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Everyone knows Lake Tahoe as an epic winter ski destination, but summer is actually the secret season to visit. Straddling two states, it’s a super accessible adventure with both mountains and water as an oasis. You could easily spend a long weekend lazing at the lake taking in the views, but if you like getting a bit more active, there are tons of things to do in this Northern California-Nevada getaway.

Choose Your Base Wisely

Depending on your interests, you can stay in one of the ski-in, ski-out accommodations, which means easy access to the mountains, on the main strip for walkability to nightlife and restaurants, or right on the lakefront for watery fun right out the front door.

Walk it Out

Lake Tahoe has tons of great hikes, many that boast both wildflower and waterfall views. Ground zero for exploration, Emerald Bay is one of the most picturesque state parks with dozens of trails. Eagle Falls Vista Point Loop has a bit of everything with vistas for days on an easy .7-mile loop. For a more intense outdoor challenge, Mount Tallac offers stunning views over Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake, Desolation Wilderness, and the entire South Shore. One of those earn it hikes; this 9.5-mile trek includes some pretty gnarly elevation gain.

Explore on Two Wheels

If you’re into cycling, there are tons of places to rent road bikes, mountain bikes, fat tires, electric bikes, and even tandems for two. Explore the wilderness or go for a mild ride around the lake. With miles upon miles of paved trails, Pope-Baldwin Bike Path will take you from aspen meadows to historical sites and eventually spit you out on the beach for an afternoon of fun on the sand and shore.

Splash Around

If you’d rather channel the Little Mermaid, clear kayaks are an amazing way to see everything under the sea and make for some pretty epic photo ops. If you’re ambitious, you can actually kayak to an amazingly Instagrammable hidden Scandinavian Castle in Emerald Bay called Vikingsholm, which serves high tea as a reward. SCUBA divers and snorkelers will be impressed to learn that California just created the first maritime heritage underwater trail you can follow to see submerged barges and wrecks. For a more chill day above the water, SUP rentals are also popular.

Come Sail Away

If you just want to scream, “I’m on a boat,” there are numerous companies to captain your own ship from motorboats and jet skis to calmer sailboats. If you prefer to leave the steering to someone else, Zephyr Cove has scenic sunset cruises where you can enjoy a nice glass of bubbly overlooking the water along with live music on the lake.

Explore by Horse

What’s the best way to explore? On a horse, of course. Zephyr Cove Stables and Camp Richardson Corral offer guided trail rides through the High Sierra Wilderness and hayrides. Pack a picnic and mount your new four-legged friend and hit the trail – it’s much easier than hoofing it on two feet.

Take to the Skies

You’ve seen Tahoe from the land and sea, now see it from the sky. There are hot air balloons, paragliding, helicopter flights, and the most unique way to explore, motorized hang gliders. Similar to what I tried in Lake Havasu, these open-air flying machines are trikes they call the motorcycle of the sky. You can be as active as you want with the flying or sit, back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Get Your Blood Pumping

In the summer, Heavenly Resort turns into a playground for the adventurous. You can take a scenic gondola up to the top of the mountain for the views, but to get the blood pumping, there’s summer tubing, the Ridge Rider alpine coaster, a zipline (that goes up to 50 mph!), and a high ropes course that’s great for kids.

Chill Out

While Heavenly gets more active in the warmer months, Squaw Valley uses it as a time to chill out. They offer roller skating, disc golf, geocaching, lawn games, a pool, and a hot tub to relax in. Bluesdays are free outdoor concerts held every Tuesday, plus art, wine, music, and yoga festivals throughout the summer. The area is also privy to several natural hot springs for some real R&R in the healing mineral waters.

Hit the Road

With the windows down and the music up, road trips are the ultimate summer must-do. Just 45 minutes away, Virginia City, Nevada is like a trip back in time. An old mining town with dozens of saloons, it’s a mecca for ghost hunters and historical reenactments. You can tour by trolley or stumble your way along Main Street, taking in the old facades and watering holes. It’s a super quirky place, and if you’re already ready to plan a return trip in the fall, there’s a unique festival with camel and ostrich races.

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