The lake is the second deepest lake in the United States (1,645 feet), after Oregon’s Crater Lake (1,949 feet). Today, Lake Tahoe is known for its incredible purity, bright blue color, and the range of activities it offers visitors. Much of the land around Lake Tahoe is managed by the US Forest Service, meaning that it maintains a level of wildness that’s attractive to a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. 

History of Lake Tahoe 

Lake Tahoe formed around two million years ago, making it one of the 20 oldest lakes globally. As the lake was formed, surrounding peaks like Freel Peak (which reaches an impressive 10,891 feet) were also created. The area around Lake Tahoe was originally home to the Washoe Native Americans prior to the first European-American sighting of the lake in 1844. For a time, the lake was known as “Mountain Lake” and then “Fremont’s Lake.” Later, it was renamed “Lake Bigler,” a name that proved to be unsatisfactory for many but was used for years.

 It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the name “Lake Tahoe” was proposed. Still, some expressed disappointment in the title, including Mark Twain, who described the name as “unmusical cognomen.” It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the name Lake Bigler finally fell out of common use. In 1945, “Tahoe” became the lake’s official designation. In the mid-1900s, the population truly boomed due in part to the 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley. 

Clear Lake Tahoe water
The clear water of Lake Tahoe

Facts About Lake Tahoe

  • Average Depth: 1,000 feet
  • Max Depth: 1,645 feet
  • Elevation: 6,225 feet
  • Max Width: 12 miles
  • Surface Area: 191 sq miles

Lake Tahoe Weather 

The weather around Lake Tahoe is one of the many reasons visitors spend time in the area, and year-round residents call the lake home. The summers are dry and warm, and the winters are cool with regular snowfall. The lake gets most of its snow between November and April, with August proving to be the warmest month on average.

  • Average highest temperatures: nearly 80°F (or 26°C)
  • Average lowest temperatures: around 15 °F (−9.4 °C)

What to do at Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination that offers a great deal. Some of the many popular activities in and around the lake include cycling, hiking, climbing, and various water sports. The Lake Tahoe area is also very well-known for its downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, and other winter sports such as mountaineering. 

Lake Tahoe from the East
View of Lake Tahoe from the east

South Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular areas around the lake. It is known for its beautiful beaches, resort town, and hiking trails. For example, hikes along the Emerald Bay, to Cascade Falls, and up to the Vikingsholm Castle. 

Alpine skiing is one of the most popular activities at the lake. One of the better-known resorts is Squaw Valley, where the 1960 Winter Olympics were held. There, visitors can enjoy 4,800 acres of ski terrain with a view of the lake. Other popular ski destinations include Northstar, Kirkwood, and Mount Rose. 

Various state parks around the lake are also popular hiking and trail running destinations. For example: 

  • Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
  • D.L. Bliss State Park 
  • Emerald Bay State Park
  • Sand Harbor State Park
Tahoe from the South
Eldorado Beach along Lake Tahoe’s South Shore

Lake Tahoe Wildlife  

Around Lake Tahoe and within its vast waters, visitors can expect to see a wide variety of wildlife. Some of the many incredible animals one might see around the Lake Tahoe basin include: 

  • American beaver 
  • Black bear 
  • Coyote 
  • Golden-mantled ground squirrel 
  • Mountain beaver 
  • Mountain lion 
  • Porcupine
  • Yellow-bellied marmot

Lake Tahoe Marine Life

Some of the native fish species visitors might see or catch while visiting the lake include: 

  • Lahontan cutthroat trout 
  • Mountain whitefish 
  • Lahontan reside 
  • Tahoe sucker 
  • Paiute sculpin 
  • Lahontan Lake tui chub 

Some of these native fish populations have declined in recent years, especially with the introduction of nonnative marine life, like the Asian clam. For example, the cutthroat trout population was entirely decimated in the early 1900s before new members of the species were reintroduced to the lake in 2019. 

Mountains around Lake Tahoe
Some of Lake Tahoe’s many mountainous peaks

The basin is home to more than 290 species of bird, animal, and fish, some of which are endangered. The development of residences close to the water, resorts in the mountains, and ski runs, have destroyed or changed the native habitats these animals were accustomed to. But, efforts by the National Forest Service and various conservation groups, like the California Tahoe Conservancy, have led to the recovery of some species and the maintenance of others.


What is the best beach at Lake Tahoe? 

The best beaches around Lake Tahoe include Kings Beach, Lester Beach, Sand Harbor Beach, and Vikingsholm Beach. These beaches are popular and very beautiful destinations that allow visitors to see the best Lake Tahoe has to offer. 

What is the best time of year to visit Lake Tahoe? 

Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination. But, the best times to visit the lake are between March and May and from September to November. But, the time of year one visits depends entirely on what one wants to do. The summer months are best for water-related activities, while the winter months prove the best for snow-based activities. 

What is special about Lake Tahoe? 

Lake Tahoe is an incredible place. It is considered one of the purest lakes in the world, with a purity of around 99.94%. It is also one of the world’s oldest lakes. The destination is famed for both its watersports and for the world-class skiing to be enjoyed in its mountainous surroundings. 

What is the Lake Tahoe fire? 

In the Lake Tahoe area, in late 2021, a large fire, known as the Calder Fire, burnt around 221,835 acres and destroyed over 1,000 structures. This included homes, stores, and more. The fire lasted for sixty-seven days and destroyed famed forest land around the Tahoe Basin. 

What is the Lake Tahoe Secret Cove? 

The Secret Cove is an area of Lake Tahoe known for its incredibly scenic view of the lake. The beach area is small, only 300 yards long, but it’s often filled with visitors, many of which take advantage of the “clothing optional” status of this spot on the shoreline. 

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