Tahoe Lake Day Trips from San Francisco

Peace, tranquility and also fun outdoor activities, is part of what you can find in Lake Tahoe. I will tell you about the excursions that take you there.

Andressa García

Andressa García

11 min read

Tahoe Lake Day Trips from San Francisco

Lake Tahoe, USA | Fabian Quintero

Located at the top of the Sierra Nevada, this place that stretches across the tip of California, is one of the ideal places to spend time with the family and take the kids on some truly mind-blowing adventures.

If you are passing through California, this is one of the excursions you have to include in your list of things to see and do in San Francisco and beyond. One of the best things about Lake Tahoe is that its activities vary according to the season of the year. Here I show you some of those activities that you can experience.

How to book a tour to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco?

Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Mick Haupt
Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Mick Haupt

It is very easy to book a tour to Lake Tahoe. The first thing you need to do is to find the type of tour you want to do and for how long. Once you know the type of tour you want to do, it's time to make a reservation.

As a general rule these types of reservations for these excursions offer free cancellation, which means that in case you have a problem and can't go on the tour, you can cancel without paying anything extra.

You have to make sure of all the regulations of the tour and the reservation before you pay anything. Once you are sure that you will get everything you expect, it is time to pay. The confirmation of the trip, the day and the conditions of the trip is almost always done the same day of the excursion.

Try to pay attention to the characteristics of the trip, if it is a private or common excursion, and it is also very important to know if you will have access to drinks, meals, snacks or any other service during the trip. If they do not offer this type of services, you will already know that you will have to pay for those expenses.

Duration of excursions to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco

Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Jeremy Doddridge
Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Jeremy Doddridge

Excursions to Lake Tahoe are usually a really fun trip for the whole family. But generally to get the most out of visiting this natural paradise, the tours and excursions offered that depart from San Francisco are completed in anywhere from one to three days, depending on the type of excursion and what it offers.

There are other excursions that last a little less, between six and twelve hours, however, you will always need a little more time to get to know all the attractions that the lake and its surroundings have.

In addition, the duration of the excursions of this type will also depend on the season in which you do them because, as you know, in summer and winter the activities in and around the lake can vary considerably. You can also last more or less time if you go on a guided excursion or on your own.

But in most cases, if you travel from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe my recommendation is that you use at least a full day to live as many experiences and attractions that this landscape offers.

And if you go in summer, a good way to take advantage of the attractions of the lake, is to stay camping to enjoy two or three days instead of just one.

What am I going to see on this type of excursion?

Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Tim Peterson
Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Tim Peterson

Just as there are activities and landscapes that are only available according to the season of the year, it is also true that many others can be done at any time of the year.

One of the most interesting and beautiful things you can't miss if you take a trip to Yosemite from San Francisco to see the lake, is to stop at the viewpoints throughout the park.

Overlooks in the park

From these viewpoints you can appreciate the beauty of the lake, the snow-capped mountains and the entire expanse of pine trees that can be seen in the surrounding area. A true spectacle both in winter and summer.

If you go in winter time you will see the snow that covers everything. But if you go in summer, one of the things that stands out the most are the turquoise waters of the lake contrasting with the green of the pines and the snowy peaks of the mountains, a spectacle to appreciate.

Sunrise view

I recommend that you visit Lake Tahoe at sunrise, or stay camping at the lake so you can appreciate the first rays of the sun. Of course, if you want to enjoy this moment of total calm and natural beauty, you have to take with you enough warm clothes because the temperatures at that time of the morning are usually quite low, regardless of the season.

But far from that, it is an excellent experience to see the lake in these morning hours because it gives you the opportunity to see how the mist takes over the whole place and as the hours go by, it fades to reveal the colorful landscape that the lake offers you. This is definitely a fixture on my list of best views of San Francisco because it shows me the scenery from another perspective.

Bears in the pine forest

While it's not entirely common to see bears appearing in the vicinity of the lake, it is a possibility, so I recommend you be aware that these majestic animals may appear on your radar.

Bear sightings occur mostly in the warmer season, so it is an activity you could include among the things to see and do in San Francisco in the summer, or at least near the city.

Bears can appear anywhere on the lake, either in the lower or higher parts, sometimes because they come down looking for food or at other times because it is simply the place where they live and they usually wander around this area.

Book a tour to Yosemite from San Francisco

Tips for a trip to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco

Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Alec Krum
Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Alec Krum
  • Before heading out on a trip to Lake Tahoe first check the weather page so you can find out if it will be hot or cold. Remember that just because it's summer doesn't mean it will be hot or just because it's winter doesn 't mean it will be cold.
  • According to the weather condition, and according to the type of visit you make, dress in layers.
  • Be prepared to see the bears and when you see them, stay calm and don't panic. Preferably ask your tour guide how you should act when you see one of these specimens.
  • If you go in winter be sure to bring skiing clothes, because it is one of the most common activities to do in this place during this season.
  • Whether you go in winter or summer, always take your sunglasses with you because the cold or the sun can irritate your skin considerably.
  • Although there are places to eat and have some drinks in Lake Tahoe, I recommend you to bring drinking water on your trip because you will always get thirsty during the tour.
  • Bring bathing suits and beach clothes, as well as floats and other items to enjoy a nice sunny day if you go in the summer season, so you can swim in the natural beach of the lake.
  • If you go with children try to bring enough snacks for the trip, although once you get to the lake you can buy other snacks.
  • In case you take the trip with the intention of hiking, I recommend that you wear comfortable and closed shoes, preferably boots, this way you will avoid slipping in the wettest places.

How much does it cost to hike Lake Tahoe from San Francisco?

Lake Tahoe, USA| ©David Mirabal
Lake Tahoe, USA| ©David Mirabal

Depending on the amount of time you are going to spend on the lake tour and of course the type of tour you do, the cost will be higher or lower. In case you take a full day private excursion, the price can start at 900 euros.

In case the excursion is for more days and for a group of people in total, you may be able to pay from 150 euros per person. The price may also vary according to the services included in each of the experiences.

Generally in this type of multi-day excursions, accommodation is included, but those that do not include the price of accommodation are usually cheaper. When the price of the transfer from the hotel and back is included, it is usually a little more expensive, while in other cases this service is usually included as an additional service, which means that you must pay more to enjoy the comfortable transfer.

But as a general rule, this type of tour can range between 150 euros per person in the case of common tours and excursions, and a thousand euros in the case of private excursions in luxurious cars and with transfer from the hotel and back.

What are the activities I should not miss in Lake Tahoe?

Emerald Bay State Park, South Lake Tahoe, United States| ©Jesse Gardner
Emerald Bay State Park, South Lake Tahoe, United States| ©Jesse Gardner

As I have told you so far, the activities at the lake vary according to the season, so the activities you do inside the park can be completely different from one month to another. Let's get to know some of the most fun experiences that each season will allow you to live in this, definitely, one of the best tours and excursions from San Francisco.


Among the activities you can do in summer in this place is kayaking, which is definitely one of my favorite activities. Just rent a kayak and start touring the calm waters of the lake.

This is an activity that you can do from different points of the lake, being one of the most usual routes the one that reaches Esmeralda Bay. But in any case, kayaking is one of those great activities to do with family, friends and even with the kids.

Visit to Esmeralda Bay

And speaking of Esmeralda Bay, this is one of the places you can't miss if you go during the summer season. Also because from this point you can make one of the best boat trips in San Francisco, because it is one of the most beautiful bays, a real treasure in the surroundings of Lake Tahoe.

To get to this place you can do it by kayak or walking, you can also arrive by car, but the parking lot fills up very fast, so you better go early in the morning if you want to get an available spot.

Take the cable car

And another activity that you definitely can't miss in summer is to go up the cable car and then go down the zip line. This is one of the most fun activities you can do in this place, first because the view is more beautiful than you can imagine, and then the zip line adds adrenaline to the ride.

Traveller Tip

Parking costs 10 euros, but you can leave the car parked on the road in a permitted area and walk into Esmeralda Bay, so you avoid that fee.

Skiing and snowboarding

Going up to Lake Tahoe in the winter is also really fun and there are many activities you can do around the lake. One of the most fun is undoubtedly skiing, and when summer arrives there are many places around the lake that offer skiing services for all tourists.

To go skiing or snowboarding, you just have to get to one of the establishments in the area and rent the corresponding equipment for such activity. But in case you are not very expert in the practice of this sport, you can also find different sites that will quickly teach you to master the art of skiing.

Ice skating and snowmen making

If we talk about the best things to do in San Francisco in winter and you are one of those who like to skate on the ice, there is a rink on the south side of Lake Tahoe where you can skate, but yes, you must bring your own implements to skate on the ice.

But if you go with small children or simply if you want to have a much quieter ride, an activity that you definitely have to do is to make snowmen. There are places near the lake where you can do it without problems, as long as you have the permission to do so.

These places where you can be without being fined or socially frowned upon are called Sno-Parks and usually have public toilets and even snow-free parking.

Traveller Tip

The daily permit to be in Sno-Parks is about 5 euros. But you can pay a 25 euro pass for the entire winter season from November 1 to May 30.

Why is it advisable to take a trip to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco?

Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Drew Dau
Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Drew Dau

There are many reasons to take a trip to Lake Tahoe, but the main one is that the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere of the place is incomparable to any other park or attraction you can find in the United States. That is why Yosemite Park counts as one of the best national parks near San Francisco.

One of the best things about this park is that you can get in touch with nature at any time of the year and you also have the opportunity to show children many of the natural wonders that are very close to the city of San Francisco.

In addition, the excursions to Lake Tahoe, which usually last more than a day, will allow you to get to know much more of the place and all its attractions without worrying about missing out.

Book a tour to Yosemite from San Francisco

What is the advantage of taking a guided tour from San Francisco instead of going on my own?

Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Rod Flores
Lake Tahoe, USA| ©Rod Flores

While it is true that going to Lake Tahoe is a family activity that you can do on your own perfectly well, I think we will agree that there are many advantages to doing this trip as a tour and with people who are experts in this area.

It doesn't matter if you are a novice or if you have already been to this lake many times, it will always be a better option to go with experts, and I will show you some of the reasons why I prefer a guided tour.

  • Guided tour
  • I will have transportation from my lodging to the park and back.
  • I will be able to see new places that I may not have known before.
  • I will be completely safe from accidents because I am with experts.
  • I can try the best activities with the confidence that they will be amazing.
  • Excursion on my own
  • I will have to drive myself to the lake and back.
  • I will always visit the same places and do the same things.
  • Safety depends only on me.
  • I may try activities that I won't like or that are not the best in the area.