The first time I saw the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe on my Instagram feed I instantly clicked “Save” and made a mental note to add it to my ever-expanding bucket list. Summers came and went and somehow we never managed to make it down, despite never being that far away from it (we spend a lot of time down in the Southwest).
2 years ago the opportunity came up to visit Heavenly Mountain Resort and we leapt at the opportunity. The trip was magical (you can read about it here), but it was winter and I was still itching to dip my feet in that blue water without losing my toes (actually now I realise that the water is about as cold in the summer as it is in the winter!).
As luck would have it, we were invited to cover the Reno Tahoe Golf Media Tour this year and despite having minimal knowledge about golf, the answer was a resounding YES.
Lake Tahoe can only be described as an outdoor lover’s paradise. The sheer amount of activities, both on and off the water, make it impossible to sit still. Here we’ve rounded up our list of summer activities in Tahoe, including the best places to stay and the best times to visit.
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Our favourite things to do in Lake Tahoe:
Rent clear kayaks
Every summer, an official report comes out with a rough estimate of the water clarity of Lake Tahoe for the season. This year the report came back saying the visibility was up to 75 feet. That’s 10 feet deeper than last year which means the conditions are prime and the water clarity is off the charts. Of course, once you’re on the water, you definitely don’t need science to tell you how clear it is.
Now imagine how much more awesome that becomes when you’re able to paddle on it in a CLEAR KAYAK! This was our first activity of our trip and it was easily the most breathtaking part. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes and I felt like I needed to stop and film every 30 seconds. The kayaks are extremely wide and stable and absolutely anybody can do it.
Where to rent from:
Clearly Tahoe – these guys run an amazing business, and provide you with snacks, drinks, life jackets and everything you need to have an awesome time out on the lake.
Where we launched from:
-The pier at our resort, Edgewood Tahoe – They waited for us at the shore of our hotel, so we started and ended at the same place and could head straight back into the hotel afterwards for breakfast.
How much it costs:
$55/hour + $20/hour for each additional hour for a Single Kayak
$75/hour + $30/hour for each additional hour for a Double Kayak
Kayaks are available every day, but they don’t go out if the wind picks up too much.
Rent paddle boards/kayaks at Sand Harbor
Considered one of Lake Tahoe’s most popular beaches, it’s pretty easy to see why. The huge white boulders, the insanely blue water and the snow-capped peaks in the background are a surreal combo. That being said, make sure you arrive early if you’re visiting during peak season (after mid-June) because the Sand Harbor parking lot does fill up quickly and if it does, you’ll have to come back another day or drive back to town and take the shuttle bus.
Another important note: make sure you have cash on you! The day we arrived, they had a big “CASH ONLY” sign at the booth and we had to turn around, drive 20 minutes back to town to find an ATM. That could be the difference between finding a parking space or not on a busy day.
The day we chose to board was pretty choppy, so paddle boarding was quite an adventure. We were originally planning to paddle the couple of miles along the shore to the iconic Bonsai Rock, but it was so windy and choppy that that started to seem like a terrible idea. Ultimately it was so beautiful out that we were quite content to just paddle around the rocks nearby.
Things you can do once you rent paddle boards:
- Hug the shoreline and you can make it into the next cove, and even keep paddling onwards to Bonsai Rock (about 1 mile away). If it’s too windy, they’ll restrict you to one area unless you’re with a guide.
Where to rent from:
Sand Harbor Rentals – these guys set up at the edge of the lake and take cash/credit card. Very simple to get set up with them if you just show up. Get there early though because everyone wants to go out on the water!
How much it costs:
$25 for 1 hour or $50 for 3 hours or $90 for the full day
Visit Secret Cove, Tahoe’s Clothing Optional Beach
Honestly, one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to but it’s TINY. So show up early to claim a spot or be prepared to wait around until someone else leaves.
Also be prepared for nudity (obviously). You’re under no obligation to swim nude, but as one beach goer remarked, “It’s better naked!”
The people are friendly, easy-going and fun so don’t feel awkward and be respectful of others’ personal space.
This was our first nude beach experience and to be honest, it was an experience I’ll never forget. ENJOY!
Hike Cave Rock at Sunset
You’re probably going to be burnt to a crisp from all the time on the water, but make sure you don’t miss this hike for sunset. It’s quick, easy and stunningly beautiful.
Distance: 0.8 miles
Elevation gain: 137 feet
Check out Bonsai Rock at Sunset
With a little bit of route-finding and bush-whacking skills, you can make your way down the steep hill to Bonsai Rock at sunset for one of the most iconic views in Lake Tahoe.
Head back up before it starts getting really dark, or you might risk getting very, very lost in the overgrowth.
Where to Golf
As we mentioned before, Louise and I don’t generally consider ourselves to be golfers, but of course, we jumped at the chance to play a few holes at some of the best courses in the world.
Clear Creek Golf Course
To begin with, we realised that perhaps we needed to swing a club a few times before we set off on a full round of golf. Instead of wasting the 18 holes at Clear Creek, they were kind enough to give us both a lesson at the driving range instead.
I’ve been to the range before, but never one as beautiful as the driving range at Clear Creek. We stood for an hour, whacking balls into a stunning woodland backdrop. We were fortunate enough to be helped out by one of the golf coaches at Clear Creek, and after an hour of lots of grunting and laughing, Louise and I were starting to feel a lot better about our swings.
Clear Creek is a stunning location, nestled away into the hills beside Tahoe. It’s currently rated as the 22nd best golf course in the US, and everything about it screams quality.
Next time we go back, we’ll be sure to play a full 18 holes! You can find out more about memberships at Clear Creek here.
Old Brockway Golf Club
After our lesson at Clear Creek, Louise and I were ready to attack the greens. Fortunately, we already had a tee time lined up at one of the USA’s top 9 hole golf courses; Old Brockway Golf Club.
Whereas Clear Creek is all about the woodland/mountain backdrop. Old Brockway has a stunning view of Lake Tahoe itself. It’s incredibly scenic and, for complete beginners like us, it didn’t feel beyond us. Sure, we lost a LOT of balls in the woods, but the course was interesting and manageable, and we were made to feel like absolutely everyone was welcome there. Indeed, a round of 9 holes only costs $45!
Arguably the best part of the evening at Old Brockway was the food. We weren’t expecting anything nearly as good as the food we were given, and I would quite happily head to their Sprinkleshanks restaurant for dinner, even if I wasn’t planning to play golf. Absolutely delicious!
Old Brockway is very easy to find, as it lies just off the side of the main ring road, on the North end of Lake Tahoe (in the tiny town of King’s Beach.
Prices at Old Brockway:
$45 USD for 9 holes,
$75 USD for 18 holes (two laps of the 9 hole)
Where to stay in Lake Tahoe
Our stay was split between South Tahoe (in the southwest) and Tahoe City (Northwest part of Tahoe), and they couldn’t be further apart in style. South Lake Tahoe is full of Casinos and is a bit more lively, whereas North Tahoe seems to be a bit more laid back and full of longer term residents.
South Tahoe is so interesting because it lies across the border of California and Nevada, meaning there are big casinos on the Nevada side that suddenly stop abruptly on the border.
In South Tahoe, we stayed in the beautiful Edgewood Tahoe hotel. It’s a beachfront hotel, with breathtaking views of Tahoe. It’s also just a short drive/walk from Heavenly ski resort, if you’re more into your wintersports.
The resort is utterly decadent and luxurious, and is easily the best hotel we’ve stayed in in Lake Tahoe. Amongst other prestigious awards, Edgewood Resort was voted the #1 resort in the US by Travel + Leisure magazine.
Staying at Edgewood was very convenient for us as we explored the Tahoe area, and the staff there were very helpful when it came to planning out a few of our adventures. Everyone had a favourite hike or restaurant that they were more than happy to share.
We didn’t have time to play golf there unfortunately, but their course is regularly voted as South Tahoe’s best course. We did make good use of the otudoor pool and hot tub though, where the staff kept us plied with coffee as we tried to recover from our extremely late arrival the night before.
We’d highly recommend staying here if you’re looking for ultimate luxury and want to do Tahoe in serious style.
Tahoe City is another large town on the North West corner of Lake Tahoe. It was a very convenient place to stay for exploring some of the lesser known areas, such as the nearby town of Truckee or some of the more famous viewpoints, like Bonsai Rock.
We stayed at Basecamp resorts in North Tahoe. Basecamp hotels are quite basic, but they’re stylishly decorated and are all you need for a hotel if you’re planning to spend most of your time off site (there aren’t any extra facilities like swimming pools etc). It was great for what we needed, and actually it’s the second Basecamp resort we’ve stayed in now. There’s a sister resort in Canmore, Canada, and that one is equally pleasant to stay in.
Generally speaking, I think I’d recommend South Tahoe more than Tahoe City as a destination. It seems to be a little more energetic, with more restaurants and hotels to choose from. Having said that, I’d be happy to spend more time in either cities.
Overall, we absolutely love Lake Tahoe and plan to spend a lot more time there in the future. There are plenty of activities to do even if you don’t golf, but I think we’ll work on our game so that we can fully make the most of our time there next time. We’re also very keen to come back and ski again in the winter, but I think if you’re a hardcore skier, there are probably more adventurous resorts that would feature higher on our list (Mammoth for example).
Thank you Reno and Tahoe Golf Tourism Board for taking us on this epic adventure! While the trip was sponsored, all opinions expressed are our own.