Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in north America and there’s only one word to describe the clarity of the water against the enormous pine forests and giant boulders – and that is stunning! It takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive around the entire lake and there is so much to see and do. To help you plan your time in Tahoe, here’s our itinerary that includes the best of Lake Tahoe and they are all 100% kid friendly.
Kings Beach – the best of Lake Tahoe
Legend has it that Kings Beach was named after the local postmaster that won the rights to the land in a poker game over a century ago. As far as origin stories go that one is particularly cowboy in my book.
Kings Beach has a really easy-going and laid-back vibe and is very walkable. There are lots of shops, motels and eateries along the main road, which even includes a mini-golf course and a T-Shirtery (that might be the best word ever).
Kings Beach has a lovely long sandy beach with easy access for boats, kayaks and paddle boards. It’s one of the warmest swimming areas on the lake because of the amount of sunshine it gets and there is a great little play area for kids that looks out over the water.
We actually stayed in Kings Beach while we were in Lake Tahoe and we loved the undeveloped feel of this part of the lake. Most importantly we also loved how accessible the lake was for us without the need for a car.
Emerald Bay – the best of Lake Tahoe
This is the palce everyone talks about when you’re in Tahoe and for good reason, it is pretty special.
Emerald Bay is so unique because it is the only part of the lake with an island, which has on it it’s very own castle (or bit more of a folly really for entertaining purposes).
However, the very desirable beaches of Emerald Bay cannot be accessed by car, so you either have to hitch a ride on a boat or hike down via one of the trails.
But in my mind the best views of all this beauty aren’t necessarily down on the beaches (which are pretty gorgeous I have to say), but rather up on the trails. So it depends what you want from Emerald Bay, the views or the beaches?
If it’s just views you are after then park along the road at Eagle Falls, scramble down a little rock face and stand next to the falls as you look at Fannette Island and enjoy all the sights and sounds on offer.
There is a hiking trail from here as well which will take about an hour to complete and is moderate to easy in difficulty. But, if you are only looking to watch, this is the best place to take a picture and just enjoy the moment!
Sand Harbour – the best of Lake Tahoe
Sand Harbour State Park is on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe and not too far from Kings Beach. It’s totally gorgeous! It is family-friendly, with pristine sands, the clearest water and lots of those beautiful boulders to explore, climb (if you can) and take pictures of.
It’s a great place to paddle board or go for a swim and the backdrop of the Californian mountains makes it a very special way to spend the day.
Bear in mind the parking at Sand Harbour is charged on a day rate (2022 – $15) and at peak times of the year the car park can be full by 8.30am. However, there is a free bus that runs from some of the villages and scope to take a trail to arrive on foot.
Tahoe City has a really quaint and traditional feel to it, whilst being one of the bigger places to visit on the lake.
There is a lovely high street filled with art studios, t-shirt shops, bars, restaurants and cafes, plus a big Safeway if you’re looking to do a bit of a food shop.
Aside from the shops there are two main reasons why I think Tahoe City is one of the must see places in Lake Tahoe.
Number 1 is the lake side walk that takes you past some lovely quiet areas with uninterrupted views of the lake and those beautiful mountains. There’s lots of opportunity here for some really wonderful pictures.
The second is that this walk includes passage to Commons Beach which has the most lovely area for kids to play with a huge play park included. When you’re travelling with little kids it’s places like these that make all the different. It also ensures there is a little bit for everyone to enjoy.
Tahoe East Shore Trail One of the must see places in Lake Tahoe
This is essentially a walk along the east side of Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side. It starts at Incline Village and finishes at Sand Harbour, but it is simply too beautiful not to mention in our list as one of the must see places in Lake Tahoe!
On a warm day I can imagine there is nothing better than taking a picnic and taking a slow and easy walk along the boardwalk and just enjoying all those views. There is the occasional opportunity to get down to the water too so make sure you take your swimmers!
Parking is a bit tricky as there is no parking along the road. However, there have been some paid parking lots developed along the route, one called Bonanza and there is parking in Incline Village. However, it’s worth remembering if you arrive after 5 the parking is free till 7pm.
Lam Watah Nature Trail to Nevada Beach One of the must see places in Lake Tahoe
This little gem is definitely one of the must see places in Lake Tahoe and it was shown to us by our Instagram friends The FUNemployed Family who live in the area!
The Lam Watah Nature Trail to Nevada Beach is a beautiful alpine walk. It starts with the opportunity to look for beaver dams in the lake at the start of the trail and then winds through alpine forests until you reach a huge stretch of sandy beach with the best views on the lake (in my humble opinion).
In the summer months there is a campsite that runs just at the back of the beach. I could think of nothing better than to rock up with your home away from home and enjoy this area for a week at a time. In fact, sign me up now!
Gongola Ride up Heavenly – the best of Lake Tahoe
The ski resort of Heavenly sits right on the Nevada / California state border and is a real mix of the two places.
Huge casinos sit literally along the state line, but the village itself is a little less built up being on the Californian side.
Heavenly is bustling and very busy with people skiing, drinking, eating, partying and generally just enjoying themselves. The feel is completely different to any of the other areas we experienced.
South Lake and the resort of Heavenly is popular because the mountain offers breath-taking views of the lake. Therefore, taking a gondola ride up to the Heavenly observation deck really is one of the things you must do in Lake Tahoe.
Unlike other places on this list, a gondola ride up Heavenly will be one of the pricer things to do. But, if you are looking to treat yourself and have never done a gondola ride up a mountain, I can think of worse views to look at!
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IF you’re looking for more adventures across the pond, how about a visit to Disneyland in LA?