Best Lake Tahoe Adventures when there is no snow!

When you visit Lake Tahoe in the winter, you can always expect cold mornings, amazing views and a crystal clear lake. But what do you do when there is no snow?  Well, here are 3 snow-free winter adventures you can do around Lake Tahoe.

#1 Best Lake Tahoe Adventures – Play around Sandy Beach

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Playing around Sandy Beach.

A family friendly state park on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, Sandy Beach is a perfect place for a stroll, a picnic, a short hike or even sleigh ride.  If there is not much snow don’t worry!  The sleighs come equipped with tires that effortlessly carry you around a winter but snow free wonderland.  This intimate beach also gives you a great chance to do some fun boulder hopping or, for the adventurous, even test wiliness to stick your feet into Tahoe’s crustal clear but ice cold waters.  I did!  And yes…. it was cold  Want to find other beaches?  Click here!

#2 Best Lake Tahoe Adventures – Hike Mt. Tallac

Towering 3,500 feet over Lake Tahoe’s southwest shoreline, Mt. Tallac is one of the most popular and rewarding summits in the Tahoe region (and a busy hike in the summer).  But come winter, the solitude of the hike rewards cold weather travelers with breathtaking views of the vast and sparkling cobalt blue waters of Lake Tahoe and the glacially sculpted Desolation Wilderness.

There is always snow somewhere
Snow at elevation!!

Not to be taken lightly, this 9 mile roundtrip hike gains more than 3,300 feet of elevation through mostly windy and sun-exposed terrain.

The initial 2.1 miles follows a mellow path along Fallen Leaf Lake’s shores through a shaded forest on to Cathedral Lak.  Then the real climb begins – FYI: Cathedral Lake is also the last reliable water source on your way to the top.  As you work your way through the large granite Cathedral Bowl, gaining 2,000 vertical feet in just 2.4 miles you may be fighting some light patches of snow (in a dry winter).   Once above Cathedral Bowl, the outbound trail continues on toward the summit through white bark pine along true high-country ridgeline hiking. Route finding skills can help but the trail is so well traveled in the summer that almost any route you find will take you to the summit.   Check out the trail here!

Although it is commonly believed that Lake Tahoe was formed by the collapse of a volcanic crater, the Basin was actually formed by the rise and fall of the landscape due to faulting. Huge glaciers formed and moved down the V-shaped canyons on the western side of the lake.

#3 Best Lake Tahoe Adventures – Rent a kayak and hit the lake

If you have not paddled across the glassy waters of Lake Tahoe then you are missing out on something spectacular.  And with over 10 rental companies spread between North Shore and South Lake Tahoe, you won’t have a problem renting a single person or tandem (two-person) kayak.  For those who want a bit more adventure, and even weirder looks from the tour/rental agencies, then get a SUP – aka – Stand Up Paddleboard.   Dress warm and do your best not to fall!  Remember it’s still cold!

The main body of Lake Tahoe does not freeze (thanks to stored heat in the Lake’s massive amount of water compared to its relative surface area) and below an average depth of 600 ft. the temperature is a constant 39 F… but in the coldest months the surface of the lake can drop to 40 F and even in a dry winter the lake is chilly.

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Tahoe’s crystal water

BONUS!  There is so much to do here at Lake Tahoe that I want to give you a 4th “Snow-free” winter adventure option.

#4 Best Lake Tahoe Adventures – Stargaze or full moon hikes

Clear winter sky’s make for great star gazing and excellent satellite spotting.  On a clear night in winter you can see sections of the Milky Way, lay around and watch the full moon slowly drift across the sky, or even catch sky born reflections of meteors as they glistening off waters of Lake Tahoe.

The Geminid meteor shower can be seen every year between December 4 and December 16, with its peak activity being around December 13-14. The shower owes its name to the constellation Gemini because the meteors seem to emerge from this constellation in the sky.

Note* If you plan to be outside for a long period of time on frosty, cold nights, remember that enjoying the starry winter sky requires protection against the prevailing low temperatures.  One of the best garments is a hooded parka, which is lightweight yet excellent insulation, and at least two layers of pants. Remember your feet and bring a warm blanket. I also recommend sitting around a fire pit and kicking back with your favorite warm drink.

One reason for the clarity of a winter’s night is that cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air can. Hence, on many nights in the summer, the warm moisture-laden atmosphere causes the sky to appear hazier.  But when winter arrives the sky becomes a richer, deeper and darker shade of blue. 

Adventure Hydrology
Adventurer, Scientist, Explorer - Chris Wolff is the Worlds first Adventure Hydrologist

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