All about enjoying America's Alpine wilderness
Everything in Lake Tahoe revolves around the outdoors, which means that everything revolves around the weather, too. Want to kayak on the lake, hike in the mountains or shred the powder on your snowboard? You're going to want to check the forecast. Luckily, the weather in Lake Tahoe is predictable and great. No matter the season, you'll find plenty to do outdoors.
Winter is one of Lake Tahoe's busiest seasons, especially around the holidays and during school vacation periods. The snow is typically falling by November (though it sometimes starts as early as September), so you can enjoy a visit in early winter if you want to beat the biggest crowds. Skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating, snowtubing and sleigh rides are just a few of the many activities pulling people to Tahoe's winter wonderland.
Near the lake, Tahoe averages about 125 inches of snow per year, but more than 300 inches falls at higher elevations. The local snow removal workers are efficient, though, so don't panic if you're not used to driving in snow. The streets are kept fairly clear between storms. Temperatures range from the teens through the 40s during winter months, so all visitors should dress warmly in tall snow boots, multiple layers of clothing and warm outerwear.
Lake Tahoe has two distinct areas: North Tahoe and South Tahoe. You can find the same general conditions and activities in either, but South Tahoe tends to be the more crowded, entertainment-centric area, while North Tahoe is better for people who want to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
Spring is one of the quietest times to visit Lake Tahoe, although the area is still beautiful as the snow melts and the flowers bloom. With average temperatures ranging from the 20s to the mid-60s, the weather changes rapidly over the course of the spring. It doesn't rain much in the area, so you can save suitcase space by leaving rain boots at home. Pack a windbreaker or other light, hooded jacket; it can still get cool on spring evenings.
Boating, biking and hiking are prime spring activities in Tahoe, and on cool or cloudy days, visitors can shop or relax at local spas.
Summer is beautiful and fairly mild in Lake Tahoe, which is part of the reason why it's also the most crowded season. Weekends are especially hectic and expensive, so if you're planning a summer visit, try to plan it for mid-week. Once school's out for the summer, people of all ages descend on the lake to swim, boat, hike, bike, sunbathe, shop, party and listen to live music. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is also a big deal every year, running through July and August.
Temperatures don't soar as high at Lake Tahoe as they do in other parts of California and Nevada. Summers are usually fairly mild, with average highs in the low 80s. It still gets cool at night, however, with average lows in the 40s. It rarely rains at Lake Tahoe in summer. Pack casual summer clothes, plus at least one pair of long pants and a coat.
Like spring, fall is a quiet time for Lake Tahoe. Once the school year starts, weekdays are especially low-key. There's some risk in visiting during September and October, because the winter sports season hasn't yet begun but the weather may be too cold to enjoy being on the water. It is, however, the perfect time to visit if you're looking for peace and quiet. Hiking, biking and horseback riding are all good options in fall, and the scenery is beautiful as leaves change color.
Average temperatures are as high as the mid-70s in September, but by November, the average high drops into the low 50s. Average low temperatures are in the 20s by November. Pack warm layers, including a thick coat, hat, gloves and scarf. If you can spare the suitcase space, it's wise to bring snow boots or waterproofed hiking boots, in case your autumn visit coincides with an early snowfall.