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Lake Tahoe Outdoors

Rock Climbing
Lake Tahoe Outdoors
The best way to experience Lake Tahoe is to get outside. Surrounded by three federally designated wilderness areas plus vast national forest land and multiple state parks, the Tahoe basin is one of the top outdoor playgrounds in the west.
By Ann Marie Brown, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Rock Climbing
    Rock Climbing
    Lake Tahoe offers a variety of climbs for every ability, plus terrain for every season. On the north shore, Donner Summit is favorite site, with 400 known routes. A close second in popularity is the Big Chief area, high above the river canyon between Squaw Valley and Truckee. The rock here is volcanic rather than granite, allowing for steep sport climbing over more than 100 bolted routes. If you’re just starting out, head to Twin Crags, where you can use top ropes to sharpen your skills and gain confidence, or Lover’s Leap, which features single- and multiple-pitch routes for all levels.

    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Paddle the Lake
    Paddle the Lake
    Lake Tahoe is known for its clarity, depth, and immense beauty. Get out on the water by renting a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard at any one of Tahoe’s marinas, or heading to Sand Harbor State Park on the east shore, where tour companies offer guided trips to historic Thunderbird Lodge as well as stargazing and full-moon tours. On the west shore, you can also walk a mile down to Vikingsholm Castle and launch your boat on the sparkling waters of Emerald Bay.
    Photo courtesy of Andreas Hub/Visit California
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    Golfing Tahoe
    Golfing Tahoe
    Tahoe has golf courses galore, each surrounded by sharp mountain peaks and dense conifer forests. The scenic course at Old Greenwood winds through 600 acres of stately Jeffrey pines and sagebrush, while the Coyote Moon Championship Golf Course sits on 250 acres of undeveloped, pine- and boulder-covered hills—with no houses to spoil the views. The Tahoe City Golf Course offers lake vistas and a Rat Pack history (Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin played here in the 1950s), but the undisputed king of Tahoe’s fairways is Edgewood on the south shore, where the 18th hole is surrounded by so much water that it’s practically an island.

    Photo courtesy of Coyote Moon Golf Course
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    Take a Hike
    Take a Hike
    The famous, 165-mile-long Tahoe Rim Trail makes a complete circuit around the lake, ranging in elevation from 6,300 to 10,338 feet. Experienced hikers can knock out the entire trail in less than two weeks, but it’s more fun to go slow and savor the journey. For something shorter, the lake-filled, granite-bound terrain of Desolation Wilderness is popular with both backpackers and day hikers. Try the challenging climb to the top of Mount Tallac; just be sure to register for a free permit at the trailhead.


    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    River Rafting
    River Rafting
    There are several ways to experience the Truckee River, ranging from leisurely floats to wild rafting trips. Running from Tahoe City to River Ranch Lodge, the quiet stretch of the river is suitable for do-it-yourself floating in just about any kind of boat—even inner tubes. For something more intense, head to the lower, gorge-like portion of the river, where Class II and III rapids offer prime whitewater rafting all summer long.
    Photo courtesy of Action Water Sports of Incline Village
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    Skiing & Riding
    Skiing & Riding
    With more than a dozen mountains surrounding its shores, Lake Tahoe is home to the greatest concentration of ski resorts in the United States. Head to Heavenly Mountain Resort for skiing with stunning views, or Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows to try its famous 3.2-mile run, which is often lit for night skiing. Bargain hunters hit Mount Rose and Homewood on weekdays when the cost of lift tickets won’t break the bank, while intermediates love Northstar California, where 60 percent of the trails are blue squares. If you’re adverse to heights, get an aerobic workout at Royal Gorge Cross-Country Resort (the largest of its kind in North America), or try other wintery activities like snowmobile tours and dogsled rides.





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    Pedal Power
    Pedal Power
    Miles of easy, paved biking trails curve around the lakeshore, winding their way through Incline Village, South Lake Tahoe, and the west shore. For something more challenging, however, explore Tahoe’s wealth of mountain biking tracks, including the famous Tahoe Rim Trail that circles the lake. For the best experience, head to the Flume Trail on the east shore, which is perched about 1,500 feet above the waterline and offers breathtaking views across the lake.