South Lake Tahoe Itinerary for the Summer
Nestled between the state lines of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe may be one of the premier ski destinations in all of the U.S., but as the weather warms up in the summertime and the snow caps melt down the Sierra Nevada, the winter wonderland transforms into a lakeside beauty as the crowds trade the powdery slopes for the some of the clearest, crystal blue waters on earth. The South end of Lake Tahoe in particular is both the action-adventure enthusiast’s playground, and the relaxation lover’s paradise. With pristine lakeside beaches, breathtaking hikes, and endless opportunities to connect with Mother Nature, South Lake Tahoe is the perfect destination for a summer getaway with friends, family, or your loved one.
Tip: Lake Tahoe is a popular summer destination for a good reason. To get the most out of your trip, visit South Lake Tahoe mid-week to beat the weekend crowds and enjoy the peaceful seclusion of the lake and its beautiful surroundings without the masses; plus skip any long wait times at the popular restaurants and attractions.
Need a little inspiration? Check out my South Lake Tahoe drone video below.
Getting to South Lake Tahoe
The closest airport to South Lake Tahoe is the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Shuttle transportation from the airport to Tahoe is available for $29.75 one-way for adults or $53.00 round trip. The shuttle runs about every 2 hours from 10:30AM to 12:30AM and the commute is 1 hour and 15 minutes long from departure to arrival. Drop off and pick up in South Lake Tahoe can be found at various hotels. If you are staying near the Heavenly Mountain Resort’s California Base Lodge, the area is very walkable with plenty of restaurants and attractions nearby. To explore the further areas of South Lake Tahoe (which I definitely recommend), Uber, Lyft, Chariot, and taxis are all readily available and are affordable and reliable transportation methods given that many of the main points of interest are only a few miles apart. LimeBikes and Scooters can also be found all over South Lake Tahoe and can be located by downloading the app. Alternatively, if you wish to rent a car, several options for car rentals are also available directly at the airport.
Where to stay in South Lake Tahoe
Black Bear Lodge, a rustic luxury retreat in the heart of Lake Tahoe
When visiting South Lake Tahoe, skip the large chain hotels and go for something more attuned with the beautiful surroundings. Conveniently located near the Heavenly Village and just steps away from Heavenly Ski Mountain Resort’s California Base Lodge, Black Bear Lodge is the epitome of rustic luxury and will transport you to a place you thought only existed in storybooks. The elegant cabins stay true to the authentic mountain lodge experience while elevating it with a touch of romance. Each room is equipped with its own fireplace and hugged by towering pine trees, making it the perfect accommodation for either winter or summer.
The in-ground jacuzzi on the Black Bear Lodge property is what I can only imagine as the perfect way to end a long day on the slopes, with a glass of wine from their lodge bar in hand. Even while I was visiting in the summer, the temperature would drastically drop to the 30s Fahrenheit at night and through the early morning, while keeping to a perfect mid-to-upper 70s during the day. The warmth of both the hot tub or the in-room fireplace are the perfect accompaniment to those chilly Tahoe nights. To add to the coziness, the Lodge provides a recreation room complete with books, movies, and board games that are free to borrow and enjoy in your cabin. For breakfast on the property, enjoy delicious bagels in the main lodge from local bagel shop, Dragonfly Bagel Co. Thursday-Sunday starting at 7:30am. Ready to book Black Bear Lodge? Click here.
What to do in South Lake Tahoe
Water Activities and Kayaking South Lake Tahoe
Water sports and activities are among the most popular things to do on the South Shore. Boating, Kayaking, jet skiing, white water rafting, and stand up paddle boarding are just some of the activities offered on the lake. Of course, the beaches surrounding the lake also offer plenty to do with restaurants, beach bars, live music, and simply make for a great place to relax in the sun.
Clear Kayaks Tahoe offer guided tours and kayak rentals on completely see-through kayaks. From the floor of your kayak, you can see up to 65 feet deep of the crystal clear lake. It’s just like snorkeling without getting wet! On the tour, the certified guide takes on a scenic journey along the shoreline and through coves and tunnels, and teaches you all about the history and development of Tahoe while pointing out the famous landmarks. Choose between a morning tour, sunset, or even an LED night tour. Bonus: If you’re kayaking from Cave Rock, be sure to do the quick hike on top of the cave rock for extremely elevated and gorgeous views.
Best Beaches in South Lake Tahoe
There are so many beautiful beaches all along Lake Tahoe. Many of the beaches offer boat and jet ski rentals as well as many other types of water activities. Below are some my favorite beaches on South Lake Tahoe.
Zephyr Cove is a popular beach and can be found to the left facing the pier by the volleyball pits. Here you can enjoy playing beach volleyball, go parasailing, engage in water activities, or simply relax on the tree-lined sand.
Round Hill Pines Beach has a newly remodeled Rum Bar on the Beach featuring their classic cocktail, the Pain Killer: a frozen Alpine-Caribbean drink with pineapple, coconut, a variety of rums, and a topping of fresh nutmeg. Tip: the new rum bar is also a great place to watch the sunset.
Camp Richardson has live music from 1-5 p.m. daily and is home of the famous Rum Runner: a frozen rum-infused beverage that is super popular with the locals.
Sightseeing, Hiking in Lake Tahoe, and More
Emerald Bay is arguably the most scenic area in all of Lake Tahoe and one of the most photographed landscapes in North America. A National Natural Landmark, the expansive views of the sparkling lake are nestled by miles of forest green pine trees and provide a scenery that will take your breath away. Hike, explore, or simply sit and take in the magnificent scenery. Emerald Bay also contains the lake’s only island, Fannette Island, and is a popular spot amongst scuba divers. For an even more magnificent experience, Head to Emerald Bay to watch the sunrise.
Fallen Leaf Lake
Another beautiful and less populated lake in South Lake Tahoe is Fallen Leaf Lake. This unique lake is filled with millions of colorful rocks and pebbles and is complete with a hiking trail that will lead you to a beautiful secret waterfall. Many people enjoy camping on the grounds of Fallen Leaf Lake for its seclusion from the more popular parks and grounds. It is a truly unique and peaceful lake, and one that should not be overlooked.
Van Sickle State Park
Van Sickle State Park provides a lovely hike with a delicate waterfall and scenic vista points overlooking the lake. The trail is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. The park is conveniently located near Heavenly Mountain and Black Bear Lodge, and is not very challenging, making for the perfect early morning or mid afternoon hike. If you’re lucky, you might even get a bear sighting (but don’t worry, the bears in Tahoe aren’t aggressive!)
Note: To park at any the state parks in Lake Tahoe such as Van Sickle, Fallen Leaf Lake, or Emerald Bay, there is typically a $10.00 USD charge.
The adventure doesn’t end once the ski season is over at the famous Heavenly Mountain Resort. During the summer, the Heavenly Scenic Gondola takes you on the most picturesque ride 20 minutes to the top of the mountain. This peaceful journey up provides the best views of the lake and the Sierra Nevada, as a 8-person maximum glass gondola takes you up 2.4 miles. Half way up the peak, you will find scenic lookouts and hiking trails. This is the perfect opportunity to grab a photo or sit and take in the views with a beverage from the cafe. Hop back on the Gondola to take it to the very top, where an entire adventure park awaits complete with zip lines, rope courses, rock climbing, tubing, a mountain coaster, and so much more. Price per adult for the Gondola ride is $49.00 USD. Additional pricing varies for adventure activities. More info here. Tip: Don’t forget to wear closed toe shoes!
Related: More to do around Lake Tahoe in this off the beaten path guide!
Breweries in South Lake Tahoe
There are many local breweries in South Tahoe that provide craft, locally brewed beer of all kinds and flavor profiles. A fun way to explore them all is with a self-guided bike or scooter tour. LimeBikes and scooters are available all over South Lake Tahoe and provide a great way to explore the town. Most of the breweries are within a few miles apart from each other and visiting them on a self-guided tour will take you through beautiful residential neighborhoods, bustling shopping centers, and through the scenic streets of Tahoe. Please take caution if drinking and biking or operating a scooter. The following are a list of breweries to check out:
Where to eat in South Lake Tahoe
Azul Latin Kitchen
Azul Latin Kitchen is a fresh, Latin-inspired restaurant that features a menu of organic and locally sourced ingredients in a lively setting. With Mexican and South American favorites such as ceviche, tacos, and tostadas, Azul’s Head chef and part-owner Marc Vacarro takes these classics to heightened levels by incorporating flavors influenced from his travels all over the world. Ingredients such as roasted sweet potato, savory chickpeas, and spicy harissa compliment the traditional flavor profiles of street tacos, burritos and more. The menu offers many options for both meat-eaters and vegetarians/vegans alike.
Azul also presents an impressive cocktail list starring a variety of margaritas made with in-house fresh pressed juices such as grapefruit, pineapple, and hibiscus. An innovative twist on beloved classics is the theme throughout both the food and beverage menus, taking you on a journey from sweet, to sour, and savory. My recommendations are the house favorite ceviche, the crispy tacos which feature soft tortillas that have been pressed and griddled to a crisp with a layer of cheese, the Paloma margarita, and the rich and decadent tres leches dessert to finish.
Address: 1001 Heavenly Village Way, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Base Camp Pizza South Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe may be home to many pizzerias, but Base Camp Pizza is truly something special. With live music every night, gourmet pizza, and craft cocktails, wine, and beer, there truly is nothing more satisfying than a made-to-order pie after a long day on the lake. What struck me most about Base Camp pizza however was not only the integrity of their food with organic and locally sourced ingredients, but the ethos of their establishment. Base Camp Pizza has a commitment to serving their community, and supports and donates proceeds to a variety of local non-profits that benefit children and families in need.
When it comes to Base Camp’s menu, you really can’t go wrong with any pizza or dish you choose. My recommendation is the fire roasted medley pizza which features roasted vegetables and goat cheese topped on a four cheese blend. As an appetizer, the spinach artichoke dip made with 3 types of cheese is out of this world; and the rich, oven chocolate chip cookie served with vanilla ice cream should definitely not be skipped for dessert. Don’t forget to add one of their amazing cocktails. I recommend any of the mules, with my pick being the Mexican Cucumber which contains lime-infused tequila, cucumber, mint, and ginger beer.
Address: 1001 Heavenly Village Way #25a, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
More Food Recommendations
South Lake Tahoe Breakfast / Lunch
Creative Crepes – delicious sweet and savory crepes + beer, wine and mimosas. Great for breakfast, lunch, or a snack.
Red Hut Cafe – An extensive menu of American breakfast and brunch items. + classic lunch items like sandwiches and burgers.
Revive Coffee and Wine – a charming, locally-sourced coffee and wine bar with breakfast selections, pastries, afternoon snacks. Both indoor and outdoor camp style and garden seating are available.
Driftwood Cafe – a cozy home-style cafe specializing in breakfast and lunch.
South Lake Tahoe Lunch / Dinner
Blue Angel Cafe and Catering – a European style lodge restaurant and bar.
Ten Crows BBQ – a casual bar-b-que and smokehouse with indoor/outdoor seating and live music.
Whether you are visiting South Lake Tahoe on a quick getaway, or spending an entire summer here, there is no denying the incredible beauty that surrounds the entire lake’s landscape. I have always adored visiting Tahoe in the winter for their spectacular snow resorts, but summertime here has truly stolen my heart. The vastness and beauty of the lake, the towering abundance of trees, and the kind and welcoming people have all made my experience in South Tahoe one to remember. I can’t wait to return next summer to reconnect with nature and enjoy more of South Lake Tahoe’s majestic beauty.
Ecological Preservation Notice: Please remember to be a responsible traveler and help preserve the pristine beauty of Lake Tahoe. This means taking extra pre-cautions to clean up at the beaches and on hikes and to leave no trace behind. Let’s work together to ‘Keep Tahoe Blue‘ by combating pollution and protecting the forest, lake, and shoreline.