a hiker traverses a snow field at the high lake tahoe elevation

13 Fun Things To Do Near Tahoe, Carson City, and Carson Valley

There are an incredible amount of things to do near Tahoe that will fill your adventure cup! And, if you know me, I love a good adventure. Thanks to the area’s beauty, there are few better places to spend time than near the Sierra Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe. The crisp air, gorgeous views, stunning peaks, and deep blue Lake Tahoe truly make you want to settle down in the area.

I recently returned from a five-day trip to the Reno-Tahoe Territory and had a blast exploring new terrain. While I had been around Lake Tahoe a few times, this was my first experience in North Tahoe, Carson City, and Carson Valley.

The experiences there were unique and offered a lot for those who want a calmer vibe on their trips.

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Trip Planning: Things To Do Near Tahoe

Tahoe gets all the fanfare, but there’s a lot to do on the eastern slopes of the lake. Here are 12 fun things to do near Tahoe.

1. Hike Around North Tahoe

A hiker raises his hands while hiking above lake tahoe
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

There are hundreds of trails around Tahoe, but this was my first summer trip to the North side, which is near Mt. Rose. While I would have loved to do the tallest peak in the area (Mt. Rose), I opted for Rose Peak Knob, which sits 1,200 feet lower.

Under true summer conditions, this would be a decently challenging hike, but it was still full of snow, and I was so exhausted after traversing snowfields. Still, the views from the top took my breath away. I’d never seen Tahoe from above, and dang, was it beautiful!

Rose Knob Peak AllTrails Link

Other hiking Trails in the North Lake Tahoe area:

  • Chickadee Ridge
  • Rose knob peak (pictures in this post)
  • Mount Rose Peak (tallest peak in the area)
  • Monkey Rock/Tunnel Creek
  • Portions of Tahoe Rim Trail
  • Marlette Lake
  • Incline Flume

2. Watch the Sunset and Spend Time On Lake Tahoe

Gorgeous sunset vies from lake tahoe
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Anywhere you go on around Lake Tahoe, you’re in for a treat. But sunset is a gem. If you want to watch the sunset, head to the east side of the lake near Incline Village. Options like Sand Harbor, Memorial Point Scenic Overlook, Secret Cove, or Zephyr Cove will give you stunning clear water and epic sunset views!

I’d consider renting a paddleboard or kayak while in the area and getting out on the water. Yes, it’ll be a little chilly if you visit during the shoulder season. But still, there’s nothing like a refreshing dip in the largest alpine lake in the US.

If you stay in Incline Village, you can also walk on the bike/running path to get a good view of the lake without ever turning on a car engine.

3. Go Hang-Gliding Over Lake Tahoe

two people sit in a powered hang glider over lake tahoe

This was a first for me! And oh boy, was it thrilling, nerve-wracking, exhilarating, and whatever other words you want to use. We took off in a powered hang glider and flew from Carson City over the Tahoe Rim, down to the lake, around Emerald Bay, and back.

The first five minutes were the worst for me. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen – or if we’d fall out of the sky. But I told myself to relax, and once the views of the lake appeared, it was less scary (I still held on for dear life; I’m not crazy!).

We soared over the lake for the next 70 minutes, came within 10 feet of touching water, and felt about as close to a bird as possible.

If you’re into thrills and looking for unique things to do near Lake Tahoe, this is it.

4. Hike the Capital to Tahoe Trail

a hiker hits the trails, one of the top things to do near tahoe
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Down from Lake Tahoe is the newly established Capital to Tahoe Trail. This trail does exactly what it says. It starts at the Carson City capital building, heads up past the Kings Canyon Waterfall, and then over to Lake Tahoe.

Not many will do the entire trail to Tahoe in a single push, as that would put you somewhere around 25-30 miles round trip. But it is an excellent opportunity to go backpacking.

If you don’t want to start way down in the city, there are several connecting points. I did 12 miles on the trail—six out and six back—and explored the lovely forests, flowers, and terrain. This is definitely one of the best things to do near Tahoe.

Water is scarce for most of the trail, so make sure to pack plenty and wear sun-protective clothing.

AllTrails Link

5. See the Kings Canyon Waterfalls

a long exposure of three four waterfalls near carson city
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

This short walk from the trailhead is perfect for a sunset hike. Ten minutes from downtown Carson City, there’s a stunning waterfall to enjoy. There’s not a lot to do right in the area, so it’s a quick excursion, though you can turn this into a four-mile hike if you’d like.

AllTrails Link

6. Grab a Drink at the Breweries

five small glasses of bear sit on the table. grabbing drinks is one of my favorite things to do near tahoe

Carson City is home to three breweries: Great Basin Brewing Company, Shoe Tree Brewing, and The Fox Brewery and Pub. I grabbed lunch and a flight of beers from Great Basin and enjoyed it.

After 12 miles on the Cap-2-Tahoe trail, a hearty sandwich and some hops were just what the doctor ordered!

7. Take a Self-Guided Tour of Nevada’s Capital

a photo of the inside of the nevada sate capital
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

If you’re into history, the State Capital offers a nice and educational history of Nevada. The Capital Building is open for guests to walk around, and a decent-sized room showcases Nevada’s early days before it was a territory and runs up to the present.

8. Hike to the Genoa Waterfall

the genoa waterfall in Carson valley
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Down in Carson Valley and the town of Genoa, tackle the Genoa Waterfall Trail. It’s a short but steep trail up to a nice waterfall. You’ll feel the burn at six miles round trip and 1,300 feet of gain! But once you’re there, dunk your head in the water to cool off.

One thing to note is that the parking lot is not very big—maybe 8-12 cars—and I had to park on the street, which added another half mile to my walk.

AllTrails Link

9. Check out Genoa, Nevada’s Oldest Non-Native Settlement

a photo of the well known pink house in genoa nevada

After your hike, grab lunch in Genoa at the Pink House and enjoy the first non-native settlement in Nevada. When your bellies are full, head over to Mormon Station and learn about the first European settlers.

There are also picnic tables for those who want to make their lunch and enjoy some shade during the afternoon warmth.

10. Take the Minden Mill Distillery Tour

I'm standing inside of the minden mill distillery while on a tour

This was a fun one!

Normally, I’m not one for spirits, but learning about the place’s history and taking a tour was cool! It’s one of five estate distilleries in the US, which means they make over 80% of what they use on land they own.

The tour was about an hour long, and afterward, you got to try some spirits. A couple really hit the spot!

11. Fill Your Belly at JT Basque Dining Room

a photo of lamb chops while at a basque dinner in carson valley

I had never had Basque food before—actually, I’d never even heard of Basque. But holy smokes, the food is tasty, you get huge portions, and the staff is amazing. I think I counted seven courses, and it is family-style, so you and your family will be waddling out when you’re done.

This is a super unique experience and one I think everyone who visits Carson Valey should experience.

12. Explore the State Parks

pink clouds and snowcapped mountains at lake tahoe
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Lake Tahoe has six state parks: Emerald Bay, Van Sickle Bi-State Park, Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, Sugar Pine Point State Park, Washoe Meadows State Park, and Burton Creek State Park. The two most well-known ones are Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe-Nevada, which is home to Sand Harbor.

If you plan to visit more than one state park, make sure to get a state park pass, or else you’ll find your wallet quite lighter than when you arrived.

13. Walk Around River Fork Ranch

a sunrise reflection from carson valley at river fork ranch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Just outside of Genoa is the River Fork Ranch, which is run by the Nature Conservancy and is a conservation area that protects birds and other species. It’s also an awesome place to watch the sunset or sunrise and get fantastic reflection photos of the distant mountains.

There’s a two-mile loop path that’s flat for those looking to stretch their legs and see the views.

What To Know Before Your Trip

Elevation Awareness

Lake Tahoe sits at 6,200 feet above sea level, which is likely higher than where you live, so make sure to pace yourself regarding activities. Carson Valley and Carson City are a bit lower at 4,600.

Drink Plenty of Water

It’s much drier in the Lake Tahoe/Carson Valley region. Coming from Seattle, I quickly felt dehydrated, so I drank water constantly. As you check off your things to do in Tahoe, aim for three liters a day to be safe!

Weather Can Change Quickly

You’re in the mountains. Keep an eye on the clouds and weather forecast because you don’t want to get caught high up on a mountain during a thunderstorm. If you’re tackling a harder hike, a good rule of thumb is to be down off ridgelines and summits by 1 pm.

Less Expensive Lodging Options in Carson City and Carson Valley

If you don’t want to stay at Lake Tahoe, where prices can be a bit steep, you can stay in the valley. Here, you’re still only 25 minutes from the lake, which is super fast and easy!

Where To Stay on Your Trip

Are you looking for places to stay near Tahoe? I’ve compiled a few options to help make your selections easier. Staying close by will help you accomplish your top things to do near Tahoe.

I’ve also included the drive time to Sand Harbor as it’s an easy way to judge the distance to the lake, and many people will want to see it.

North Lake Tahoe Lodging

Drive time to Sand Harbor: 10 minutes

Carson City Lodging

Drive time to Sand Harbor: 34 minutes

Carson Valley Lodging

Drive time to Sand Harbor: 46-60 minutes, 34 minutes to Zephyr Cove

How many days do you need for Tahoe?

To explore Lake Tahoe and the surrounding areas, I would plan for three to four days. This will allow you days for hiking, water activities, and maybe just a day at the beach to relax and soak up the sun. But don’t simply stay at the lake. Exploring Carson City is a fun time, and you’ll definitely enjoy the time and breweries!

What is the prettiest part of Lake Tahoe?

While there are dozens of gorgeous places in the area, my two favorites are Emerald Bay and Sand Harbor. Both offer easy access to crystal-clear water, and the views across the lake are to die for. Both are state parks, though you only have to pay to enter Sand Harbor. (This also means no drones are allowed.)

I highly recommend everyone check out these locations if it’s your first time for the top things to do near Tahoe!

the sierra nevadas as viewed form river fork ranch. this is one of the top things to do near tahoe
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Getting to Lake Tahoe

How you get to the Tahoe region depends on where you stay.

If you plan to explore the Incline Village and the Eastern slopes of Carson City and Carson Valley, flying into Reno is your best bet. From there, it’s less than an hour’s drive anywhere.

But if you’re looking to stay in Truckee or South Lake Tahoe, you can drive up from Sacramento OR also fly into Reno. The drive time is similar for both routes, but depending on your airline and home, it might be cheaper to land in Sacramento.

Wrapping Up Things To Do Near Tahoe

As you can see, there are numerous things to do near Tahoe. As much as you’ll want to do everything, try not to bite off more than you can chew in one setting. It does take some time to drive around the lake. For instance, going from Incline Village to Emerald Bay may be a 6-hour adventure if you plan to hike.

That said, you’ll be treated to unbelievable views throughout your trip, and I can only hope you have the best time of your life!

Until next time, adventurers, stay safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside