With spectacular scenery, world-class skiing, music festivals and a whole range of outdoor activities on offer, there are so many wonderful things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter!
It’s easy to see why Lake Tahoe is California’s favourite winter getaway destination. You’ll find snow-covered alpine forests, fine white powder on the ski runs, cosy log cabins, and of course, incredible views over the shimmering waters of the lake.
Once December hits, the area is transformed into a winter playground, with a whole range of fun outdoor activities to fill up any Lake Tahoe winter itinerary!
Skiing is, of course, one of the most popular activities here, but there are also lots of other options of fun things to do in Lake Tahoe for non-skiers too. From lively music festivals to luxury spas, whatever your interests, there’s no shortage of awesome things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter.
Looking for a little inspiration for your next adventure? Time to show you a few of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in the winter months.
Weather in Lake Tahoe in Winter
But first, a little info on the weather in the region. Lake Tahoe (like many other parts of sunny California) boasts an impressive 300 days of sunshine per year, and even in the winter you’re likely to see some clear, blue skies.
However, between November and March the temperatures often drop to -4 Celsius (25 Fahrenheit), and frequent snowstorms ensure a fresh carpet of snow in most places around the lake.
Once these storms clear and the sun comes out, the scenery is simply glorious. The locals call this sunny winter weather ‘bluebird days’, and they make Lake Tahoe one of the best places in the world for a winter escape.
Things to Do In Lake Tahoe In Winter
1. Go Snowshoeing In Emerald Bay
Although skiing is the most popular outdoor activity in Lake Tahoe in winter, I think that snowshoeing is a great alternative, especially if you want to explore the beautiful backcountry around the lake. Snowshoeing offers a great workout, is fun and easy to learn, and allows you to escape the crowds as you head out on a wonderful winter hike.
Head for Emerald Bay, where you’ll find a number of well-marked trails suitable for different fitness and ability levels, and enjoy the magnificent views over the sparkling lake. This fun activity should be on every Lake Tahoe winter itinerary!
2. Take A Road Trip Around The Lake
Lake Tahoe is situated on the border between California and Nevada, in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Most visitors pick one part of the lake as a base, but it’s also worth taking the time to circumnavigate the water so you can enjoy a taste of everything this beautiful, diverse spot has to offer.
The 72-mile route that encircles the lake is incredibly picturesque. It can be completed in around three hours, but no doubt you’ll want to stop numerous times along the route to snap photos!
I think this is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe for non-skiers, and it’s a great way to enjoy the spectacular scenery. Make sure you don’t miss King’s Beach and Carnelion Bay, the gigantic pine trees at Sugar Pine Point State Park, and the picturesque mountain town of Tahoe City. Oh and don’t forget, if you’re travelling in winter you’ll need to be prepared for icy conditions on the roads (snow chains are essential).
3. Go Skiing
A favourite spot for skiers from San Francisco and Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe is an amazing destination for a skiing holiday. The powder conditions at Lake Tahoe are excellent, and you’ll find plenty of different options on the slopes, from snowboarding to cross-country skiing.
One of the best (and most popular) ski resorts is Heavenly, spanning the border between California and Nevada at South Lake Tahoe. There’s an excellent range of beginner, intermediate and expert runs, and a good choice of restaurants and bars for après ski adventures.
You may also want to check out Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Incline Village, which offers excellent tuition for kids. When you see the slopes, you’ll understand exactly why skiing is one of the most popular things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter.
4. Visit The Olympic Museum
If you’re looking for something to do in Lake Tahoe when the weather is cold and wet, why not head to the Olympic Museum? This fascinating little museum is focused on the 1960 Winter Olympics, which were held in Squaw Valley. It’s home to lots of artefacts from the games as well as contextualising the event and what it meant to the local area.
Don’t miss the chance to take a photo receiving your very own Olympic medal on the podium while you’re there! This small museum is well worth putting on your Lake Tahoe winter itinerary if you’re in the Squaw Valley area.
5. Go Tubing
Lake Tahoe’s perfect combination of snow and sunshine means that it’s ideal for outdoor activities. One of the most popular things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter is tubing – essentially sledding down the mountain on a large tube! I tried this for the first time in Canada and absolutely loved it. It’s so much fun.
The best place to try out this exhilarating activity is at Heavenly Adventure Peak, accessible via a gondola. There are four 500ft smooth tubing lanes that pass through some simply gorgeous scenery. This is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe for non-skiers or for young families – kids will absolutely love it!
6. Curl Up With A Coffee or a Cocktail
Lake Tahoe’s crisp weather is perfect for enjoying the great outdoors, but it’s also a great place to curl up with a book in one of the lovely cafes or bars around the lake. There’s nothing better than feeling warm and cosy when it’s cold outside, and this is a good option for those rare days when the snowstorms hit or you fancy a low key day.
In particular, Revive Coffee and Wine offers an excellent menu and a cosy ambience if you’re looking for somewhere to relax for the afternoon. In the evening, one of the best places to head for is the Brewery at Lake Tahoe, a locally run bar that specialises in craft beer. It’s also a great place for some après-ski fun in South Lake Tahoe. Nobody needs to know you didn’t hit the slopes that day!
7. Go Dog Sledding
One of the most magical things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter is to take a dog sledding trip through some of the magnificent frosty landscapes. Kirkwood Meadows, Lake Davis and the High Sierra areas are all excellent places to try out this unique activity. Several companies operate in the area, so do your research and find the one with the best animal welfare record and reviews.
You’ll have the chance to drive your own sleigh (with the help of a guide) and get to know the remarkable dogs that do all the hard work. This is one of the most romantic things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter, and the perfect way to take in the scenery without wearing yourself out!
8. Attend The Snow Globe Music Festival
The end of December is when Lake Tahoe’s biggest cultural attraction takes place – the Snow Globe Music Festival. This amazing fusion of music and mountain sports is the best way to see out the year if you’re in the Lake Tahoe area over the holiday season.
Expect a stellar line-up of international artists, with epic snowboarding and skiing displays between the acts. The event culminates with a fabulous New Year’s Eve party that you’ll never forget.
9. Relax at the Lighthouse Spa
Once you’ve exhausted yourself out on the trail or the ski slopes, it’s time to take a break. Lake Tahoe offers an excellent range of day spas where you can have a massage, indulge in some treatments, or simply relax in a hot tub or heated pool.
One of the best is the iconic Lighthouse Spa in North Lake Tahoe, which offers an extensive range of treatments designed to soothe your mind, body and soul. Put your feet up, admire the scenery, and relax – you’re on holiday!
Where To Stay In Lake Tahoe In Winter
If you’re looking for some winter luxury just a stone’s throw from Heavenly Ski Resort, look no further than the Landing Resort and Spa. You’ll receive a friendly welcome, enjoy cosy rooms, and have plenty of time to relax next to the fire pits on the resort’s rooftop terrace.
The spa is the big draw, with a wide range of treatments and a hot tub and heated swimming pool.
Searching for a good budget accommodation option in Lake Tahoe? The excellent Basecamp is popular with younger visitors, and allows you to save a little without compromising on quality. This friendly hotel offers basic, comfortable rooms and all the amenities you’ll need for a winter break.
However, the shared facilities and excellent roster of live events means that this hotel is a cut above the rest when it comes to value for money. Listen to live music as you eat delicious home-cooked fare at the long dining tables, and make the most of the hot tubs, fire pits and beer garden.
The Coachman is one of the best places to stay in Lake Tahoe for couples, offering an intimate, cosy environment where you can curl up with your other half on a romantic break.
Offering excellent value, comfortable rooms, outdoor hot tubs and cosy fire pits, this lovely hotel is one of the best places to stay in South Lake Tahoe, located conveniently close to the Heavenly gondola.
If you’re planning a break in California this year, I hope this has given you some ideas for what to do in Lake Tahoe in winter!
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