Lake Tahoe is a unique travel destination because summers and winters equally and reliably host a playful array of outdoor recreation. With summer temperatures averaging 70-80 degrees, cold lake waters rejuvenate nature-goers after days spent hiking, cycling or paddling.
On the winter front, temperatures in the Tahoe Basin and surrounding mountains drop to the ’30s-’40s, and steady precipitation transforms the landscape into a snowglobe terrain park. Rightfully so, these seasons draw crowds ready to take advantage of Tahoe’s top seasons to be outside.
Though more of a gamble weather-wise, fall and spring offer their own surprise delights; spring flowers, fall colors, reduced prices, fewer crowds and festive community events reward the traveler willing to risk less reliable weather during the transitional seasons.
High Seasons: June to August and December to March
Best for summer and winter outdoor recreation and travel-worthy acts
Whether you’re packing your swimsuit, bikes and kayaks -- or snowshoes, skis and parkas, Tahoe’s beaches and slopes offer up summer and winter fun. Since crowds and prices jump during these months, we recommend planning and booking 3-6 months in advance. The jump in tourism also brings in big acts and world-class performers to events such as SnowGlobe Music Festival and Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
Something else to consider: extreme weather. Wildfires in summer and heavy snowstorms in winter are always possible.
Shoulder Seasons: March to May and September to November
Best for bargaining tail-end or first-runs of summer and winter activities and joining in community events
No need to hit the casinos for an adrenaline rush; weather in fall or spring is a dice-roll that could just land in your favor. Spring and fall bring their own flair to the landscape, though best timing is harder to pinpoint. In spring, rivers are full for paddling and waterfalls cascade with impressive force. In fall, aspen leaves flit a vibrant yellow against the green backdrop of evergreens. Mountain-tops beyond are snow-capped. Parking is easier; prices dip. Be prepared for tank tops -- or hoodies -- and a quick shift of activities.
Since planning for weather can be tricky, keep a few local events in mind like the Fall Fish Fest in October or the Holiday Faire at the Valhalla mansion.
By mid-month the base snow-pack at downhill ski resorts is primed and ready for skiers. No more man-made snow. It’s fresh powder time, but you’ll be standing in line to pay a premium price for it.
Key Events: SnowGlobe Music Festival
February is more of the same winter wonderland. If your budget can’t front the downhill passes, try playing at one of the 18 Sno-Parks around the lake for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding or snowmobiling.
Key Events: Playing outside in the snow!
Is it summer? Winter? Who cares! A conglomerate of Tahoe resorts (Heavenly, Kirkwood and Sierra-at-Tahoe) and local organizations band together each spring to make the most of it. Film crawls, beer trails, 5k’s and mega daily discounts topped off with special live events are reasons to cheers with beers.
Key Events: Spring Loaded
Springtime shenanigans continue on the mountains. From golf one day to skim-skiing across melted snow ponds the next. Bring your bathing suit, skis -- and a feather boa? Enjoy tons of sweet spring deals alongside the Tahoe diehards.
Key Events: Spring Loaded
Here’s where the gamble comes in. With a snowy winter, you may still be skiing; however, weather could be pleasant and warming up to the 60’s. Marinas begin to open again as do beaches and campgrounds, and they are still quiet and less crowded -- though too chilly for swimming.
Key Events: Tahoe Climbing Coalition Kick-Off Party, Cinco de Mayo Fiesta at Heavenly Village, Heavenly Village Concert Series and Lake Tahoe Aleworx Summer Music Series begin
School’s out and so are the tourists. Sunny, 70-degree days are starting to dominate the weather pattern, and Tahoe is rolling full-steam into summer fun. The lake is still too cold for a complete plunge, but beaches are filling up as launch sites for paddle boards and kayaks and picnics. Athletes, mark your calendar for race day.
July is a peak month to visit Tahoe. While the dry mountain air is pleasantly perfect at 80 degrees, and the lake is finally warm enough for a full dip, expect beaches, rentals and parking lots to be full -- and premium price. The plus side is that prime entertainment also comes with the boom in tourism.
Peak summer activities continue into August as do peak summer weather and peak summer prices.
The summer tourism season winds down as kids go back to school, but Labor Day weekend is a last, big hurrah. Tahoe pulls out all the stops, so expect this weekend to be the last bump in high prices and crowds until ski season.
Key Events: Sample the Sierra Farm-to-Fork Festival, Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s Summer Concert Series, special Labor Day festivities such as Heavenly Village Midway Art & Music Festival (includes a Car Show and Tent Sale), Rose to Toads Showcase (62-mile bike ride) and Lasers at Lakeview with DJ and Waverunner Glow Show
While October temperatures start to drop back into the 60’s, don’t count it out as a time to visit. You may not be hitting the beaches or slopes, but festivities for the season still abound. The Halloween costume party at MontBleu Resort is a wild and rompus get-down. Fall Fish Fest is a more wholesome family event celebrating the spawning of Kokanee Salmon.
If it’s top deals on pricing you’re after, November is the best time to visit Tahoe. That said, the slopes aren’t likely to be open yet, and 50 degree weather combined with precipitation may concoct for a cold, muddy outing. With winter holidays around the corner, that doesn’t stop Tahoe from getting into the spirit.
Key Events: Valhalla Holiday Faire, Winter Wanderland at Tallac
Snow is starting to accumulate just in time for the winter holiday season. Get the skis waxed, and pull out your warm-weather gear. It’s time to make tracks in Tahoe snow.
Key Events: Heavenly Holidays and New Year’s Eve Celebration