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3 Days in Lake Tahoe for First Timers

Organisiert von Jen Penga Lake Tahoe local for nearly a decade.

I spent many years visiting Lake Tahoe, both in winter to snowboard at its many ski resorts, and in summer to hike, rock climb, and to get out on its crystal clear waters. I decided to move to Lake Tahoe about a decade ago, and I haven’t looked back since.

From my time in Tahoe, I’ve discovered many of the top places to visit, trails to hike, scenic vistas to appreciate, beaches on which to relax, and fun and adventurous experiences to have. Here is my recommended itinerary for first timers to make the most of your Tahoe visit over three days.

Bring layers. Temperatures dip nightly in sunny Tahoe. In winter, dress for snow.

If you only have time for one thing, make it Emerald Bay State Park.

Day 1

Start your first day with one of the most popular and iconic sites around Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, home to the only island in Lake Tahoe, along with a historic Scandinavian Castle, Vikingsholm. A boat cruise is an easy way to get there, though you can also drive along Highway 89.

Spend the afternoon exploring other highlights in the area, like a hike up to Eagle Falls or Eagle Lake. Or hike along the Rubicon Trail around the bay. In summer, you can rent kayaks to paddle out to Fannette Island or tour Vikingsholm.

Day 2

Get an incredible overview of the entire Lake Tahoe region from the air with a hot air balloon ride or a helicopter tour, complete with live narration from your captain.

Spend the rest of the day driving around the 72 miles (116 kilometers) of Lake Tahoe shoreline. Be sure to stop at the many scenic vistas, charming towns, and beaches around the lake, including D.L. Bliss State Park, Tahoe City, King’s Beach, and Sand Harbor Beach, which is also home to the summer Shakespeare Festival. For a fun option, rent a Polaris Slingshot 3-wheeled motorcycle to drive around.

Day 3

Spend your last day on the mountain and water. In summer, take the sightseeing gondola at Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe for panoramic views and an adventure park. On the north shore, take the aerial tram to high camp at Palisades Tahoe. In winter, go skiing or snowboarding at Heavenly, Palisades Tahoe, or Diamond Peak in Incline Village, and prebook your rentals.

Finally, take a sunset dinner cruise on the M.S. Dixie II out of Zephyr Cove for views, dinner, and live entertainment. For late-night options, hit up the casinos and clubs in Stateline next to South Lake Tahoe.

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