10 Must-Do Adventures for Any Lake Tahoe Bucket List

Hikers enjoy the view of Lake Tahoe from Desolation Wilderness
Hikers enjoy the view of Lake Tahoe from Desolation Wilderness Aaron Hussmann
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Fact: If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who's ever bored in Tahoe, you’re doing something wrong. The Lake Tahoe region offers a dizzying amount of recreation opportunities with thousands of miles of hiking and biking trails, hundreds of square miles of crystal clear water, and a winter backcountry with seemingly endless choices for exploration.

The bottom line? No matter what time of year it is, adventurous types will have plenty to choose from. Whether you're a longtime local or just visiting town for the weekend, these adventures are sure to please—and should be on any Lake Tahoe bucket list. (Note: They're listed in no particular order, because they're all equally awesome.)

1. Hike Mt. Tallac

Sunrise over Lake Tahoe from the summit of Mt. Tallac.
Sunrise over Lake Tahoe from the summit of Mt. Tallac. Aaron Hussmann

Rising prominently from Tahoe’s southwest shoreline, Mt. Tallac’s jagged summit dominates vistas from any vantage point around the lake. As impressive as the peak looks from lake level, the views from the top provide captivating views of sparkling Lake Tahoe that will last a lifetime. This strenuous 9.0 mile roundtrip hike ascends 3,300 feet through steep sun-exposed terrain. Hikers should be prepared with plenty of water, food, sunscreen, and sturdy shoes. The classic route up Mt. Tallac can be started from the Mt. Tallac trailhead across from Baldwin Beach.

2. Bike and hike the Tahoe Rim Trail.

There’s no better way to experience one of the most pristine alpine watersheds in the world than to traverse its 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. Weaving through dense forest, alpine lakes, and stunning ridgeline trails with Tahoe’s cobalt-blue waters shimmering thousands of feet below, the Tahoe Rim Trail is the perfect opportunity to hone your hiking and biking skills. Consider joining the Tahoe Rim Trail Challenge hosted by the nonprofit Tahoe Rim Trail Association every year. (Mountain bikers should note that some sections of trail are closed to bike users.)

3. Kayak or paddleboard to Emerald Bay.

Kayaking to Emerald Bay is one of the best paddles in the region.
Kayaking to Emerald Bay is one of the best paddles in the region. Aaron Hussmann

Emerald Bay is the most photographed area in Lake Tahoe, but the majority of those snapshots come from Highway 89 a few hundred feet above the bay. For a new perspective on this iconic destination, try paddling your kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Baldwin Beach to the turquoise waters of Emerald Bay. This 6-mile roundtrip paddle along Tahoe’s rocky southwest shore yields stunning views of Mt. Tallac and even the occasional glimpse of a bald eagle or osprey.

4. Trek Tahoe’s tallest peak.

Looming like a giant sand dune on the Sierra horizon, Freel Peak holds the honor of Tahoe’s highest summit at 10,881 feet. This rewarding peak deserves a spot on every Tahoe hiker’s bucket list. With multiple options for approach, Freel Peak can range from a 7.8-mile jaunt to a 15-mile slog, with each route requiring several thousand feet of elevation gain. The ambitious hiker can also attempt the “trifecta” by attempting to summit nearby Job’s Sister (10,823 feet) and Job’s Peak (10,633 feet). Find out more in this local guide book .

5. Mountain bike the Flume Trail.

Biking the technical Flume Trail is a jaw-dropping experience.
Biking the technical Flume Trail is a jaw-dropping experience. Jonathan Fox

Named for 19th-century wooden flumes that transported Tahoe trees to their ultimate interment in Nevada’s silver mines, the Flume trail on Lake Tahoe’s East shore is easily one of the most scenic and hair-raising mountain bike rides on the west coast. Beginning at Spooner Lake State Park and ending near Incline Village, NV, this 14-mile adventure will test one’s fear of heights with jaw-dropping vistas perched on the steep mountain hillside. Reward your ride with a cold beer at the Tunnel Creek Cafe before catching the paid shuttle back to Spooner Lake.

6. Have an adventure under the full moon.

During the full moon, the shining waters of Lake Tahoe act like a 191-square-mile mirror, reflecting the moon’s brilliant white light onto the surrounding mountains. With six more full moons to go in 2016, opportunities abound to snowshoe, ski, hike, kayak, SUP, and bike under the lunar glow.

7. Backpack Desolation Wilderness.

Backpacking to Lake Aloha owns a well-deserved spot on the Tahoe bucket list.
Backpacking to Lake Aloha owns a well-deserved spot on the Tahoe bucket list. Aaron Hussmann

8. Strap on some Nordic skis.

Embrace your inner Nordic nerd (or "nordork”) and experience the hundreds of miles of thigh-burning cross-country ski trails surrounding the Lake Tahoe Basin. Resorts like Royal Gorge, Tahoe Donner XC, and Tahoe XC hold down the fort on North Shore, while Camp Richardson, Lake Tahoe Community College, and Kirkwood represent the South Shore. For an off-trail experience, consider renting from mom and pop Lake of the Sky Outfitters and exploring one of the trails outlined by Tahoe author and artist Jared Manninen in this stunning high resolution map .

9. Ski to a backcountry hut.

The Bradley Hut is part of the Sierra Club's network of winter backcountry huts around Lake Tahoe.
The Bradley Hut is part of the Sierra Club's network of winter backcountry huts around Lake Tahoe. ilya_ktsn

Tahoe’s network of ski huts operated by the Sierra Club and Clair Tappaan Lodge provide opportunity for epic first dibs on some of Tahoe’s best backcountry lines. Centered primarily between Tahoe City and Truckee, the four huts offer sleeping space for 12-15 people with basic amenities like woodstoves, cut firewood, and an outhouse. Hut space is allocated by a lottery drawing every November, with any remaining spaces operated on a reservation basis that fill up fast.

10. Protect where you play.

There’s no better way to repay Lake Tahoe for a lifetime of adventure than chipping in to volunteer with one of the many nonprofits dedicated to the environmental health of the region. There are literally hundreds of year-round volunteer opportunities in the Tahoe basin, including beach cleanups and restoration with the League to Save Lake Tahoe (the group behind the well-known Keep Tahoe Blue campaign), tree plantings with with the Sugar Pine Foundation , or winter bald eagle surveys with the Tahoe Institute for Natural Sciences .

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