10 Best Sightseeing Spots in Tahoe on (and above) the Lake

The beauty of Lake Tahoe is easily accessible for sightseeing. Whether you want to be right on the water or thousands of feet above it, here are the 10Best ways to get to know Big Blue.

One of the best ways to see the lake up close and personal is on one of the paddlewheel tours that take you to Emerald Bay. The M.S. Dixie II that launches from Zephyr Cove or the smaller Tahoe Queen that launches from the Ski Run Marina on the South Shore will take you sightseeing with very little effort. If you want to get some exercise during your sightseeing, visit Adrift Tahoe in Kings Beach where they will outfit you for a paddleboard and oar to see the lake at your pace. Another action-oriented way to visit the lake is by parasail. Sail above the blue water with North Shore Parasail.

Families will have fun at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center where you will see spawning salmon and maybe even a brown bear. You can also take the little ones up to Squaw Valley's High Camp to do some swimming in the summer or ice skating in the winter. If you really want to get the family away from it all (and they are good hikers) take the Tallac Trail up to the top of the mountain to see the entire South Shore.


Soar Truckee is located near the Truckee, California airport and offers guided glider tours of North Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada. Soar Nevada is staffed by FAA certified experts in the sport of soaring, so you are in good hands as you sail over Lake Tahoe. They also provide instruction, aero-tow, and other services for the clubs and individuals who love to fly. Soar Truckee also offers an on-site bunkhouse, shower, flush toilets and both on-site and adjacent camping facilities for pilots. Soar Truckee offers several soaring packages that range from $140 to $240 per person. Soar Truckee only offers tours in the summer months.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Soar Truckee offers some of the best views of the Lake.

Christina's expert tip: The glider can be a bit tight for two people, but the ride up behind the tow plane is thrilling.

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Skydive Lake Tahoe offers tandem skydives over Lake Tahoe with professionally trained tandem instructors. Flights take off from the small town of Minden near Carson City, Nev. and take passengers up over 12,000 feet above Lake Tahoe. Each passenger will free fall for over a minute before the parachute deploys at 5,500 feet and lands them safely back on the ground. A Tandem Skydive Certificate jump costs $210 per person. Pay an extra $70 for photos or videos or combine the two for only $120. Skydive Lake Tahoe is open all year long (weather permitting) but only on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 7:00am-7:00pm.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Skydive Tahoe is one of the best --and thrilling --ways to see Tahoe from above.

Christina's expert tip: You can book your dive and photo session with Skydive Lake Tahoe from their website.

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Taylor Creek Visitor Center

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 marshlands are stroller friendly and there are both guided and self guided interpretive trails, an underground "aquarium" area where you can see an actual part of Taylor Creek. During the fall the Kokanee Salmon are spawning and visitors can watch the process through glass windows. There is also a 180 degree curved diorama that illustrates life above and below the water. Be sure to look for the raccoon, crayfish, bats, frog, Stellar Jay, Bald Eagles, butterflies, and the slug. In winter, the Taylor Creek area becomes a cross-country ski area especially suited to beginners. Using the area is free, but you need to purchase a California SNO-PARK permit for your vehicle. It comes to about $5 a day or $25 for a season.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Taylor Creek is best in the fall when the salmon are spawning.

Christina's expert tip: Both the parking and the park entrance fee are free.

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This friendly and laid back rental store in Kings Beach rents and offers lessons on Standup Paddleboarding, Kayaking, and Surfing on Lake Tahoe's beautiful North Shore. They have Standup Paddleboards for rent and sale, along with all the accessories and clothing you need to for a fun day at the beach. In wintertime, rent your skis or snowboard equipment from this shop that is dedicated to making your winter vacation easy and fun. Call ahead the evening before and your gear will be ready for you the next morning. Hourly rates for paddleboards are about $20 per hour and the first hour of lessons is free with a rental. Snowboard and ski rentals are also $20 a day and your fourth day is free.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: Paddleboarding has become one of the most popular sports at Lake Tahoe.

Christina's expert tip: Great rates and friendly staff. The staff puts on a chill paddleboard race every Thursday.

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Tahoe Rim Trail

The Tahoe Rim Trail follows the shore of Lake Tahoe and is one of the world's premier trails. It passes through two states (California and Nevada), six counties, one state park, three National Forests, and three Wilderness areas. This spectacular trail is 165 miles of single-track multiuse trail, winding peak to peak around Lake Tahoe. Hiking and horseback riding are allowed on all portions of the trail, while mountain biking is allowed on the trail with the exception of the wilderness areas, the section that is in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, and on the sections of trail that overlap with the Pacific Crest Trail. Day hikes, backpacking and camping are also allowed on the trail and rules and permits may apply to certain areas. Donations and volunteers are needed for the Tahoe Rim Trail and the TRT will have special events and free public hikes with local TRT guides available. Become a member of the 165 Mile Club when you complete the entire trail and you will receive a certificate of completion, a 165 mile patch and recognition on the TRT website.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Tahoe Rim Trail can be enjoyed via bike, horseback or by foot.

Christina's expert tip: The Tahoe Rim Trail offers Backcountry Skill Courses throughout the year.

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One of the most fantastic views of Lake Tahoe is from the seat of a parasail. North Shore Parasail is the original parasailing company on the lake, so you'll certainly be working with experts. The trip starts out with a boat ride along the North Shore and your parasail launches from the back of the boat. You can choose from several different parasail heights as well as pickup and drop-off service from your hotel. There is also free parking at Tahoe Paddle & Oar. The cost is $50 per person for a 600'flight, $60 per person 900', flight $70 per person 1400'flight.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: One of the best views of the North Shore can be had from a parasail--if you are not afraid of heights.

Christina's expert tip: Sometimes, North Shore can fit you in at the last minute, so check with them the day before or early in the morning.

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South Lake Tahoe

Cruise the lake in this charming paddlewheeler, which was built in Mississippi in 1983 and shipped to Lake Tahoe to take visitors around the lake. The triple-decked vessel is a favorite of vacationers, who love the bygone thrill of lake excursions. Sightseeing cruises focus on the beauty of Emerald Bay, and dinner cruises boast terrific food, live music, and the spectacle of sunsets and stars over the water and mountains. Family-friendly jaunts center around the stories of Mark Twain and around Tahoe Tessie, Nevada's friendly resident sea serpent. During the winter, the paddlewheeler transports skiers between the North and South Shores.

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Wild Goose II Boat Charters

The Wild Goose II is a 36-foot Grand Craft commuter built in the style and quality of the original wooden boat era. The company offers several cruises and private charter options around Lake Tahoe. The Wild Goose II is U.S. Coast Guard certified, and can comfortably accommodate up to 12 passengers. The Goose offers seating both inside and out, she even has a heated cabin for those chilly Tahoe evenings. Several tours are offered including an hourly charter during the week, lunch cruises, cocktail and sunset cruises and picnic cruises. They even offer a West Shore Cafe Dinner Cruise for $145 and a Mimosa and Pastry Cruise in the mornings for $80. The hourly charters include snacks and beverages, the cocktail cruises and sunset cruises are $65 for adults and $55 for children and the Sunnyside Lunch Cruise is $95 for adults and $85 for children.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Tahoe Rim Trail is the longest trail in the Tahoe area and covers some of the best views.

Christina's expert tip: See Lake Tahoe in style. The staff and crew of this boat are a class-act.

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The Gondola at Heavenly is open during the winter for skiers and non-skiers and open all year long for visitors to the lake who want a spectacular view of Lake Tahoe. The ticket to the top is a little pricey ($38), but you can stay at the top as long as you want. Each 8 passenger car leaves from Heavenly Village on the Southeast side of the lake and takes about 5-7 minutes to get to the top of the mountain. At the first stop you can get out and walk around on the platform. There are seats and some picnic tables as well. You can buy a ticket with a lunch voucher for the Tamarack Lodge at the top of the resort if you want to get something to eat or you can bring your own food to the first platform and just sit and enjoy the view. At the top of the mountain is a snow play area for children.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: At the top of the Heavenly Gondola is an outdoor playground of ropes courses, ziplines and tube rides.

Christina's expert tip: If the weather is nice, bring your own picnic to the first platform and eat at one of the outdoor tables.

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Emerald Bay State Park

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 part of the Bay are fantastic. The park contains the only island in Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island where a small teahouse was built by the owner of the Vikingsholm Castle. The park is accessible by State Route 89 near the southwest shore of the lake. Emerald Bay is one of Lake Tahoe's most photographed and popular locations. In 1969, Emerald Bay was recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the federal Department of the Interior. In 1994, California State Parks included the surrounding water of the bay as a part of the park, making Emerald Bay one of the first underwater parks of its type in the state, protecting the various wrecks and other items on the bay's bottom. There are several camping areas in Emerald Bay including Eagle Point Campground, Bayview Campground and the boat-in campground on the West side of the bay. Parking around the bay is small and will cost you about $8 for the day. You can also access the popular Desolation Wilderness hiking and camping area from the Eagle Falls parking area.

Recommended for Sightseeing because: The best view on the lake! Emerald Bay is the only place on the lake with an island.

Christina's expert tip: Plan to get to the park early in the morning to get parking. This is the most popular area of the lake.

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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