The south shore gets all the attention because it’s way more bustling and social. But the north shore is great for a quieter, more low-key getaway.
So, if you’re thinking about visiting North Lake Tahoe this summer, keep reading! (And if you want to hit up the south side too, read my blog about our trip to the South Shore!)
How to Get to North Lake Tahoe
You can fly in from two airports:
RNO: The closest airport is Reno-Tahoe Airport (RNO). It’s about 60 miles away and roughly a 1.5-hour drive. There are hundreds of flights daily into this airport. Check shuttle service here.
SMF: The other option is Sacramento Airport (SMF). It’s about 115 miles away and roughly 2.5 hours away (no traffic). There are also hundreds of flights daily into this airport. There aren’t any shuttles, but plenty of rental car options.
You can also attempt to fly into San Francisco (SFO) or Oakland (OAK). These airports are at least 4 hours away though and traffic will be tough. Unless you are combining a trip to the Bay Area with a trip to Tahoe, I really wouldn’t recommend flying into these airports to drive into Tahoe unless absolutely necessary.
Where to Stay in North Lake Tahoe
There are two different areas that I would recommend staying for convenience—Tahoe City or Kings Beach. These areas have hotels, restaurants, and a beach all in walking distance.
Inn at Boatworks—Walking distance to Commons Beach and a retail village with standard rooms, 1-bedroom suites with pull out couches, and a full family suite.
Basecamp Hotel—Walking distance to Commons Beach with standard rooms and options for a King bed with bunk beds (including a camping suite with 2 bedrooms)
Granlibakken Tahoe—Standard rooms with an option for a suite with a living room and kitchen. A few miles away from the beach (about a 20-minute walk/5 minute drive), but there’s a pool, tennis courts, and the Tree Top Adventure Park for the older kids.
Kings Beach / Tahoe Vista
Red Wolf Lodge—On the lakeside with their own private beach, plus a 10-minute walk to Kings Beach, this lodge offers studios and 1- and 2-bedroom suites with full kitchens. There’s also a pool, hot tub, ping pong tables, and free kayaking.
Tahoe Edgelake Beach Club—Also on the lakeside, they offer their own private beach and less than 10-minute walk to Kings Beach, plus a pool and hot tub. Studios, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom condos with full kitchens are offered.
The pool at Red Wolf Lodge:
How to Get Around North Lake Tahoe
You can easily park your car and get by walking for a day or two if you stay in a central area, like Tahoe City or Kings Beach.
While you can plan your trip so that you don’t NEED a car, I would still recommend getting one, even for a day, so that you can explore the area.
Lake Tahoe is so bike friendly! There are plenty of safe bike paths all over town. There are multiple bike rental shops with all kinds of options (with attachments for kids too, obvi). A bike rental is roughly $10/hour or around $40/day.
What to Do in North Lake Tahoe
This is THE spot on the north side, probably because it’s the largest sandy beach in the area. There’s a playground overlooking the water, barbeques and picnic tables, many types of water rentals, and bathrooms and showers. It’s across the street from restaurants and shops. During the summer, it hosts many family-friendly events including Music on the Beach every Friday from 6-8:30pm from June til Labor Day.
Parking: $10 for the full day or $3 for one hour
Located in the middle of Tahoe City close to many restaurants and shops, this beach offers a sandy AND grassy lakefront area, plus a big playground. You can rent kayaks right on the beach too. Shaded areas with picnic tables and bathrooms are available.
Throughout summer, Commons Beach hosts Concerts at Commons every Sunday night from 4pm-7pm and Movies at the Beach on Wednesday nights (both free!)
If you just want some fun on a quiet, local beach with no extras, visit Moon Dune. It’s the whitest sand in Tahoe and the clearest water in the area. No parking lot and there’s limited parking on the street.
Easily the most beautiful beach on the north side, but it’s all the way on the Nevada side. It’s extremely popular so get there early (like before 9) and expect crowds. There are many beaches, shallow waters, food, paddleboard, and kayak rentals, plus a shaded area with picnic tables. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is held here every year too!
Parking: $10 for Nevada vehicles, $15 for out of state vehicles
Tahoe has the most beautiful clear, cobalt water—anybody visiting has to get in.
There are all kinds of water sport rentals available—kayaks, paddleboards, jet skis, boats—most right on the beach. There are also guided tours, parasailing, and boat tours.
(Some hotels even offer free kayak rentals so check there first before renting from a shop.)
And if you can’t get on the water, just get in it!
Not only can you easily bike around town wherever you’re staying, but there are also many different bike trails to choose from to see some amazing sites. You can take it easy and cruise from Tahoe City to Dollar Point to check out the town, go from Kings Beach to Tahoe City to beach hop, or check out Lakeshore Blvd on the Nevada side (called Millionaire’s Row).
When you want an afternoon indoors, KidZone is a great place to get the creative juices flowing. There are many different exhibits like an Art Studio, Nature Play Area, a Science Lab and an Indoor Play Structure to get their energy out. There’s an infant area for kids 18 months and younger too!
Since it’s a mountain town, Tahoe offers many different gorgeous views. I’m not the biggest fan of hiking, but if it’s a short and offers a great view, I’m down.
A relatively easy hike that offers amazing views is Stateline Fire Lookout on the Nevada side. (Interchangeable with Crystal Bay Scenic Overlook). The drive over to the start of the hike is within a neighborhood. You’ll get to a point where the road is blocked off. From there it’s a steep, but easily walkable road to the top. It’s about 3/4 of a mile. If you don’t want to hike up, there are still beautiful views of the lake (albeit with some trees in the way) at the trailhead.
Address: Lookout Rd, Kings Beach, CA 96143
For a beautiful view with no hike, drive over to Lake Tahoe Scenic Lookout, also on the Nevada side. It’s actually a stop on the highway with a wide shoulder/parking area.
Address: Mt Rose Hwy, Incline Village, NV 89451
The ski resorts don’t get much attention in the summer, but we headed to Northstar one night to check it out. Most of it was closed, but the center of the village was bumpin.
They turned their ice-skating rink into a roller-skating rink, there was a DJ, and many different food options around. There are plenty of seating options and they even have fire pits where you could roast marshmallows for s’mores! This area is also where the Northstar Summer Music Series takes place too, from 4pm-7pm every Saturday until Labor Day.
The lifts still run too, so you can head up to Mt. Pluto and check out the amazing views or hit the Sunset hiking trail (super family friendly) that loops through the woods.
With three different locations to choose from (Tahoe City, Tahoe Vista, Olympic Valley), the Treetop Parks offer a variety of courses within secluded forests. It’s a 2 hour experience where visitors can go from treetop to treetop on ziplines, wobbly bridges, tight ropes, swinging logs, rope swings, and more!
Listen to some tunes in the evening:
Fridays: Kings Beach, June 17 – September 2 from 6 – 8:30pm. Learn more.
Saturdays: Village at Northstar, June 11 – September 4 from 3 – 6pm. Learn more.
Sundays: Commons Beach, June 12 – September 4 from 4-7pm. Learn more.
Village at Northstar, from 3 – 6pm. Learn more.
Have you been to the north shore? What’s your favorite thing about it?
need help booking your trip? use my favorite resources!
I always start with Kayak when I book flights. It searches hundreds of travel sites for the lowest prices plus the flexible calendar tells you which days are the cheapest to fly. you can also set price alerts for a specific flight.
My first stop for rental cars is rentalcars.com. It scans multiple agencies at your destination to give you the best price.
Read over my full list of the best sites to book with on my Resources page.