10 Surprising Things to Do in North Lake Tahoe

When you think spring in a major ski destination like Lake Tahoe, what do you think of? Probably first and foremost, spring skiing. And with the case of Lake Tahoe, perhaps going to the lake, but not actually getting in (yeah, it’s nippy). But what I love so much about Lake Tahoe is that it takes some of my favorite parts about some of my favorite destinations in America and puts it in one place.

And this couldn’t be any truer than of spring. While many people may think of it as just a winter or just a summer destination, spring melds the best of Lake Tahoe’s summer and winter activities. One moment you could be skiing a black diamond and the next you could be bicycling along the water, all within just a few miles of one another. But what I found on this latest trip to Lake Tahoe, to Tahoe North (with the North Lake Tahoe Visitors and Convention Bureau), was a number of surprising things to do. See a sampling of those surprising things to do in North Lake Tahoe below.

1. Discover the aerial adventure course at the Granlibakken. You guys, there’s a treetop adventure park in North Lake Tahoe! The first of its kind in California, this aerial adventure park features a series of courses that include bridges, zip lines, and a number of other adventure features. Perhaps most unique is its location at the Granlibakken, which is one of Lake Tahoe’s most historic resorts, and which was formerly the site of one of Lake Tahoe’s first ski areas. Interestingly enough, Granlibakken still has a ski hill.

2. Snowboard and paddleboard in one day. Not only can you snowboard and paddleboard in one day in Lake Tahoe, but you can do it all before lunch. I strongly believe Lake Tahoe is one of the best outdoor adventure destinations in America because of both the variety and accessibility to outdoor adventures. In one day you could do a variety of different double adventure days, such as cross-country ski and hike, mountain bike and fat tire bike, or snowboard and paddleboard, like I did, snowboarding Squaw Valley in the morning and paddling Kings Beach in the afternoon.

3. High-elevation hot tubbin’ below the Olympic rings. That’s right, North Lake Tahoe was home to the Winter Olympics, taking place in 1960 in Squaw Valley, with the chairman of the Pageantry Committee being none other than Walt Disney. Take Squaw Valley’s aerial tram to the 8,200-foot High Camp, where among other amenities, you’ll find an oversized hot tub just beyond the Olympic rings. With its location mere yards from a number of Squaw's ski runs, you can detach your skis and make like Ron Burgundy and be cannonballing in no time. Now that’s my kind of après-ski.

4. Paraglide over Lake Tahoe. As if you needed further proof that Lake Tahoe is one of the best outdoor destinations in America. Lake Tahoe features a number of different “gliding” outfitters, from powered hang gliding with Paul Hamilton to paragliding with Uprising Paragliding. Spring is particularly great for paragliding over Lake Tahoe because while it’s warming up, many of the peaks still have snow on them.

5. Attend a ski, craft beer, and bluegrass festival. That’s right, a ski, craft beer, and bluegrass festival all rolled up into one with WinterWonderGrass at Squaw Valley. While the festival began in winter in Vail, Colorado, it comes to North Lake Tahoe in the spring for a weekend of skiing, bluegrass music, and craft beer. Ski in the morning, come mid-afternoon for the free craft beer samples, and stay through the night for national bluegrass acts. Best festival ever?

6. Go whitewater rafting. But Lake Tahoe is home to more than just the largest alpine lake in North America. Interestingly enough, North Lake Tahoe is actually home to one single outlet, the Truckee River, which flows more than 100 miles to Pyramid Lake. It’s Western Nevada’s largest river, and features miles of great kayaking, whitewater rafting, and tubing. This is especially a big kayaking and rafting season since it follows one of Lake Tahoe’s best snowfall winters in years.

7. Hike part of the longest hiking trail in the U.S. Famous recently in part because of the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is the world’s longest hiking trail, stretching 2,659 miles, crossing through three states and touching three countries. With its location passing along Lake Tahoe, you can hike parts of it, such as a 15-mile section from Donner Pass to Squaw Valley. Couple that with the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail, and you have some of the best hiking on the West Coast.

8. Take a Tahoe Star Tour. No, not a star tour like a celebrity home tour, but rather a star tour as in an astronomy tour. But before you go dismissing it, hang on. With its low light pollution, dry environment, and high elevation, Lake Tahoe makes a great astronomy destination like few places. And unique to Lake Tahoe is award-winning astronomer Tony Berendsen, who leads star tours on weekend evenings in North Lake Tahoe.

9. Do a lodge-to-lodge kayak trip. Think “lodge-to-lodge” outdoor adventures and you probably think of something like backcountry hiking or river kayaking. However, perhaps what I was most surprised by on my latest trip to Lake Tahoe was the lodge-to-lodge kayaking opportunities on Lake Tahoe, since it’s 72 miles around the lake. As such, you could do anything from a two-night to several night lodge-to-lodge kayak trip around Lake Tahoe.

10. Kick it at the Alibi Ale Works beer garden. Lake Tahoe has that whole European vibe thing going for it (the Lake Como of America perhaps?), and Alibi Ale Works is no exception with its outdoor beer garden, which on many a warm nights plays host to live music. Alibi features a long beer list, many of which are European-inspired, but all of which are delicious and brewed with pure Lake Tahoe water. Bonus points that they have a beer society with a number of perks, such as discounted beers, and events like discount growler days on Sunday. Winner, winner, craft beer dinner?