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Lake Tahoe Outdoors

Rock Climbing
Lake Tahoe Outdoors
The best way to enjoy Lake Tahoe's mountainous wonderland is to head outside and get your heart pumping. Surrounded by three federally designated wilderness areas, plus a huge swath of national forest land and multiple California and Nevada state parks, the Tahoe basin is one of the West's top outdoor playgrounds. A vast array of adventures will keep you happily occupied out-of-doors in every month of the year. Breathe in the high alpine air, stick your toes in a chilly lake, lace up your hiking boots and climb a rocky peak, or pull out your fat skis and shred a powder-covered slope. Yup—Tahoe's got all that. 


By Ann Marie Brown, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Rock Climbing
    Rock Climbing
    For those who can't resist a solid chunk of granite, Lake Tahoe offers a variety of climbs for every level and a terrain for every season. On the north shore, Donner Summit is a favorite site with 400 known routes. A close second for popularity is the Big Chief area, high above the river canyon between Squaw Valley and Truckee. The rock here is volcanic, not granite, offering steep sport climbing over more than 100 bolted routes. Novice climbers head to Twin Crags, just north of Tahoe City, where they can use topropes to sharpen their skills and gain confidence. On the south shore, Lovers Leap's granite monolith rises 600 feet from the American River Canyon floor. Single- and multiple-pitch routes are available, offering variety for climbers of all levels.

    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    Paddle the lake
    Paddle the lake
    Lake Tahoe's water is known for its clarity, depth, and beauty. The best way to get up-close and personal with Big Blue is to paddle a kayak or canoe across its waters. Bring your own or rent one at any of Tahoe's marinas, or, go even more minimalist: Rent a stand-up paddleboard, or SUP, and you'll work your core and abs while standing up and maintaining your balance as you paddle. (For your first time, go early in the morning, when the lake surface is usually calm.) A popular area for both kayaking and stand-up paddling is Sand Harbor State Park on the lake's east shore, where tour companies offer guided trips to historic Thunderbird Lodge as well as stargazing and full-moon tours. On the west shore, walk a mile down to Vikingsholm Castle at sparkling Emerald Bay, where you can rent a kayak, paddle Tahoe's largest bay, and visit Tahoe's only island.
    Photo courtesy of Andreas Hub/Visit California
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    Golfing Tahoe
    Golfing Tahoe
    Tahoe has golf courses galore, and they're surrounded by glistening mountain peaks and dense conifer forests. The scenic course at Old Greenwood winds through 600 acres of stately Jeffrey pines and sagebrush. Coyote Moon Championship Golf Course sits on 250 acres of undeveloped pine- and boulder-covered hills, with no houses or structures to spoil its mountain and forest views. The Tahoe City Golf Course offers views of Lake Tahoe and a rollicking "Rat Pack' history—Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin played here in the 1950s. But the undisputed king of Tahoe's courses is Edgewood on the South Shore, where there's so much water around the 18th hole, it's practically an island.

    Photo courtesy of Coyote Moon Golf Course
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    Go for a hike
    Go for a hike
    Tahoe's glistening blue waters are surrounded by a 165-mile-long hiking trail. The Tahoe Rim Trail makes a complete circuit around Lake Tahoe, ranging in elevation from 6,300 feet 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, or just take it one small piece at a time. For shorter trips, the lake-filled, granite-bound terrain of Desolation Wilderness is popular with both backpackers and day-hikers. One of its premier trails is the challenging summit climb to the top of Mount Tallac (register for free permits at the trailhead).

    https://www.afar.com/places/mt-tallac-south-lake-tahoe
    Photo by Vanessa Petersen
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    River Rafting & River Floating
    River Rafting & River Floating
    Whitewater rafting in Tahoe runs the gamut from the wild to the mild. On the wilder side, the lower Truckee River offers Class II and III rapids almost all summer long. Tahoe Whitewater Tours and Tributary Whitewater Tours offer guided rafting trips on this gorge-like stretch of the river. On the milder side, a much quieter stretch of the Truckee runs from Tahoe City to River Ranch Lodge, and it's suitable for do-it-yourself rafting in just about any kind of boat, even inner tubes. Rent boats from Truckee River Rafting in Tahoe City. 

    Photo courtesy of Action Water Sports of Incline Village
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    Skiing & Riding
    Skiing & Riding
    Tahoe's wealth of ski resorts have made the lake an internationally recognized destination. More than a dozen alpine resorts are located near its shores, the largest concentration anywhere in the United States. A wide range of "nonvertical" activities are also available in Tahoe's snowy wonderland—from dogsled rides to snowmobile tours to sipping hot chocolate beside a roaring fire. If your biggest draw to skiing is the view, it's tough to beat a ride on Heavenly Mountain's gondola, which provides eye-candy views of the lake. World-famous Squaw Valley offers a 3.2-mile-long run that's lit up for night skiing. Bargain hunting skiers head to Mount Rose and Homewood on weekdays, when a day on the slopes won't break the bank. Intermediates love the slopes at Northstar California, where a full 60 percent are marked with blue squares. And if you'd like to get an aerobic workout while you play around in the snow, head to Royal Gorge Cross-County, North America's largest cross-country ski resort. 





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    Pedal power around the lake
    Pedal power around the lake
    Lake Tahoe has miles of paved biking trails that curve around its shores in Incline Village, South Lake Tahoe, and on the West Shore. They're ideal for easy pedaling on cruiser bikes or hauling kids or small dogs in bike trailers. But if knobby tires are more your thing, you need to get out and explore Tahoe's wealth of mountain biking trails, including sections of the world-famous Tahoe Rim Trail that circles the lake. The crowning glory of Tahoe's fat-tire trails is the east shore's specular Flume Trail, which was built on the grade of an old logging flume. It's perched about 1,500 feet above the waterline and provides eye-popping views across the lake.