The Ultimate 2-Day Summer Guide to Lake Tahoe!

Adventure Date: 08/28/2023 – 08/30/2023

If you only have a couple of days to spare for a trip to Lake Tahoe, here are a few ideas to help you make the most of your time!

Accommodations

Choose a hotel that’s convenient to get on and off US 50, the main road that runs through town. This will make it easy to get to all the attractions in the area.

Here are a few options:

  • The Beach Retreat & Lodge at Tahoe is right off US 50 and has a variety of rooms and suites to choose from.
  • The Comfort Inn & Suites South Lake Tahoe is also located off US 50 and offers free breakfast and Wi-Fi.
  • The Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe is a budget-friendly option with a pool and fitness center.

We stayed at the Beach Retreat & Lodge at Tahoe which was convienently located across from a Safeway and a walk from CVS. No matter which hotel you choose, make sure to book your stay in advance, especially if you’re traveling during the peak season.

El Dorado Beach

Cost: Free!
Notable Mention: The fat squirrels sunbathing.

My wife and I started our day with breakfast at a local cafe before walking to El Dorado Beach. The beaches are usually less crowded in the morning, so this is a great time to go if you want to avoid the crowds.

El Dorado Beach offers stunning views of Lake Tahoe looking north. You can even see Cave Rock in the distance. There are a variety of activities to enjoy at the beach, including swimming, sunbathing, boating, and fishing.

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A squirrel at El Dorado Beach.

Heavenly Mountain Gondola

Cost: Varies

The Heavenly Gondola is a 2.4-mile aerial tramway that takes you up to the top of Heavenly Mountain Resort, offering stunning panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains.

Even if you’re afraid of heights, you won’t regret taking the gondola. The views are simply breathtaking, and the gondola ride is smooth and relaxing.

There is one stop on the way up, the Observation Deck, which is the perfect place to take photos and enjoy the views. The deck also has a small cafe and souvenir shop.

At the top of the gondola, you’ll find a variety of activities to enjoy, including hiking, biking, ziplining, and shopping. You can also take the Tamarack Express chairlift to the top of the mountain for even more amazing views.

We went on the Tamarack Express chair lift, walked around, and eventually headed back down on the gondola. It was a great way to spend a few hours and we would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the area.

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A view out towards the south/southwest part of Lake Tahoe from the Lake Tahoe Observation Deck.

The Casinos

Cost: Varies

If you’re looking for some gambling action after riding the Heavenly Gondola, there are a few casinos located right in the area.

The closest casino is Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, which is just a short walk from the gondola. Other casinos in the area include Harveys Lake Tahoe and Bally’s Lake Tahoe.

These casinos offer a variety of games, including slots, table games, and poker. They also have restaurants, bars, and other amenities.

We visited Harveys Lake Tahoe for an hour or so before heading back to our hotel. If you’re looking for a more lively atmosphere, you might want to try Harveys Lake Tahoe or Bally’s Lake Tahoe. These casinos have more bars and restaurants, and they often have live entertainment.

No matter which casino you choose, you’re sure to have a fun time. Just be sure to gamble responsibly!

Sand Harbor State Park

Cost: $15

On our second day in Lake Tahoe, we woke up early and headed to Sand Harbor State Park, which was recommended by our cousins. They told us that it’s best to arrive early to get a parking spot, and we’re glad we listened because we were able to get one right when the gates opened.

The water here is some of the clearest I’ve ever seen in a lake. You can see all the way to the bottom, even in the shallow areas. There are several beaches to choose from, each with its own unique charm. We spent some time exploring a bit of everywhere.

There are also several hiking trails in the park, ranging from easy to moderate. We took the Sand Harbor Trail, which winds along the lakeshore and offers stunning views of the mountains.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards and explore the lake. There’s also a boat launch area for those who want to bring their own boats.

After a long day of exploring, you can refuel at the Kokanee Bar & Grill, which has a wide selection of food and drinks. We did not go here since it was still pretty early in the morning but if we stayed long enough and were hungry and/or thirsty, we would have!

We had a great time at Sand Harbor State Park and would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Lake Tahoe. Just be sure to get there early to avoid the crowds!

Tips for Visiting Sand Harbor State Park:

  • Arrive early to get a parking spot.
  • Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
  • Wear comfortable shoes for hiking.
  • Pack a lunch or snacks.
  • Rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the lake.
  • Visit the Kokanee Bar & Grill for a delicious meal.

Keep your parking pass for the next stop!

The parking pass you get for Sand Harbor State Park is valid for all Nevada State Parks, so you can use it at other parks in the area, such as Cave Rock State Park.

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View looking out to Lake Tahoe from Sand Harbor in the morning hours with a small bay area for diving to the right.

Cave Rock State Park

Cost: Free if you paid for parking at Sand Harbor! $15, if you didn’t.

If you’re on your way back from Sand Harbor State Park to South Lake Tahoe, make a quick stop at Cave Rock State Park. This park is home to a massive rock formation that you may have driven through on your way to Sand Harbor.

The entrance to the park is not very well-marked, so you may want to keep an eye out for it. Once you find it, take a short walk to the overlook and get a closer look at the rock. You can also walk down to the small beach at the end of the park and take in the views of the lake. You’ll also see some homes on the lake shore that you can only dream about living in.

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A view of Cave Rock from the boat launch.

Emerald Bay

Cost: Varies

We spent the rest of our second day exploring Emerald Bay State Park. The park has a few spots to check out that are off the road, such as Inspiration Point and Eagle Falls. You can also take one of the hiking trails down to the water.

Inspiration Point is a short drive from the main road and offers stunning views of Emerald Bay. The parking lot can get crowded, so it’s best to arrive early.

Inspiration Point

From Inspiration Point, you can see Fannette Island, a small island in the middle of the bay. Fannette Island is also known as “Teacup Island” because it has a teahouse on it.

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Looking out from Inspiration Point at Fannette Island and Emerald Bay.

Eagle Falls

Eagle Falls is a 50-foot waterfall that cascades down a granite cliff. The falls are located about a mile from Inspiration Point and can be reached by a short hike.

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A view of Eagle Falls from the bottom.

Emerald Bay State Park

If you’re planning on hiking the Vikingsholm Trail, I recommend parking your car at the Emerald Bay State Park Lookout parking lot. The trail is steep and strenuous, and you may not want to hike back to your car if it’s parked further away.

The Vikingsholm Trail is about 1 mile long and descends 500 feet to the lakeshore. The trail is well-maintained and has several shaded areas where you can take a break.

When you reach the bottom of the trail, you can either rent kayaks or paddleboards to explore Fannette Island, or take a tour of the Vikingsholm castle.

Here are some tips for hiking the Vikingsholm Trail:

  • Wear sturdy shoes with good traction.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks.
  • Take breaks often, especially if you’re not used to hiking.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for poison oak.
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Fannette Island from the beach in Emerald Bay.

No Flip Flops or Slides!

No matter what you choose to do around Emerald Bay State Park, be sure to wear sturdy shoes. The trails can be rocky and uneven, and flip flops or slides are not appropriate footwear.

If you’re planning on hiking, I recommend wearing hiking boots or trail runners. These shoes will provide you with the best support and traction.

Want more photos from Lake Tahoe?

If you want more photos from our time in Lake Tahoe, continue on to the photo gallery!