Winter in Lake Tahoe is a wonderful time to visit. Usually blanketed with snow, you really get to feel that mountain serenity as you head out for your winter activities. And with fairly mild winters, Lake Tahoe is a popular destination for winter vacations. It offers excellent conditions for skiing or snowboarding at one of Lake Tahoe’s 15 ski resorts with clear, sunny skies.
But hitting the slopes isn’t the only great thing about visiting Tahoe in winter. There are so many other great winter activities in case you don’t like to ski! So I’ve put together a list of the best winter activities in Lake Tahoe to help you plan your visit!
Please remember to practice the principles of Leave No Trace on every outdoor adventure. That includes picking up after your dog on the dog friendly trails.
And in any winter adventure, make sure you check the forecast but be prepared for any situation. The weather can change quickly in the mountains or there could be an unexpected emergency. Have food, water, an emergency kit, spare clothes, and leave your plans with a friend.
Best Winter Activities in Lake Tahoe
Whether or not you hit the slopes, you can head to one of the many breweries, bars, or restaurants for some après ski happy hour cocktails. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon or evening after being out in the cold. Gather with friends or make some new ones around a fire pit and relax!
No winter vacation is complete without sledding! It’s a great family activity, or just fun to go with friends! Some spots charge a fee, but these places usually offer sled rentals and have lodges and restroom facilities. There are some popular free spots as well, but you can always find your own great spot. Head to Palisades Tahoe for some disco tubing!
Note: Sledding areas tend to fill up quickly, especially on the weekends.
With mild winter weather bringing warm temperatures and sunny skies, hiking remains a great winter activity in Lake Tahoe. There’s something special about hiking in the winter. With less people on the trails, sometimes having it to yourself, you really feel the deep silence of winter and serenity being out in nature.
Make sure to pack some microspikes, I highly recommend them for packed snow and icy spots! Also try to look up recent reviews in the AllTrails app for trail conditions. Some of my favorite winter hikes are Cave Rock, Monkey Rock, and Chickadee Ridge. All of these trails offer some of the best views of the lake and are family friendly. But you can check out all of my favorite hikes in Lake Tahoe here.
Despite colder temperatures, kayaking and paddleboarding are great winter activities in Lake Tahoe. Take in the views of the snowy mountains and crystal clear waters with no boat traffic or sounds from crowded beaches. While it’s exhilarating to be doing something active out in the brisk air, it’s extremely peaceful and rewarding to feel like you have the lake to yourself.
One of my favorite winter activities in Lake Tahoe is snowshoeing. It allows you to continue visiting your favorite hiking spots even when they’re covered in snow. The views seem especially beautiful when everything is blanketed in snow. Fewer people tend to be out on the trails in the winter, so you can enjoy the views and peace of the mountains without the crowds. See my guide to snowshoeing in Lake Tahoe here!
“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.” – Andy Goldsworthy
Even if you don’t like skiing or snowboarding, you can still ride the gondola up the mountain to enjoy the views of Lake Tahoe. Take the Heavenly Gondola or the Squaw Tram for amazing views of Lake Tahoe. On the Heavenly Gondola, stop at the mid-station for some of the best views and grab a snack or a beer/wine at Cafe Blue. Both options have food available at the top.
Tip: If you want to visit Cafe Blue or take pictures with some of the best views at the mid-station on Heavenly, be sure to stop on the way up as there’s no access on the way down!
Soak in the Hot Springs
One of my favorite wintertime activities is to soak in some hot springs. It’s a relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon. And there are some beautiful natural hot springs and resorts around the Lake Tahoe area!
Bundle up for a romantic sleigh ride or take the kids out for a magical winter adventure. Take a one hour sleigh ride from beautiful Sand Harbor with Borges Sleigh & Carriage Rides.
Winter is the perfect time for photography. The snow adds such a lovely touch to the mountains and contrasts the lake so beautifully. Some of the most beautiful places to photograph in Lake Tahoe are Emerald Bay, Secret Cove, or Sand Harbor, but you really can’t go wrong anywhere!
A really fun winter activity in Lake Tahoe is snowmobiling. It offers a different way to get up in the mountains and see incredible views of the lake. There are several different companies to choose from:
Lake Tahoe Adventures: snowmobile the backcountry in Hope Valley
Mountain Lake Adventures: take a scenic or wilderness tour in South Lake Tahoe
Sierra Adventures: customized tours to your specific preferences
Zephyr Cove Snowmobile: take a scenic tour or customize your own ultimate experience in South Lake Tahoe
Cold Stream Adventures Inc: take a tour through Truckee’s backcountry
Another unique experience I highly recommend is dog sledding! Go on a tour of the facilities, meet the dogs, and go for a scenic dog sled ride with Sierra Adventures.
Tip: Be sure to book early as they quickly sell out for the season!
There are plenty of great dining options in Lake Tahoe, and many with amazing views of the lake. There’s fine dining, breweries, and off the beaten path locals favorites!
Skate under the stars and the snow at one of the ice rinks around Lake Tahoe. Head to the ice rinks in Heavenly Village or at Edgewood. The one in Heavenly Village has holiday lights, music, and is conveniently located in the middle of South Lake Tahoe while the one at Edgewood offers more serene views of the resort and the mountains. If you’re staying on the North Shore, then head over to the North Star Ice Rink or Tahoe City’s Winter Sports Park.
Go to the Beach
Go for a walk to the beach and enjoy the calmness of Lake Tahoe in winter. Listen to the sounds of nature without the distractions of crowds and boat traffic. Take in the snowy shorelines, I love the contrast of the snow and the water. My favorite spots to explore in the winter are Sand Harbor, Secret Cove (pictured below), Emerald Bay, and Hidden Beach.
Cozy Up by the Fire
No winter vacation is complete without cozying up by the fire at least once. Whether you’re enjoying an après ski drink around a fire pit or cuddling up in your hotel room, nothing beats some time around the fire.
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