When it comes to beautiful places in California, Lake Tahoe is definitely on the top 5 list. A place that everyone should visit at least once, with crystal clear fresh waters and gorgeous snow-capped mountains, Lake Tahoe, has so much to offer for the whole family. We absolutely love Lake Tahoe so much, and we know you will too. Here is a complete list of items you may need for your own trip to Lake Tahoe as well as what not to bring and answers to helpful FAQs!
What to Pack for Lake Tahoe- 17 Essentials
1. Cooling Towel
In the summer in Tahoe, it can get pretty warm. When you’re out hiking or taking a walk, this cooling towel will give you instant cooling relief. Simply dip it in cool water, lay it across your neck, and have cooling relief for up to an hour!
2. Day Pack
Whether you are hiking, going for a boat ride, or walking to the shore, you’ll need a trusty backpack to hold your important things. I recommend using this one because it has great storage and it’s waterproof.
3. Virtual Private Network(VPN)
4. Quick-Dry Travel Towel
A great addition to have with the cooling towel, this quick dry towel is my go-to for hiking trips and beach trips. It rolls up perfectly to fit in any backpack, plus it dries up to 10x faster than a regular towel.
5. Waterproof Phone Case
I wouldn’t go to any water destination without putting my phone in this waterproof phone case first! I love this one because it’s really easy to use, and it universally fits any cell phone.
6. Packing Cubes
Forget about packing stress and disorganization with packing cubes! Fit everything you need for short trips or even long trips in these perfectly compact cubes.
7. LifeStraw Water Bottle
Though Tahoe has some amazing water, it still may not be up to drinking standards. Never drink water that you are unsure of ever again with the Lifestraw water bottle! It filters 99.9% of all bad bacteria.
8. Travel Umbrella
For hiding from the rain or even the sun, this all-weather umbrella is the perfect thing to have for any activity. It’s lightweight yet super durable. It’s the best quality travel umbrella I’ve owned.
9. Neck Wallet
To make sure your phone, ID, cash, and bank cards are always somewhere safe, you’ll want the neck wallet. The zippered compartments keeps everything secure so you don’t have to worry about anything slipping out.
10. Floating Wrist Straps
Walking around the waterfall or taking a boat ride? If you are nervous about losing your phone during these adventures, toss the floating wrist strap on and never worry about losing your phone again.
11. Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger
There may be a fun day of outdoor activities planned, and this means nowhere to charge your phone! Bring this portable charger with you to make sure your phone is charged and ready to capture all the important photos.
12. Hanging Toiletry Bag
This hanging toiletry bag is perfect for holding all your toiletries in one organized place. It even hangs up for easy, out-of-the-way access. It’s another great way to stay organized on trips.
13. Beach Blanket
For lounging on the beaches of the lake, or for taking to one of the parks, or even hiking, this outdoor blanket is perfect for setting out on the ground! Providing comfort and keeping the sand or dirt off of you.
For any season, being outdoors requires sunscreen. I suggest wearing this reef-safe sunscreen, especially if you are going swimming, to make sure the water life is kept safe from chemicals.
15. Travel Insurance for Lake Tahoe
With every dime you spend and every reservation you make, everything can be protected with travelers’ insurance. Protect yourself and your spending before going anywhere. We always use TravelInsurance.com to compare policies from top companies to find the best option for our family and travel plans.
16. Bug Spray
The woods around Tahoe can get pretty thick, and usually, that means bugs! Especially if you are camping, you will definitely want bug spray for dawn and dusk when those nasty mosquitoes are everywhere.
17. First Aid Kit
I never go anywhere without packing a first aid kit. You never know when you may need it! This one is complete with everything you might need in case of an accident.
What to Wear to Lake Tahoe
In the summer, you will definitely want your swim gear, and you don’t need rain jackets during this time, either! However, there is lots of snow and rain in the winter, so pack accordingly.
Packing for the Seasons in Lake Tahoe
Winter – December, January, February
Pack layers for a winter Lake Tahoe Trip. Sweaters, waterproof jackets, snow pants, and warm winter boots are a must. Hats, gloves, and scarves are all great additions. If you are doing snow sports, you will want a warm face covering.
Spring – March, April, May
In spring, things begin to warm up. The snow starts melting, and the winter crowds disperse. Spring is generally a slow time for Lake Tahoe. It’s not really warm enough to swim, however, the spring hiking and camping is beautiful. If you are looking to escape the crowds, spring is the time for you. Daily spring temperatures are around 50-60, with nights still being pretty chilly, never getting above 40.
Since spring is still mild, sweatshirts, long sleeves, and leggings may be appropriate. Shorts and t-shirts could work during the day. Pack sandals; however, you’ll mainly want sneakers or hiking shoes. Don’t forget a rain jacket just in case.
Summer – June, July, August
It’s time to bring swimsuits! I would also bring a beach cover-up for walking around. Shorts, t-shirts, and sandals are all good things to wear in the summer. Summer dresses and button-ups are great for walking around town. Waterproof sandals are also good for hiking and for river trips. Since the nights get chilly, I would bring some warm pants and a jacket/sweatshirt.
Fall – September, October, November
Fall is such a beautiful time of year in Lake Tahoe. Arguably one of the nicest seasons, the weather starts to cool, the leaves change to vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges, and the summer crowds disperse. The weather is still wonderful for camping and for hiking. In general, the daily temperatures are around 70-50, and November starts to get much cooler. Night-time temperatures can be anywhere in that range as well.
Snow Sports: During the winter, Lake Tahoe is riddled with people enjoying the snow, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and just playing around! There are over 500 miles of slopes and 15 ski resorts in the area, all with unique trails and beautiful mountains.
Anytime you are out skiing or snowboarding, layers are essential. Make sure you have a comfortable base layer shirt with a winter jacket, thermals, and snow pants. Face coverings, hats, gloves, and scarves are all great things to wear in the snow.
Swimming: If you are traveling to Lake Tahoe in the summer, even the late spring or early fall, it’s almost a no-brainer that you will be going swimming! Besides the lake itself, there are many other little swimming holes in the area that you will definitely love to take a dip in. Be warned, even in the summertime, the waters of Lake Tahoe tend to be very chilly from all the snow runoff!
The essentials include a bathing suit, a beach cover-up, sunscreen, and a trusty sun hat. You may also want to wear a rash guard to stay warm. Especially for swimming in the rivers or streams around the area, you will want waterproof sandals, though flip-flops are fine for swimming by the lake.
Hiking: One of the more popular activities in Lake Tahoe is hiking. There are exactly 109 hiking trails scattered across the area. From seeing waterfalls, to hiking mountains, to simple walks through the forest, there is a trail for everyone. A wonderful thing about Lake Tahoe is that you can hike most of the trails any time of year. Some may be more restricted during the winter because of snow.
I suggest wearing a good sun shirt/base layer shirt to start. Moisture-wicking hiking pants, a quality pair of hiking shoes, and a comfortable t-shirt are the essentials. Sun hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are all important things to remember. Don’t forget bug spray, either!
Restaurants: Although Lake Tahoe is known for its outdoor activities, the town itself actually has some amazing restaurants and some really fun places to eat! You can choose from any of the 400+ restaurants to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
From casual breweries to fine dining, there is a restaurant for every occasion. Casual jeans, t-shirts, sandals, or sneakers will be fine for most restaurants. Have a light jacket handy in case it’s cold outside or inside the restaurant. For fancier places, or for a nice date night, a semi-casual dress, or men can wear a button-up.
What NOT to Bring to Lake Tahoe
1.DON’T Bring Glass
Glass is a dangerous thing to have, especially to bring to the beach or out in nature! It can be difficult to pick when it breaks, and it’s heavy to carry in and out. Plastic or cans are more suitable for nature trips.
2.DON’T Bring Extra Luggage
It is a good idea to only pack for the activities you are doing. Look ahead at the weather, and leave behind things that will drag you down or be too heavy and uncomfortable to pack.
3.DON’T Bring Heavy Books
To lighten up your suitcase or backpack, leave behind things like heavy books.
4.DON’T Bring Expensive Jewelry
I am always wearing of wearing or bringing my nice, expensive jewelry on trips where I know I’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors. Including Tahoe trips, I like to leave my valuables at home where I know they will be safe and won’t get lost, damaged, or stolen.
5.DON’T Bring Lots of Electronics
Outdoor activities don’t require many electronics! Take this time to take a break from screens, and tune into nature.
6.DON’T Bring Beach Towels
While you will need a towel for the lake, don’t bring a bulky beach towel. A travel towel will be perfect for this occasion as they are super absorbent but very compact.
For a Tahoe trip, I would not wear clothing that is valuable to me. Things like expensive jewelry, nice dresses, or even my favorite pair of pants or shirt. It’s better to bring clothing that you feel more comfortable getting dirty, wearing outdoors, and possibly losing while you are out hiking or swimming by the lake.
FAQs about Visiting Lake Tahoe
1. What is the busiest time of year at Lake Tahoe?
The summer is usually the busiest time of year. Many people will rent summer houses on the lake to enjoy the water and the fresh mountain air. However, some may argue that winter is a very popular time of year because Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular places for snow sports.
2. Is Lake Tahoe dog friendly?
Lake Tahoe is such a dog-friendly place! Many restaurants will help you find seating if you have a dog, and many rental houses will allow dogs, sometimes with a small fee. Almost all of the beaches and campsites will allow dogs, as long as they are friendly and on a leash.
3. What are the best snow sports areas?
There are a large handful of wonderful ski resorts and ski mountains scattered by Lake Tahoe. Some of the best include
- Heavenly Mountain Resort
- Kirkwood Ski Resort
- Northstar California
- Sugar Bowl
4. What are the best hiking trails?
Since there are so many hiking trails to choose from, I help make it a little easier and give you some of my favorites!
- Castle Rock- Easy, 3 miles round trip (mountain views)
- Donner Summit- Hard, 18 miles from start to finish (mountain views)
- Cascade Creek Falls- Moderate, 1 mile (waterfall views)
5. Lake Tahoe must-sees?
All of Lake Tahoe is so beautiful. You can even just drive around the lake itself and be awestruck! However, although it is a popular destination, Emerald Bay is one of my favorite places. It is gorgeously picturesque, there are some wonderful hiking trails, and there is an amazing waterfall that falls into the bay.
6. Best camping around Lake Tahoe?
From BLM land to private campsites, there is so much beautiful camping in this area. Here are just a few of the more popular campsites.
- Eagle Point Campground
- Emerald Bay Boat Camp
- Fallen Leaf Campground
7. Best swimming areas in Lake Tahoe?
The lake is a very large place, and there are actually many small beaches along the coast, plus many rivers and streams to swim in around the area! Here are some of my favorite places to swim in and around Lake Tahoe.
- Bonsai Rock- A very secluded swim spot between Hidden Beach and Sand Harbor. Bonsai Rock is a giant boulder that you can swim to from the shore.
- Sand Harbor- A more popular beach spot right in Incline Village, great for families!
- Meeks Bay- A shore right on Lake Tahoe, also a great family-friendly spot.
- Eagle Lake- To reach Eagle Lake, you must hike a one-mile incline to get to the beautiful spot, but it is so worth it. Since you have eto hike there, it’s a very secluded spot as well.
8. What part of California is Lake Tahoe in?
Lake Tahoe is nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, right beyond the Nevada/California border.