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Lake Tahoe for Families

Get High
Lake Tahoe for Families
For a family vacation that everyone will love, Tahoe is the place. The mountains cater to kids and parents year-round with everything from snow sports to hiking trails, while the region’s rivers and lakes provide a wide array of water activities.
By Ann Marie Brown, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Ryan Killackey/Visit California
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    Get High
    Get High
    Thanks to some engineering ingenuity, even families with small children can reach higher elevations and enjoy stunning views over Lake Tahoe. Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe offers year-round gondola rides with shore-to-shore vistas, plus a range of activities once you reach the top, from snow-tubing in winter to zip-lining in summer. In North Lake Tahoe, an aerial tram whooshes visitors uphill to Squaw Valley’s High Camp, where you can ice-skate, swim, or just kick back and order cocktails at the bar.




    Photo courtesy of Ryan Killackey/Visit California
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    Up in the Air
    Up in the Air
    For a new perspective on Tahoe, get a couple thousand feet above the lake. Families who want to soar with the eagles can take a tour with Pacific North Helicopters out of South Lake Tahoe Airport and stare down at Emerald Bay and Fallen Leaf Lake. For something even more thrilling, try nose-diving, barrel-rolling, or dogfighting over the lake in an aerobatic plane ride with Sky Combat Ace. If a serene adventure is more your speed, take the whole family on a sunrise ride with Lake Tahoe Balloons, which launches its hot air balloons from a large boat in the middle of the lake.


    Photo courtesy of Lake Tahoe Balloons
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    Paddle Away
    Paddle Away
    Paddle across the shimmering surface of Lake Tahoe in a colorful, lightweight kayak and enjoy hours of simple entertainment. You can rent a kayak by the hour, half day, or full day from almost any Tahoe marina, or take your own to the azure waters of Emerald Bay and pull up on Fannette Island for a picnic lunch.  


    Photo by Russ Bishop/age fotostock
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    Spend a Night with the Stars
    Spend a Night with the Stars
    Many of Lake Tahoe’s campgrounds are perfectly set up for family vacations, with easy access to swimming holes, hiking trails, and convenient amenities like hot showers and clean restrooms. Reserve a site at D. L. Bliss State Park near Emerald Bay and your family can swim at Calawee Cove, hike the scenic Rubicon Trail, and roast s’mores under the stars. Nearby, General Creek Campground at Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park is one of the few spots open for year-round camping. Cross-country ski and snowshoe right from your tent in the winter, or hike and mountain bike through conifer forests in the summer.



    Photo by age fotostock
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    Zip Lines and Ropes Courses
    Zip Lines and Ropes Courses
    For a fun-filled day they’ll remember, take your kids on a zip line adventure. At Heavenly Mountain Resort, you can fly down the mountain on the Blue Streak Zip Line at speeds approaching 55 miles per hour, or climb through the trees on the Discovery Forest Ropes Course. Also worth checking out is Tahoe City Treetop Park, where you can test your mettle on courses featuring rope bridges, cargo nets, ladders, walkways, and swinging logs.
    Photo courtesy of Tree Top Adventure Park
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    Float On
    Float On
    Whitewater rafting in Tahoe runs the gamut from mild to wild, allowing you to choose the right level of adventure for your family. For something tamer, rent tubes from Truckee River Rafting and float down the river between Tahoe City and River Ranch Lodge. If you’re up for a crazy ride, Tahoe Whitewater Tours and Tributary Whitewater Tours both offer guided trips on the fast-and-furious lower stretch of the Truckee River, which features Class II and III rapids.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Two-Wheeled Adventures
    Two-Wheeled Adventures
    Lake Tahoe has bike trails to suit every level of rider, whether you’re looking for a fun family activity or a more challenging workout. An easy paved path starts at Anderson’s Bicycle Rental near South Lake Tahoe and cruises past historic Camp Richardson and three lovely beaches. Another mild trail—suitable even for tricycles and training wheels—runs alongside the Truckee River from Tahoe City to Squaw Valley. If you’re looking for something a little tougher, head to Northstar California, where you can take the gondola to mid-mountain and ride down from there. Be sure to hit the skills development area, complete with log and ladder ties, as well as the jump park to catch some serious air.
    Photo courtesy of Northstar California Resort