The ultimate South Lake Tahoe winter travel guide

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about a winter getaway in South Lake Tahoe? If you’re like most people, your mind is already flooded with sprightly images of skiing on the snow-laden trails surrounding the magnificent alpine lake.

Winter in South Lake Tahoe is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding. But that doesn’t mean the picturesque ski resort town doesn’t have anything to offer for non-skiers.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an adrenaline rush, Lake Tahoe has something in store for you. With a treasure trove of hiking trails and scenic views, the region is every traveler’s dream come true.

And then there’s the abundance of snowfall and Christmas decorations all around South Lake Tahoe that turns it into a magical winter wonderland.

In this post, we’ve curated an offbeat South Lake Tahoe winter travel guide to help you plan the ultimate winter holiday. Let’s take a look.

The ultimate South Lake Tahoe
winter travel guide
(that’s not all about skiing)

Should you visit South Lake Tahoe after the Caldor Fire?

Wildfires have been fairly common in the Lake Tahoe region during the dry autumn weather. However, the 2021 Caldor Fire was exceptionally catastrophic in terms of the damage to the natural landscape and various resorts in the area.

So, it’s only natural that you’d be skeptical about traveling to South Lake Tahoe this winter.

But you’ll be happy to know that most places in the area are ready to welcome tourists. While a few popular ski resorts have suffered extensive damage, you’ll find a plethora of places to stay and visit.

It is, however, a good idea to check the South Lake Tahoe air quality index before you plan your visit. 

Photo by Dylan Taylor

Even though wildfires are rare in Lake Tahoe post-autumn, they can adversely affect the air quality, and ruin your holiday plans. It’s particularly important if you want to enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking and snowshoeing.

Also, considering that snowfall is fairly common in the Lake Tahoe region, make sure you check the weather forecast before planning your itinerary.

Best winter activities in South Lake Tahoe (other than skiing)

So, now that you’ve checked the weather, air quality, and other important details about South Lake Tahoe, you must be eager to head out. If skiing isn’t your thing or you’ve had too many skiing adventures in the region, here’s a list of other fun activities to try:

1. Hiking

That’s right. You don’t have to visit Lake Tahoe in summer to explore the region’s gorgeous hiking trails. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to take a hike across various scenic landscapes even at the height of winter.

For a glimpse of the beachside, head to Baldwin Beach situated on the southwestern coast of Lake Tahoe. The mile-long beach is ideal for a short hike with kids and pets. The best part is that it isn’t crowded with tourists during winter.

If you’ve got more of an adventurous streak, the Lam Watah Nature Trail is worth a shot. Covering a round-trip distance of nearly 4 miles, the trail takes you through idyllic meadows and pine forests before ending at the picture-perfect Nevada Beach.

Photo by Alec Krum

Or you could head straight to the top of Emerald Bay and hike your way down to the spellbinding Vikingsholm Castle. While it’s a popular hiking destination in summer, you’ll have the surroundings to yourself during winter.

If you’re planning to go hiking during your trip, make sure you wear a pair of sturdy hiking shoes that offer a good grip. Also, it’s a good idea to wear waterproof bottom wear so that you can comfortably walk in the snow.

Photo by Jeremy Banks

2. Ice Skating

Ice skating is a fun wintertime activity that’s enjoyed by kids and adults alike. And the good news is that you’ll find plenty of ski resorts around Lake Tahoe with in-house ice skating rinks. If you’re visiting South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain is a great place to try ice skating.

3. Snowshoeing

Winter in South Lake Tahoe brings an abundance of snowfall. That means just about any road in the scenic resort town is fit for snowshoeing. It’s a great way to explore and appreciate the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

4. Apres-Ski

Literally translating to “after ski”, apres-ski refers to the culture of enjoying refreshing beverages and food after all your skiing adventures. But there’s no rule that mandates you to ski before indulging in the “apres” part.

South Lake Tahoe is home to a plethora of breweries, pubs, and restaurants that offer excellent happy hour deals. A few of the iconic places include South of North Brewing. Sidellis, and Coldwater Brewing. While you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy a glass of ale at the iconic The Brewery at Lake Tahoe.

Planning a winter holiday in South Lake Tahoe doesn’t have to revolve around skiing. You can enjoy plenty of other activities, such as hiking and snowshoeing. Or you could simply make the most of happy hour discounts at the local breweries.

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