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view of a lake with woman standing at the edge of a cliff

view of a lake with woman standing at the edge of a cliff

Know Before You Go Lake Tahoe

Lizzie

Lake Tahoe is an amazing – and fairly large – Shaka Guide tour. Although this road trip is a ‘loop’ around the 72-mile lake, there are numerous stops covering:

  • several towns
  • shorelines
  • parks
  • historic mansions
  • and national forests within two states!

So although you could theoretically drive around the lake in under four hours (if you didn’t make any stops), you’d need two or three days to enjoy everything that Shaka Guide wants to show you in Tahoe!

So if you only have one day for this tour, you’ll have to pick and choose what you see and do. 

lake tahoe tour map

Start Planning!

  • This tour travels in a clockwise loop around the lake - you cannot take this tour counterclockwise. 
  • This tour has four starting points:
    • - Reno, NV, starting on Hwy 431/Mount Rose Hwy
    • - Reno, NV, starting on Hwy 341 through Virginia City
    • - Pollock Pines, CA, starting on Hwy 50/El Dorado Fwy
    • - Truckee, CA, starting on I-80
  • Many stops on the tour require entry fees. These vary, but fees for parks and beaches are generally between $10- $15. For a complete budget breakdown check out “Budgeting” below. 
  • The stops on the tour have varying hours of operation - check out “Hours of Operation” below to plan accordingly. 
  • We recommend starting the tour early - around 7 a.m. to avoid crowds and fit in as much as you can! 
  • This tour is a spring, summer, and fall tour – not a winter tour due to road conditions. 

Budgeting

There are several different agencies – each with its own rules, regulations, and hours – that operate the parks and attractions along the Shaka Guide tour route.

So if you’d like to know the entrance fees, parking fees, or whether tour stops are pet-friendly, click on the links provided for the most up-to-date fees and hours/dates the parks are open.

Starting in 2023, Nevada State Parks may begin implementing a reservation system.

There is no word yet if/when this will apply to the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.

Here are some of the tour stops that may require parking or admission fees (subject to change based on the day, time, and month):

On the California side of the lake, if you pay an entrance fee at any state park tour stop, that ticket is good for any additional state park tour stops that you make within the same day. So hang onto your receipt!

Hours of Operation

Packing List

  • Cell phone car mount
  • Cell phone car charger
  • Hiking boots or sneakers
  • Jacket/rain jacket
  • T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweatshirts for layering
  • Swimsuit 
  • Sunscreen
  • And include hats, scarves, and gloves if you’re coming in any month other than June through August. 

download shaka guide lake tahoe audio tour guide

Weather in Lake Tahoe - What to Expect

Spring: March-May 

overview of lakeShutterstock Image

Temperatures steadily rise from early to late spring, from the high 40s in March to the low 60s by May.

During this transition time from ski season to beach season, crowds are low. (Although you may still have some lingering snow in March and April.)

Summer: June - August

boats in the lake in summerShutterstock Image

Summertime! It’s the most popular time to visit Lake Tahoe.

Temperatures are in the high 70s, the trails are free of snow and not muddy, the beaches are ready to lie out on, and the lake is ready to be paddled.

But just for the record … the water never really warms up.

Lake Tahoe is an alpine (aka cold) body of water that never really gets above 68 degrees Fahrenheit!

Still, the shoreline gets crowded in the summer – especially on weekends in the heart of the day.

Hotels are liable to be sold out or quite expensive if you wait too long to receive your spot. 

Fall: September - November

Temperatures start to drop, going from the low 70s in September to the high 40s by the beginning of November.

And with colder winds blowing and kids back in school, tourism is lower.

Late September is the last of the really good hiking weather.

By late November, it’s liable to be more about snowshoeing than hiking.  

Although Lake Tahoe is an extremely popular place to visit in the wintertime if you’re a skier or snowboarder, this Shaka Guide tour is a spring, summer, and fall tour – not a winter tour. That’s because the roads that make up the loop around the lake are not completely accessible during snow season. And Lake Tahoe gets a lot of snow!

Summer Crowds and Parking Tips

The summer season around Tahoe, on the other hand, is the most crowded season around the lake.

So if you’re taking this tour between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you’ll need to get up early in the morning in order to find parking at some of the most popular spots along the tour route.

And when a park gets full, the gates close – at least for a while until guests begin to leave.

That’s why Shaka Guide provides several options for beach and shoreline visits.

The upside of coming in the summer is that you have lots of extra daylight hours, so if you can’t get into a park in the morning, you can try again in the evening – and catch a spectacular sunset view of the lake!

The Perfect Month to Explore Lake Tahoe

September is an ideal month to visit. Most of the tourists have gone home, but ski season hasn’t yet begun.

So you have less traffic, plus a good shot at finding parking all day long in any place you visit, with most (but not all) attractions still operating!

Plus the weather’s still warm enough to hang out on a beach if you want to! 

Additional Things to Note!

sand harbor beach

There are a few places around Lake Tahoe (not on the actual tour but additionally recommended for those with extra time in Tahoe) where reservations or advanced online ticket purchases may be necessary.

But one thing to consider is that if you’re not sure where along the lake you’ll be at a particular time, you might want to hold off trying to score a spot for an experience until you are sure you’ll be within proximity of that location.

Some of those additional options include:

  • Thunderbird Lodge historic mansion tours, leaving from Incline Village. This estate is on a private road, run by a non-profit, and not accessible any other way other than by reservation. It’s well worth the price of admission if you have a few hours to spare. (Not for young children, though).

  • Rum Runner boat cruises to Emerald Bay from Camp Richardson.

If you’re planning a two or three-day vacation in Lake Tahoe for this tour, it would be best to stay at various points along the tour route so as not to have to backtrack and do all that extra driving to get back to one particular town and hotel. 

Three-Day Lake Tahoe Tour Itinerary

Here’s an example of how to do the Lake Tahoe tour in three days and two nights: 

If you’re starting in Reno via Mount Rose, you could do the first leg of the drive from Incline Village down to South Lake Tahoe on Day 1, then stay overnight in South Lake Tahoe.

On Day 2, you could cover the section of the tour from South Lake Tahoe through Tahoe City, and stay overnight in Tahoe City.

Then on the final leg on Day 3, you’d finish seeing everything in and around Tahoe City, then wrap up the tour route all the way back to Incline Village and back to Reno. 

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download shaka guide lake tahoe audio tour guide

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more details, as you plan your trip to Lake Tahoe, please check our Shaka Guide Lake Tahoe Itinerary!

 

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