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Lake Tahoe Tours & Day Trips from San Francisco

Tours from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe will see visitors discover a pallet of blues and greens along 115km of sweeping shorelines. The second-largest lake in the US, Lake Tahoe is also one of the highest-elevation lakes in the country. From hiking to swimming and from kayaking to windsurfing, Lake Tahoe is an adventurer's dream.

It’s also the perfect day trip if you like admiring the beautiful scenery, with Lake Tahoe neatly tucked into the snowy Sierra Nevada mountain range - there are majestic views everywhere you look. Made up of the north shore, west shore, east shore, and the south shore, each one provides something different for Lake Tahoe visitors.

How to get from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe?

The distance between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe is around 310km.

Tours from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe take around four hours if you’re driving. Taking a car is by far the most popular method of transport. It’s also the fastest, though some tours may include scenic routes which take a little longer. The Bay Area Ski Bus is a bus service from San Francisco that runs during the winter. It’s also possible to get the train, though it’s slightly more complicated: the Amtrak goes to Truckee, Nevada, which is north of the lake but close to several ski slopes.

How much do tours from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe cost?

There are many types of tours from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, and prices vary significantly -  with one-day round trips cost between US$75 and US$150.

Multi-day tours from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe often last for 3 days because of the number of activities on offer. Multiple-day tours without accommodation cost around US$150 and include sightseeing at Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada gold country.

If you want accommodation included with your tour, prices cost in the region of US$500. There are also 4-day tours available, which cost around US$675 and include sightseeing, hiking, kayaking, accommodation and travel.

Travel typically comes in the form of a minivan or coach and is included with all tours.

When is the best time to visit Lake Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination, with the summer proving popular for hiking and swimming, and the winter popular with skiers. July and August are particularly busy months for beach lovers, while May, June and September still provide warm weather - just with fewer people. November to March is the skiing season.

What are the best things to see and do on tours from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe?

Emerald Bay State Park

Take a trip to Emerald State Park on one of your tours from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe and enjoy scenic hiking opportunities. From a castle-like house at Vikingsholm to Fannette Island - the only island on Lake Tahoe -  Emerald Bay State Park provides plenty of landmarks. Views include the granite cliffs and stunning panoramas of the lakes and mountains.

D.L Bliss State Park

D.L Bliss State Park is named after 19th-century lumber titan Duane Leroy Bliss and comprises a 744-acre open space. It’s home to the deepest section of Lake Tahoe and features many picture-perfect beaches, hiking trails, and Balancing Rock landmark - a 250,000-pound boulder that balances on a fist of granite.

Harrah’s Casino

Take a break from sweeping scenery and visit Harrah’s Casino, an iconic casino that sits just off the border from South Lake Tahoe. There are tons of gambling options, from slot machines to table games. If gambling’s not your thing, worry not - there is also an in-house concert venue, nightclub, dining options, and a spa.

The Alpine Village at Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley is one of the most well-known parts of Lake Tahoe for ski enthusiasts. However, you don’t need to be a pro on the slopes to appreciate this area. The Alpine Village in Squaw Valley offers plenty of shops, restaurants and even activities like mini-golf, wine tasting and free concerts during the summer months.

Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum

An ode to one of the greatest American pioneering tragedies, Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum honours the Donner Party, the legendary pioneers who didn’t survive the harsh Sierra Nevada winter of 1846 to 1847. The museum features loads of information about the Donner Party, while the stone marker near the Emigrant Trail Museum is 22 feet tall and marks the heavy snowfall from ‘46-47 winter.

Kings Beach State Recreation Area

One of the largest beaches in Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach State Recreation Area is a 13-acre park that is popular for swimming, boating and catching a few rays. Many families head there on tours San Francisco to Lake Tahoe to enjoy a picnic and take in the local sights.

Hot Air Ballooning

One of the best ways to see Lake Tahoe in all its glorious beauty is from the sky. A balloon ride gives you unprecedented views of the marvellous waters and dominating mountains. Enjoy panoramic views during your tour from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe with a hot-air balloon and see the north, south, east and west shore all in one go.

Aerial Tram to High Camp

If the idea of going in a hot-air balloon doesn’t take your fancy, jump on the aerial tram to high camp during one of your tours from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe. It climbs over 2,000 feet above the Squaw Valley, with rocky cliffs on view as you ascend. Once it reaches High Camp, you can enjoy great views of the mountains and Lake Tahoe. Other features include a swimming pool, hiking trails and the Olympic Museum.

Sugar Pine Post State Park

Sugar Pine Post State Park is one of the most scenic natural areas in Lake Tahoe. Sitting along nearly two miles of the lake, visitors can enjoy deep blue views of the lake and dense forest. The latter is particularly popular with campers and hikers.

The Dolder Nature Trail

Big trees, ferns, wildflowers and a giant Sequoia make up some of the beautiful scenery on view at the Dolder Nature Trail. This two-mile starts at Hellman-Ehrman Mansion and passes Lake Shore before winding through the forest. Stop at the mansion, which was built in 1903, to learn about the life of the rich on Lake Tahoe.

Travel tips

  • Lake Tahoe is vast, so it’s a good idea to plan what you want to see in advance.
  • Many tours will set out an itinerary, but if you want to explore on your own, it’s good to plan ahead.
  • If you’re planning on driving to Lake Tahoe in the winter, you may need snow chains for your car as some parts of California require you to do so.