities are only reserved for warmer weather, which is exactly why winter is one of the best times to go kayaking at Lake Tahoe.

Kayaking across the crystal-clear waters of Lake Tahoe accompanied only by the sound of your paddle splashing through the water and perfect views of the snow-capped peaks of the mountains make this one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter. You’ll have the lake to yourself as the waters are clear from significant boating and visitor crowds seen during the warm months.

Several kayak rental shops operate year-round where you can pick up all the gear needed to enjoy kayaking during the winter. It’s important to dress appropriately and be mindful of weather and water conditions to enjoy this activity safely.

When the sky is clear and the waters are still, winter kayaking in Lake Tahoe delivers breath-taking panoramic views of the winter scenery.

Snowshoe Hiking

Hiking is a favorite year-round activity in Lake Tahoe, but the wintertime introduces a slight twist to the activity. Instead of strapping on your favorite hiking boots, the snowy trails are best trekked with snowshoes.

If you’ve never been snowshoe hiking before, Lake Tahoe is the perfect opportunity to experience it for the first time. The diverse landscape of the lake and extending into the mountain ranges provides tons of unique routes and, many times, spectacular views at the end of the routes.

After a fresh layer of snow hits the ground, set out on the trails as you kick up fluffy snow with every step and admire the snow-topped trees towering overhead. Stick to the popular trails or venture into the Lake Tahoe backcountry to see what winter wonders await you.

The best snowshoe hiking trails at Lake Tahoe are:

·      Emerald Bay

·      Eagle Rock

·      Chickadee Ridge

·      Historic Stateline Fire Lookout

One of the most rewarding parts about snowshoe hiking is finally emerging to the summit, where views of the snowy lake and surrounding mountains make the journey worth it.

Beach in the Winter

It’s no secret that Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular outdoor destinations in California and Nevada, especially for beach enthusiasts. But even with 72-miles of shoreline, it can be hard to find a secluded place to relax and enjoy the scenery during the busy summer months. Luckily, the beaches are still open during the winter and offer lots of pleasure during the season.

During the winter, the snowy sand beaches in Lake Tahoe give beautiful views with snow-capped mountain ranges reflected back at you on the still lake surface. Not to mention having the beaches to yourself! Most travelers will be busy on the slopes, so it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the empty beaches if you’re looking for Lake Tahoe winter activities that are not skiing.

Some of the best beaches to hang out at Lake Tahoe during the winter are:

·      Sand Beach

·      Hidden Beach

·      Kings Beach

The views aren’t the only reason to spend time at the beach. On a warm, sunny winter day, you can enjoy activities like paddleboarding and a picnic. And if you’re brave enough to tough out the cold, a quick dip in the lake is always refreshing!

Holiday-themed Heavenly Village

With the winter season comes a favorite time of year for many people—the holidays! And while it’ll be time to kick off the ski season in Lake Tahoe, it’s also a time when the holiday festivities are just beginning.

Heavenly Village is one of the top ski resorts in South Lake Tahoe, but it sure knows how to keep things entertaining even if you don’t plan on skiing. The entire Heavenly Village receives a holiday makeover during December and January to keep visitors in the holiday spirit.

The holidays in Heavenly Village kick off with a tree lighting ceremony where winter-loving travelers gather around a 70-ft Christmas Tree while accompanied by live music and entertainment. There are tons of holiday lights strung up around town as you walk the snowy sidewalks to find the perfect Lake Tahoe gifts to take home for Christmas.

Adults can also have some fun while the kids are busy ice skating or resting up to hit the slopes the next day. Join in the fun with a Santa Pub Crawl or dance the night away at the après ski parties. 

Go on a Lake Cruise

Any time of year is ideal for taking a lake cruise on Lake Tahoe, but something about the winter makes it one of the best times to set off on a boating excursion across the lake. Cruise operators have lake cruises available even during the winter that provide a range of experiences for travelers looking for something special to do in Lake Tahoe during the winter.

If you’re in search of fantastic wintertime views of Lake Take, then a sightseeing cruise in Emerald Bay is precisely the winter activity you’re looking for. Panoramic views of the snow-covered mountain peaks from the middle of the lake are unmatched, especially where you can’t see other boats like you would during the summer. 

Additionally, plan out the perfect romantic evening with a lake cruise on Safari Rose, a luxury yacht experience. Or enjoy the golden glow of the sky during a sunset cruise as you watch the sun set below the mountain peaks.

Are you excited about experiencing Lake Tahoe during the winter? These are a few things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter to add to your itinerary to get you started. From the peaks of the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Lake Tahoe surface, endless adventures are awaiting you this winter season!

Let me know in the comments which of these activities you’re looking forward to enjoying the most.

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