Ultimate Tahoe Summer Bucket List


#9 | The historic Thunderbird Lodge | Courtesy Thunderbird Preservation Society

The Memorial Day Weekend marks the start of the summer season in Tahoe and Truckee. Mountain biking, boating, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, golfing, visiting historic sites or enjoying a day at the beach are just some of the nearly endless things you can do in Tahoe. If you don’t have fun in Tahoe, don’t blame us.

Each Memorial Day, Tahoe Weekly puts together its must-do list of summer fun, and this year we’re giving you 101 things to check off your Ultimate Tahoe Summer Bucket List. We invite you to have fun this summer checking off our list (or adding things to your own list). And, we want to see how much fun you’re having and win some great prizes from gift certificates to local restaurants to SUP rentals and lots of other goodies.

READ MORE: Making the most of a summer in Paradise

We have information on nearly all of the items on the bucket list at TheTahoeWeekly.com. Just got to the search bar and enter any item and you’ll find information. For those items we haven’t covered yet, we’ll be adding those to our bucket list. Don’t forget to bring a copy of the Tahoe Weekly with you on your adventure to enter our contest.

Check trail conditions before going out as snow at elevations above 8,000 feet will linger well into July and perhaps longer. Lake Tahoe and other waterways are extremely cold from snowmelt and therefore dangerous. Stay close to shore during water activities and wear a life vest. It only takes minutes for hyperthermia to set it.

#16 | Watson Cabin in Tahoe City

Explore Tahoe’s sights

  1. Cave Rock on the East Shore is actually a plug of an old volcano. If you’re on the water, look for the Lady of the Lake. (Hint: You can only see her if you’re looking south).
  2. Eagle Rock is also a plug of an old volcano. It’s a short climb to the top with panoramic views, especially at sunrise or sunset on the West Shore.
  3. Petroglyphs on Donner Summit are worth exploring up Old Highway 40.
  4. Tallac Historic Site is a glance back into the life of the San Francisco elite with manor homes and servant charters.
  5. The stream profile chamber at Taylor Creek is great fun for everyone of aquatic life in a Sierra stream.
  6. Visit the Emigrant Monument erected in 1930 by Robert Watson at the top of Emigrant Peak.
  7. Look for the cross on Mount Tallac’s slope. Visible only when the snow lingers late in the season.
  8. Explore Tahoe City’s historic triangle at the wye – the Gatekeeper’s Museum, Fanny Bridge and the Tahoe City Dam.
  9. A lion’s den, secret tunnel, a yacht powdered by two airplane engines, secret doors inside the shower – pique your interest? Explore the eccentric character of George Whittle Jr. at the historic Thunderbird Lodge. Book a tour by land or sea.
  10. Tahoe has a bevy of amazing state parks from sandy beaches to forested trails to mountain biking excursions and even a castle – Sugar Pine Point State Park, Kings Beach State Recreation Area, Donner Memorial State Park, Burton Creek State Park, Van Sickle State Park, D.L. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay State Park.
  11. Few know that Tahoe once had a lighthouse (although long out of use) situated on the West Shore above the Rubicon Trail at D.L. Bliss State Park. Look for it from the water (it looks like an outhouse) or take the kids on the short hike to peek inside.
  12. Vikingsholm Castle is a marvel of Scandinavian design and old Tahoe money. Enjoy the day on the grounds or take a tour. The wildflower-laden roof is a favorite.
  13. Fannette Island, Tahoe’s only island, once was part of the Vikingsholm Estate with remnants of the old Tea House still standing. The island is accessible by boat or other watercraft and you can hike to the top. (Closed until June 15 for nesting birds.)
  14. What does a ski resort do with a lift in the summer? Open it for summer use for hikers, sightseers and others, of course. Northstar, Heavenly and Squaw Valley all operate a lift, tram or gondola during the summer for visitor use.
  15. Explore the historic Hellman-Ehrman Mansion at Sugar Pine Point State Park, spend the day at the beach and stop by General Phipps Cabin along the lakeshore, which was built in the late 1800s.
  16. Watson Cabin in Tahoe City (built in 1908 by Robert Watson; that guy was busy) is open for tours in the summer and looks much as it did when it was built.
  17. Learn about Tahoe environmental and natural history at the Tahoe Science Center on the campus of Sierra Nevada College or at the Tahoe City Field Station outside Tahoe City. Both are operated by UC Davis with kid-friendly science exhibits.
  18. If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to visit one of our local museums – emigrant history (including the Donner Party) take center stage at Donner Memorial Visitor Center along with the Donner Summit Historical Society in Soda Springs.
  19. The Gatekeeper’s Museum is a wealth of local history and houses the Steinbach Indian Basket Museum.
  20. Inactive exhibits for kids up to age 7 are the focus of the KidZone Children’s Museum in Truckee.
  21. The Lake Tahoe Museum in South Lake Tahoe features Washoe artifacts and early settlers.
  22. Explore the Old Jail Museum in Truckee, used from 1875 to 1964, open for tours in the summer.
  23. Enjoy ski and Olympic artifacts at the Museum of Sierra Ski History (closed for the season) & the 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Tahoe City. Don’t forget to check out Squaw Valley’s Olympic Museum at High Camp.
  24. The Tahoe Maritime Museum features guided tours, exhibits and hands-on activities for kids.
  25. The Truckee Railroad Museum is housed in an old Caboose in downtown next to the railroad tracks. The society that runs the museum also offers model train rides in Truckee each month. The kids will love it.


#28 | Surfing Lake Tahoe

On the Water

  1. Launch a boat, rent a boat, borrow a boat or take a cruise. Boating on Lake Tahoe is must on any bucket list. Mornings are the most calm and the lake is perfect for water skiing, while afternoons and evenings the winds are high and it’s time for sailing.
  2. Go human powdered. Paddleboarding, kayaking or canoeing can be done solo or with some friends. There’s not a bad way to enjoy the water. For extra fun, take an outrigger out.
  3. Yes, you can surf Tahoe. When the wind’s high, the waves are as large as the ocean.
  4. Learn to kiteboard. It looks like a lot of fun, but you will need lessons to stand up.
  5. The Truckee River is known for a gentle float from Tahoe City to Alpine Meadows and its Class III and IV rapids at Boca. This year, however, the river is raging and the rapids are dangerous. Please do not enter the Truckee River unless you are with experienced whitewater guides. Pets and small children can be swept away from the shoreline quickly. Stay away! When you see the local rafting companies open for the season in Tahoe City, you’ll know the water is safe.


#50 | Hiking Rubicon Peak

Hike local trails

  1. Chickadee Ridge from Tahoe Meadows off Highway 431 offers panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. As with all higher-elevation trails, you’ll need to wait to mid-summer at least before all that snow melts.
  2. Donner Lake Rim Trail is still a work in progress. Completed segments can be accessed at Negro Canyon, Tahoe Donner, Donner Summit and Castle Valley Road.
  3. Eagle Lake above Emerald Bay. Pass Upper Eagle Falls and climb for 1 mile. Breathtaking.
  4. Donner Summit Canyon. Start at Donner Lake and climb.
  5. Explore Echo Lakes on Echo Summit and take the water taxi back off Highway 50.
  6. Emigrant Peak. Start in Olympic Valley or take the Aerial Tram at Squaw Valley to get started. Don’t forget to look for Emigrant Monument ( 6)
  7. Desolation Wilderness. Pick any hike in Desolation; you can’t go wrong.
  8. Flintstone Rock is perfect for little ones off Highway 267
  9. Five Lakes in Alpine Meadows (no dogs until after July 15 for fawning season)
  10. Hope Valley. Explore the many trails.
  11. Freel Peak at 10,886’ it is the tallest peak in the Tahoe Basin.
  12. Loch Leven Lakes on Donner Summit are worth the drive to explore this trio of lakes.
  13. Marlette Lake offers views of Snow Valley on the East Shore.
  14. Mount Judah on Donner Summit offerings great views of Lake Mary.
  15. Mount Rose. Climb to the summit at 8,911’ with 360-degree views of Tahoe, Truckee, Reno and the Washoe Valley.
  16. Mount Tallac reaches 9,738’ and worth the trek.
  17. Pacific Crest Trail (any segment through the Tahoe Sierra)
  18. Page Meadows is a great all-season trail anytime from the North Shore.
  19. Rim to Reno Trail meanders through the Mount Rose Wilderness and is seldom explored.
  20. Rubicon Peak on the West Shore is worth the heart-pumping scramble to the top.
  21. Rubicon Trail on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore with secret coves and bald eagles nesting is a must-do. Start at D.L. Bliss State Park or at Emerald Bay.
  22. Sagehen Meadows is a wildflower paradise just north of Truckee.
  23. Shirley Canyon offers spectacular scenery, cascading falls and cool waters on a hot day from Shirley Creek. Explore for a short distance or do the trek to the top at High Camp and take the Tram back down.
  24. Spooner Lake is an easy hike ringing a pristine mountain lake for any level.
  25. Squaw Peak’s views of Lake Tahoe and into Granite Chief Wilderness are amazing.
  26. Tahoe Rim Trail. Pick a segment or tackle the entire 165-mile loop.
  27. Waddle Ranch in Martis Valley is one of the newest trail systems in the area rich with wildlife and great trails in a gorgeous valley.

Tahoe Sierra Lakes

  1. Of course, there’s Big Blue. Enjoy Lake Tahoe. On the beach, in the water, however you want.
  2. Angora Lakes are a tiny duo of lakes for summer fun in South Lake.
  3. Donner Lake offers as much fun as Lake Tahoe just smaller.
  4. Echo Lakes on Echo Summit are easily accessible for water sports or hiking.
  5. Fallen Leaf Lake is a small enclave of mostly summer homes in South Lake Tahoe. Make your way to the end at the marina for kayaking on the lake or explore the trails to Glen Alpine Falls.
  6. Independence Lake north of Truckee is great for camping or a day of kayaking.
  7. Spooner Lake is a great spot to bring the kids to picnic or enjoy fishing.
  8. Marlette Lake is worth the 6-mile hike on Tahoe’s East Shore.
  9. The Reservoirs – Stampede, Prosser, Boca – are all open to boating, fishing and general good times.
  10. Watson Lake on Tahoe’s North Shore is named for local Robert Watson, once Tahoe City’s Constable, and is a great hike along the Tahoe Rim Trail or bike or drive in on the Fiberboard Freeway off Highway 267.


#73 | Horsetail Falls

Tahoe waterfalls

  1. Cascade Falls is above Cascade Lake (private). Find the trailhead at Bayview Campground in Emerald Bay.
  2. Eagle Falls are in Emerald Bay. The Upper Falls are a short walk from your car, or hike down to Vikingsholm Castle to enjoy the Lower Falls.
  3. Fontanillis Falls in Desolation Wilderness is worth the 12-mile roundtrip hike.
  4. Galena Falls is an easy, 2-mile hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail from Highway 431.
  5. Glen Alpine Falls are easily accessible for all ages at Fallen Leaf Lake.
  6. Horsetail Falls is a popular 3.3-mile hike off Highway 50.
  7. Meeks Bay Falls are an easy 2-mile hike for families. Follow the trail from Meeks Meadows (across from the fire station) and keep left at the fork for the PCT.


#76 | Get your downhill on | Courtesy Northstar California

Mountain Biking

  1. Explore Truckee Bike Park or the Bijou Bike Park in South Lake Tahoe. Don’t forget the little ones and their strider bikes.
  2. Take your pick of mountain bike parks – Northstar or Kirkwood.
  3. The East Shore’s Flume Trail is perhaps the most famous of Tahoe’s mountain biking trails. And, the most beautiful.
  4. Then, try the other Flume Trail – the Incline Flume Trail that starts on Highway 431 and descends down, connecting to the Marlette Flume Trail.
  5. Mountain bike the Tahoe Rim Trail; at least a little.
  6. Explore the trails at Tahoe Cross County Country meandering through Burton Creek State Park and the North Shore.
  7. Corral & Sidewinder are two different sides of the same coin – from technical to smooth – these South Lake Tahoe trails are great for the entire family.
  8. The Armstrong Pass trail is the gateway to a trail system that connects to the Tahoe Rim Trail, Saxon Creek Trail, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and beyond. Start exploring.
  9. Tahoe Donner has a network of mountain biking trails that fans out from Alder Creek Lodge.
  10. Try a night mountain biking fun race at the Lake Tahoe Golf Course this summer.
  11. Explore the completed parts of the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway that will eventually span 116 miles between Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake.

READ MORE: Be kind to the back country

#89 | Concerts on Commons Beach | Ron Richman

There’s still more outdoors

  1. We’re running short on room for our list, so we’ll highlight other summer fun. Kids love skate parks and the Tahoe Sierra boasts some pretty stellar courses.
  2. Go to the beach – in the morning, at sunset, during the heat of the day. Anytime is a good time for beach time.
  3. Explore the arts. Local art centers in Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe highlight Tahoe artists, and look for art studio tours during the summer.
  4. Music is in the air. Free concerts five nights a week, festival-packed weekends, classical music under the stars, Shakespeare on the beach, dancers in the trees. Come enjoy the fun with the locals. Local for our spring Tahoe Music & Festivals guide online. The summer guide will be out in the coming weeks.
  5. Climb the rocks. We have a lot of them. From technical climbs to bouldering problems, you’ll find endless routes in the Tahoe Sierra.
  6. The greens are manicured, the views are unmatched and the days are stunning. Check out our 2017 Tahoe-Reno Golf Guide for a look at the courses.
  7. Frisbees more of interest to you? Fit in a visit to all eight courses, if you can.
  8. Wine walks and brew fests, and lots of tasty delights await at the myriad of Tahoe’s summer food, wine and beer festivals. Look in each edition of Tahoe Weekly for the latest round.
  9. Ski or snowboard. Mount Rose is open through Memorial Day Weekend and Squaw Valley will be open beyond the 4th of July.
  10. Try two in one day. Ski or snowboard and then boat, waterski, hike, mountain bike. Your choice. Tackle Tahoe like a local. Do it all.

Be Aware

  1. Ditch your car to help save the environment and Lake Tahoe. Our lake is part of a delicate ecosystem and every little bit does help. Take your bike to a local concert or event, and send us a photo.
  2. Ride the shuttle to Emerald Bay. We know you’re going to Emerald Bay during your trip. Enjoy reading the Tahoe Weekly and taking in the scenery and leave the driving to someone else.
  3. Be prepared for changing weather in Tahoe and carry extra layers, carry food and water. Seriously, be prepared before heading out on any trail. You are in the wilderness. Take a picture of what’s in your pack.
  4. Buy hiking shoes. We are serious about this one. Visit a local outfitter and get some good hiking shoes. Flip Flops are never appropriate footwear on a trail (they are a great way, however, to twist or break an ankle). You are in the wilderness. You need hiking shoes. Send us a photo of your new treads from a Tahoe shop.
  5. Be kind and courtesy. Lots of Tahoe locals work in the service industry and want to have as much fun as you do. Share a photo of your favorite barista, tour guide, crew member, server or other amazing local that made your time in Tahoe even better.
  6. Stop for pedestrians.
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Katherine Hill
Katherine first moved to Tahoe in 1998 and has been in love with the Tahoe Sierra region since. She has been in the journalism field for more than 25 years and has worked for daily and weekly newspapers and magazines, as well as online publications and Web sites, as an award-winning writer and editor. In the fall of 2013, Katherine became only the third owner of the Tahoe Weekly magazine, and today serves as its Publisher and Editor In Chief. She also volunteers as a board member on of the Tahoe City Downtown Association, a commissioner on the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council and is a member of the TBID Advisory Committee for the North Tahoe Community Alliance. She is also a past commissioner of the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Commission.