10Best Things to Do for Free in Lake Tahoe

Because of its popularity, it can be a challenge to find some free things to do in Lake Tahoe. However, while some of the beaches are pay only and all the museums have a fee, you will be able to find some family-friendly and free spots around the Lake Tahoe area. The most popular is Emerald Bay State Park. Parking can be a challenge on this precarious part of the lake, and there is a pay parking area, but the park itself is free. Donner Memorial State Park near Truckee has a pay area at the West side of the lake, but there are about a dozen free fishing and swimming docks on the North side of the lake. Kings Beach on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe is always free as well as Common's Beach in Tahoe City. Another great beach is the small one at Fallen Leaf Lake on the South Shore. For the kids, the Taylor Creek Visitor Center and its parking is free and the Northstar Village's skating rink (open in the winter) is also free to the public. For the adults and older children, the two toughest hiking trails in the area are also free: Mount Rose and Mount Tallac are a challenge, but the views are worth a million bucks.

Although it's open year-round, this park really comes into its own when the weather turns warm. At that point, its 700 feet of lakeshore are inundated by sun worshippers, who lounge on the beach, splash in the water, tool around the lake, and...  Read More

The Taylor Creek Visitor Center is located near Camp Richardson on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. It is free to enter and offers both adult and children an up-close view of the local flora and fauna. The paved trails and bridges throughout the...  Read More

This little lake on the south side of Lake Tahoe is a wonderful escape from the summer crowds on Big Blue. The turnoff for Fallen Leaf is located just off of Hwy. 89, but there is a one lane road down to the lake that is a bit bumpy and you will...  Read More

Somewhat widespread, this park extends along the eastern shore of the lake, promising visitors everything from superb views to sunbathing to horseback riding. Perhaps the most well-attended spot is Sand Harbor, a beach only a few miles from...  Read More

Because of its beauty and accessibility Desolation Wilderness is per acre, the most heavily used wilderness area in the country. Desolation Wilderness is 12.5 miles long and 8 miles and is accessed by 15 named and numbered trailheads under a...  Read More

Emerald Bay State Park on the southwest area of Lake Tahoe is home to park is home to Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion that is one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere. The views from any...  Read More

This small and local friendly beach is right in the middle of Tahoe City. There is a grassy area with playgrounds and nice BBQ areas, but is not the best beach for swimming. Free special events are held all year long on Commons Beach...  Read More

Mount Rose is the 3rd highest peak in Lake Tahoe at 10,778 feet. It is easy to drive to, but not so easy to climb. It is located next to, looking down and over the Mount Rose ski resort, Reno/Sparks/Carson City/Washoe Valley and Lake Tahoe....  Read More

This pleasant little beach is known for its great view of Mt. Tallac and dog friendly area. Right by Camp Richardson, but away from the crowds. This beach is very lengthy and full of brightly-colored sand, and is located near South Lake Tahoe's...  Read More

Now a center for recreation and outdoor fun, this park also holds the memories of pioneer struggles, especially in regard to the Donner Party, who suffered a winter in the area and resorted to cannibalism to survive. Now, the tract of land in...  Read More


Meet Christina Nellemann

Christina has lived in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area since she was a baby. A first-generation Nevadan, her Danish parents instilled in her an intense love of travel and the wild, rugged outdoors...  More About Christina