Tahoe Weekly’s 16th Annual Ultimate Tahoe Summer Bucket List 2023

The Tahoe Sierra is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Whether your ideal outing is spent in the backcountry or lounging on the beach, there’s something for everyone to enjoy this summer. My advice after living here for more than 20 years, is to mix it up. Mornings are ideal for hiking and paddleboarding when the temperatures are cooler and the water is calmer. Afternoons are great for beachgoing and river rafting.

Try something that you’ve never done before. Take a guided kayak or mountain bike tour or sign up for parasailing. Absolutely take a cruise on Lake Tahoe. Whatever you decide to do, relax and have fun. Tip your servers well, take your trash with you and slow down on the roads. After all, you’re on vacation.

Summer in the Tahoe Sierra means time on the water. It’s the most quintessential activity in the summer, and it’s made even more perfect on the lakes and rivers of the Tahoe Sierra.

  1. You must spend time on Lake Tahoe. Whether you rent a boat or join a chartered boat, sailboat or catamaran cruise, you must spend part of your time on the Lake.

2. Boating or sailing in Emerald Bay is a must. It’s often crowded, but it’s worth the journey.

3. If your vessel allows, visit Fannette Island and climb to the top to the old Tea House. Access is on the south side and opens after June 15 (it’s off limits until then for nesting birds).

4. Hold on tight for water tubing, waterskiing or wake surfing off the back of a boat. You’ll have a blast and waterskiing and wake surfing lessons are available.

5. Paddleboarding and kayaking are easily accessible to nearly everyone. If it’s your first time (or you’re an old pro), I recommend taking a guided tour. They’ll provide the gear and instruction, and you’ll learn about local history on the tour. Guides are also great at recommending a favorite place to eat or grab a drink.

6. Go electric. Many outfitters are now renting electric foils. Most of us have seen videos of you-know-who e-foiling on Lake Tahoe.

7. Visit other local lakes – Fallen Leaf Lake, Echo Lakes, Donner Lake, Independence Lake and Webber Lake. Then there’s the Lakes Basin area to the north with more lakes than I can name.

8. Don’t forget the reservoirs – Jackson Meadows, Prosser, Boca and Stampede.

9. Float the Truckee River. It’s a gentle float from Tahoe City to Alpine Meadows.

10. Whitewater rafting will be epic this year. Due to the heavy snowpack, there are Class IV rapids on the Truckee south of Boca waiting to be conquered with local outfitters. Many also offer trips down the Carson and American rivers.

11. Grab a beach chair and umbrella and just sit back and relax. A day at a local beach is a great way to unwind and relax.

You could spend a lifetime exploring the trails of the Tahoe Sierra and probably never trek all of them. This year, exploring trails will be challenging as many high-elevation spots will remain covered in snow well into the summer.

12. Hike Truckee trails first. Sitting at 5,817’ means that many of the trails in Truckee will melt faster than those around Lake Tahoe (at 6,224’). Early season, I like to hike Martis Valley, the Waddle Ranch trail system, Sagehen Meadows and Donner Memorial State Park.

13. As the snow melts, you can start hiking and mountain biking at higher elevations. The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail and 12-mile Donner Rim Trail offer panoramic views.

14. Local trail organizations including TAMBA, Truckee Trails Foundation, Truckee Donner Land Trust and Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship have invested millions of dollars and tens of thousands of volunteer hours to expand and improve trail systems for hiking and mountain biking. After you’re done exploring the trails, consider joining them for a work day or a fundraiser to support their efforts.

15. Peak bagging. This may be a difficult year to reach the peaks due to snow, but late in the season you can try. There are scores of peaks to explore in the region. Visit nearbymountains.com, put in the name of a city or county, and it will generate a list of all the nearby peaks.

16. Explore the Hope Valley, Carson Pass and Kirkwood areas. The drive from South Lake Tahoe is breathtaking any time of year, and there’s scores of trails to explore. I recommend planning an overnight trip and don’t forget to visit Markleeville. They’ve had a rough few years from several fires and mudslides and local businesses could use your support. And the food is worth the drive itself.

17. Take a guided horseback riding tour into the forests and mountain peaks. There are tours throughout the region and some even offer multi-day trips in the backcountry.

18. For a truly unique experience, sign on for a pack goat trip. Yes, it’s a thing.

19. Explore the region’s mountain bike parks at Boreal, Donner Ski Ranch, Northstar, Kirkwood and Sky Tavern.

The Tahoe Sierra is a granite world born of glaciers, the moving of mountains and volcanos (Cave Rock on the East Shore and Eagle Rock on the West Shore were both formed by volcanic activity).

20. Climb it. The Tahoe Sierra has long been a mecca for rock climbing and bouldering (those volcanos created some great boulder fields) that are waiting to be explored. Local outfitters offer guided climbing trips or pick up a guidebook at a local shop.

21. Join like-minded climbers to explore and care for the routes. The Tahoe Climbing Coalition and the North Tahoe Climbers Coalition are working to elevate the sport and to practice sustainable climbing practices in the region.

22. Strap in and tackle the Via Ferrata on the Tram Face at Palisades Tahoe. Alpenglow Expeditions offers guided tours to explore the otherwise inaccessible rock face. They have made it accessible to nearly all ability levels and even kids can enjoy it.

23. Go off roading. You can slow crawl over car-sized boulders on the Rubicon or explore hundreds of miles of OHV trails weaving throughout the mountain peaks and valleys. Local outfitters offered guided tours throughout the region.

You could hike to one of the region’s peaks for breathtaking views or you could try one of the aerial adventures for equally amazing views.

24. Parasailing is one of the most serene ways to float above Lake Tahoe. It requires no experience, and you can go with your friends. It’s a magical experience.

25. Equally as magically is a hot air balloon ride over Lake. And they take off and land from a barge on the Lake.

26. Fly over Lake Tahoe. Local outfitters offer both seaplane and helicopter tours of the region.

27. Freefall at 120 mph. Skydive with local pros for the adventure of a lifetime.

28. Take a ride in a fighter jet with Sky Combat Ace.

29. Ride the wind. Soar Truckee offers glider rides – from mild to wild – and local outfitters offer hang-gliding and paragliding experiences.

30. Take a ride to the top of Palisades Tahoe, Heavenly or Northstar for spectacular sights. You can hike back down or enjoy the ride to the bottom.