Many people are familiar with the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe, but they don’t know that there’s a difference between the North and South Shores. On both sides of Lake Tahoe, you’ll find excellent restaurants and a wide variety of beautiful places to stay, some along the shore, some further up the mountain and others deeper in the communities.

Quiet and nature-focused, North Lake Tahoe is a haven of tranquility with wide open spaces to roam that are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers and nature lovers. Known for its active nightlife, South Lake Tahoe has lots of nightclubs, dancing, late-night gaming, and arena-style shows and entertainment to offer. Thus, deciding which part of Lake Tahoe to visit depends on the vibe you are looking for.


Homewood Mountain Resort in North Lake Tahoe

North Lake Tahoe has a laid-back, relaxing and outdoorsy feel. The 12 charming towns offer plenty of vintage shops, handmade treasures and locally owned eateries. The activities are all about enjoying nature, with plenty of world-renowned skiing, sledding, hiking, fishing, biking, kayaking and paddle-boarding to offer.

One big draw of the North Shore is being able to get out in nature and enjoy the mountains and lake, with so many beautiful areas to explore. That’s easily done with 11 downhill ski resorts, nearly 30 public beaches, hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails and over 50 golf courses within an hour’s drive.

Fun Festival: WinterWonderGrass (April)
Top Towns: Kings Beach; Incline Village; Tahoe City; Olympic Valley; Northstar
Can’t Miss Attraction: Sand Harbor
Best Beach:  Commons Beach
Top Downhill Ski Resorts: Palisades Tahoe, Northstar California, Diamond Peak, Homewood
Traveler Info: North Lake Tahoe
Who It’s For:

  • Adventure seekers looking for outdoor activities surrounded by Lake Tahoe’s natural beauty.
  • Timeless travelers who have an appreciation for history, culture and luxury experiences.
  • Families and other groups looking to enjoy memorable activities together.


Zephyr Cove South Lake Tahoe
Zephyr Cove in South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe offers a large amount of casinos, bars and clubs to enjoy. The South Shore combines outdoor activities with an active nightlife including dancing, gaming and larger concerts and shows. For adventure seekers, there are three ski resorts, seven beaches, various hiking and biking locations, several boat cruises and different guided tours.

Fun Festival: Valhalla Renaissance Faire (August)
Top Towns: South Lake Tahoe; Stateline
Can’t Miss Attraction: Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster
Best Beach: Zephyr Cove
Best Downhill Ski Resort: Heavenly Mountain Resort
Traveler Info: South Lake Tahoe

Who It’s For: Casino gamers, nightlife enthusiasts and those looking for city-like amenities while still being surrounded by nature.


Fitting right in with North Lake Tahoe’s relaxed, outdoorsy vibe is the majestic West Shore. Known as the “Black Forest of Lake Tahoe,” the West Shore is made up of several undeveloped natural areas, state parks and small communities. On the West Shore, you’ll find what many consider to be its most beautiful corner — Emerald Bay. A little further north lies Sugar Pine Point Park. Homewood Mountain Resort and Sunnyside at its northernmost point ensures you don’t have to sacrifice natural beauty for lively activities. 


The mountains are alive with winter sports and Lake Tahoe is a hotspot for them with the largest concentration of ski resorts in North America (14 total – 11 in North Lake Tahoe and three in South Lake Tahoe). There are miles of natural landscape to enjoy and winter activities like snow tubing, ice skating, sledding, and, of course, skiing and snowboarding. One of winter’s best playgrounds, it’s no surprise that North Lake Tahoe is where the 1960 Winter Olympics were held.

Due to its variety of terrain, Lake Tahoe is also a great option for beginning and expert skiers alike. If you’re looking for a lake view as you head down the mountain, make sure to visit Diamond Peak in North Lake Tahoe, Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe, and Homewood on the West Shore.

If snow sports aren’t your speed or you’re ready for a break, then you’ll find plenty of options in the villages that are open year-round. On the North Shore, the Village at Northstar is alive with a skating rink, a movie theater, a spa, a yoga studio, a spot to make your own candles and paint pottery, tons of shopping and excellent restaurants.

Also on the North Shore, the Village at Palisades Tahoe has equally impressive restaurants and shopping plus a whole series of events and activities. Over on South Shore, there’s always fun to be had at the The Shops at Heavenly Village including a spa, movie theater, mini golf, shopping, restaurants, an ice-skating rink and more.

From spring through the fall, you can enjoy excellent mountain biking on both sides, some of the best in the country. In fact, Incline Village on the North Shore has been named the biking capital of Nevada and is definitely worth a visit. There’s also horseback riding, rock climbing and hiking, with incredible views of the lake.

On the North Shore, you can check out all three of the Tahoe Treetop Adventures in Tahoe City, Olympic Valley (re-opening late June 2024), and Tahoe Vista for hours of fun on their zip-lining courses. And for some one-of-a-kind climbing adventures, head over to Palisades Tahoe for Via Ferrata which combines hiking with mountain climbing for an absolutely unforgettable experience. Over on the South Shore, Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster is built right on the mountain with gorgeous views of the lake.


Both North and South Lake Tahoe are alive with all kinds of fun things to do on the lake. In the winter, you can enjoy snowshoeing along the shore, gathering around a fire pit to roast marshmallows, and taking in peaceful views of snow-covered boulders near the ice-blue waters. On both sides, summer brings boat tours, cruises, boating, water skiing and lots of activities along the shore.

Photo Credit: Brian Walker Photography for Clearly Tahoe

Summer on the South Shore is filled with houseboats, beach gatherings, jet skiing, parasailing and the like. You’ll find all of those activities on the North Shore, too, plus activities more focused on making nature your playground, like fishing, paddle boarding and kayaking.

Lake Tahoe comes alive with live music during the summer. Experience free outdoor concerts on the North Shore nearly every night of the week during the season for a fun, festival vibe, such as at Music on the Beach at Kings Beach. Find free concerts on the South Shore as well, such as the Heavenly Village Summer Concert Series.

Perhaps Lake Tahoe’s biggest draw is its beaches in the summer. Like everything else, picking the best one depends on your vibe. Below are a couple of the most popular beaches around Lake Tahoe to help you find your spot. We’d also invite you to explore all your beach options using this map of North and South Lake Tahoe beaches.

  • Most Popular Beach: The most popular beach in Lake Tahoe is Sand Harbor on the northeastern shore. There, you’ll find the classic postcard views of boulders and crystal-clear water that Lake Tahoe is known for, as well as fun swimming, kayaking and scuba diving.
  • Most Lively Beach: Zephyr Cove in South Lake Tahoe’s area of the East Shore is Lake Tahoe’s best beach for meeting people. It has a young, fun crowd, beach volleyball, and drinks served on the sand.
  • Most Family-Friendly Beach: For a quieter, more family-friendly outing, head to Kings Beach on the North Shore. It has restrooms, picnic tables, a playground, a half court for basketball, and other water sport activities available to keep the fun going all day long.
  • Most Pet-Friendly Beach: We wanted you to have options for your fur babies, too, so we’re recommending two dog-friendly shores, North Lake Tahoe’s Waterman’s Landing and South Lake Tahoe’s Kiva Beach. The beach at Waterman’s Landing is unique in that it also offers dog-friendly paddleboard rentals and a dog-friendly café – just make sure to bring a leash and clean up after your pet.


Choosing your favorites can be hard. With all the fun to be had around Lake Tahoe, there’s more than enough reason to extend your trip and stay longer. It’s also a good idea to stay midweek when there’s more open space.

Whether visiting North or South Lake Tahoe, we ask that you do so responsibly. When exploring trails, leave no trace and pack out what you packed in. Support businesses by dining and shopping locally.

Observe wildlife from a distance, including animals and plant life alike. Be fire safe—fireworks are not permitted. If starting a campfire, make sure it’s in one of the designated fire rings within a campground and that it’s cold to the touch when you put it out. Take advantage of some of the purest tap water in the world too—bring a reusable water bottle and drink Tahoe Tap.

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