Vacationing in Lake Tahoe in winter will leave you inspired, energized, and rested. Caressed by the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe straddles the borders of the ‘Golden State’ California and its Silver State’ neighbor Nevada. Its unique beauty, climate, and generous ski season make Lake Tahoe a world-class destination for winter vacations.
Read on to discover the top winter activities that make Lake Tahoe your number one winter playground.
We offer a wide range of rental accommodation in Lake Tahoe, from cozy cabins to luxury chalets. Treat yourself and reconnect with family and friends on a vacation to remember!
Lake Tahoe weather in the winter
Lake Tahoe is a real winter wonderland, with all the snow and freezing temperatures that you would expect from somewhere with that description. On average, temperatures hover in the teens and ’20s (-9 to 3 celsius). Throughout winter, there are frequent snow flurries depositing fresh powder on the resort. However, the weather between flurries is often bright and sunny, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings of Lake Tahoe.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter
1) Skiing in Lake Tahoe
The top-rated ski resorts in all of California can be found in Lake Tahoe. With over a dozen here to choose from, there is a pristine ski slope to suit every beginner, family group, and adrenaline junkie!
Lake Tahoe in winter sees the ski resorts usually open in time to welcome the first skiers for Thanksgiving holiday weekend (mid-November). From then, winter sports enthusiasts enjoy an extended ski season up until the mid to end of April.
South Lake Tahoe is home to the Heavenly Mountain ski resort, the Sierra at Tahoe, and the Kirkwood ski resort. North Lake Tahoe boasts the ski resorts of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Northstar California, and Sugar Bowl. For those looking to get out and enjoy some cross-country skiing, North Lake Tahoe boasts a world-class ski area of 50+ km, with plenty of Nordic ski trails to inspire and challenge you!
Lake Tahoe’s apres-ski scene is absolutely legendary. Even if you’re not hitting the slopes yourself, you can still enjoy the fun of apres-ski. There are countless bars and restaurants to choose from. Apres-ski is a great way to meet fellow travelers and locals while you party the night away under a clear winter sky.
Snowshoeing is a wonderful winter activity because it is open to all levels of fitness, regardless of sporting ability. Simply strap on your snowshoes are venture forth into the white, snowy wilderness of Lake Tahoe.
There are several fantastic places to try snowshoeing in Lake Tahoe. The Lam Watah Trail offers beautiful scenery and a taste of the area’s history. The trail follows the route that the Washoe people used for around 2000 years. The path is dotted with plaques telling the region’s story. It is a relatively easy walk, at a distance of 1.5 miles each way over pretty flat ground. Alternatively, pay a visit to Tahoe City Winter Sports Park, where you can try your hand at snowshoeing, along with a plethora of other winter sports.
4) Olympic Museum
A great option for bad weather days, the Olympic Museum celebrates Lake Tahoe’s Olympic heritage. The museum contains a fascinating collection of memorabilia, footage, and news clippings from the 1960 Winter Olympics.
The museum is in High Camp, and entry is free if you have an Ariel Tram ticket. It is easy to find, look for the iconic Olympic rings suspended high in the sky and you’ll find both the museum and a fantastic spot for a selfie.
Snow tubing is a bit like sledding, but instead of a hard falt board, you sit on a big inflatable donut and slide down the snow-streaked slopes of Lake Tahoe. It’s great fun for the whole family. TubeTahoe is a great local company that offers tubing experiences for everyone on their specially groomed snow tubing lanes on the slopes of Mt Tallac. They are open 7 days a week, and prices start from $30 for kids up to 5 and $60 for adults.
6) Sample the cafe culture of Tahoe
When the weather is too chilly, or you want a breather after a busy morning enjoying the snow, Lake Tahoe has a thriving cafe culture. There are many cozy coffee shops and cafes where you can warm up with a hot drink and a slice of cake, all while admiring beautiful mountain views and planning your next activities.
7) Dog sledding
There is nothing that will make you feel more like an arctic explorer than embarking on a dog sledding adventure. Dog sledding in Lake Tahoe mostly takes place in Squaw Valley, where groups of 2 – 4 people can speed through the wintery forests, pulled along by a pack of huskies.
8) Winter road trip around the lake
Lake Tahoe is renowned for its outstanding beauty, and from every angle, the scenery is simply stunning. The best way to make the most of the incredible views on offer is to take a drive around the lake. Even if you’re familiar with the drive during the summer months, it’s worth revving your engine for a repeat visit during the winter, when the landscape changes almost beyond recognition.
Driving around the perimeter of Lake Tahoe takes about 3 hours with no stops, but with views so gorgeous, you’ll definitely want to stop. We recommend putting aside around 5 hours to be able to really appreciate the lake and mountain views on offer.
9) Indulge in a spa day
There’s no better way to combat the effects of icy mountain air and sore limbs than by treating yourself to a luxurious spa treatment. Lake Tahoe has several spas to choose from, so you can go for one which suits your budget and needs. Opt for single treatments or go all-in with a full spa day package; there’s no better way to recharge your batteries after an action-packed Lake Tahoe vacation.
10) Take a trip to the sky in the Heavenly Gondola
If you want to enjoy the best views of Lake Tahoe’s winter landscape, then the Heavenly gondola is unbeatable. You don’t need to be a skier to access the gondola, it’s open for all. It is a magical way to see Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains and create unforgettable vacation memories sure to last long after you touch down at home.
11) Feel the need for speed on a snowmobile tour
Looking for an action-packed adventure in Lake Tahoe? Try snowmobiling. This fast and furious activity is a great way to see the sights around Lake Tahoe. A snowmobile expedition is a great way to have fun in the snow, get the adrenaline pumping, and see the amazing winter mountain landscape.
12) Lay back and relax in Lake Tahoe’s hot springs
Hot springs are a brilliant, natural way to soothe tired muscles and reawaken the sense. Lake Tahoe hot springs are a fun place to stop off all year, but in the winter they are especially inviting. There are a few options to choose from, but one of the most popular is David Walley’s Hot Springs. It has a selection of mineral pools, an outdoor pool, saunas, and a range of spa treatments on offer.
13) Vikingsholm Castle
Lake Tahoe having its own castle might come as a bit of a surprise, but the quaint and quirky Vikingsholm Castle is one of the best ‘hidden gem’ attractions in the area. Inspired by Scandanavian architecture, Vikingsholm Castle is a grand building overlooking the still water of Emerald Bay State Park. During the winter, the castle takes on a particularly arresting visage, when the sloping roof and wooden window sills are dusted with a light covering of snow.
Lake Tahoe might be the most perfect place ever for sledding, with speedy downhill slopes and plenty of deep, fresh snow every winter. Sledding is a classic activity to do with kids. You can easily buy or rent sleds in many stores in lake Tahoe itself, so you don’t need to worry about lugging your own sled from home.
15) Ice skating in Heavenly
Ice skating is one of the most magical winter activities, and Heavenly Village near Lake Tahoe is a spectacular place to try it. During the winter season, Heavenly Village hosts a pop–up skating rink. It opens in November and remains open until April most years. The rink has a real winter wonderland feel, with shops, restaurants, and twinkling fairy lights setting a whimsical mood.
16) Go gallery hopping
For those wet weather days, you’ll want to head indoors and enjoy some of Lake Tahoe’s buzzy cultural scene. The resort is a hotspot for art lovers. There are several great galleries that you can hop between and soak up the talents of local artists and creators.
17) Lace-up your boots for a bit of winter hiking
With a little bit of preparation, you can enjoy the best hikes around Lake Tahoe even in the depths of winter. Many of the region’s most popular summer trails are open and passable in the winter. They offer amazing views of the surrounding mountains and, of course, the lake itself. Make sure that you do plenty of research beforehand to ensure that your route is safe, and pack plenty of warm clothes and good hiking boots before you set off.
18) Take to the trees at Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park
If you’re looking for an exciting day out suitable for the whole family, try Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park for size. The premise is simple, you are guided through the treetops of Tahoe over and through a series of obstacles and challenges, designed to test your nerves and determination. The Treetop Adventure also gives you a unique perspective on Lake Tahoe – it’s not often you get a genuine bird’s eye view of a place, after all!
19) Have a winter beach day
Winter vacations and beach days don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but in Lake Tahoe, anything is possible. The lake has got many beautiful stretches of sand around the perimeter. During the winter, many of these beaches will be far quieter and more secluded than during the busy summer months.
20) Explore Tahoe’s past at Hellman-Ehrman Mansion
For history buffs, Hellman-Ehrman Mansion is a treat on the sparkling shore of Lake Tahoe. This grand 1903 building was originally constructed as a luxurious summer retreat. It now stands as a reminder of Tahoe’s glamorous history. During the winter, the mansion takes on a fairytale-like appearance, with snow lying delicately on the building and the surrounding grounds.
21) Go on a spending spree in Heavenly Village
Relax and unwind with a bit of retail therapy in Heavenly Village. There are over 40 unique shops and restaurants at Heavenly Village. Find high-end clothing and jewelry stores, local and national brands, and places to buy sports gear. There is also a cinema, mini-golf, and an ice skating rink.
22) Watch a hockey game at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena
Get into the winter sports spirit with a visit to the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena. You can visit during the day to skate, or, for an action-packed night out, attend an ice hockey game. It’s a great experience and a way to experience one of Tahoe’s most popular and competitive sporting events.
23) Go freshwater fishing
Away from the world-class ski resorts and cross-country parks, another popular winter activity in Lake Tahoe is freshwater fishing. From December to April, there are numerous local fishing charters that operate in Lake Tahoe.
At Tahoe City Marina you can enjoy a private tour with Captain Chris’ Fishing Charters. Alternatively, Carnelian Bay is the spot from which Mickey’s Big Mack Charters start out. The guides at Sierra Fin Addicts, based in Incline Village boast over 2 decades of experience of fishing Lake Tahoe. Whichever you choose, you can be sure you’ll be fishing with the experts.
24) Visit the Gatekeeper’s Museum to learn about Lake Tahoe’s history
The Gatekeeper’s Museum aims to preserve remnants of Lake Tahoe’s fascinating history. It is a fantastic place to visit if you want to learn a little more about the region. The museum features many objects concerning the cultural and natural history of Tahoe, including exhibits of local wildlife, art, the 1960 Olympics, and local handicrafts.
Where to stay in Lake Tahoe
Nothing says Lake Tahoe in winter more than relaxing by the fireside of your very own vacation home. From scenic cabins to luxury pet-friendly vacation homes, the wonderful accommodation is reason enough to visit Lake Tahoe in winter! View our best vacation homes and cabins in Lake Tahoe here.