Lake Tahoe Travel Guide

USA  #4 in Best California Vacations

Free Things To Do in Lake Tahoe

If you have extra time, Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Emerald Bay State Park
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    #1 in Lake Tahoe
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Carved millions of years ago by passing glaciers, this state park is a must-see for anyone looking to experience Lake Tahoe's beauty. Sheltered by towering trees, this inlet along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe is known for its colorful granite cliffs and stunning panoramas. Follow Highway 89 south from Tahoe City (about 20 miles) or north from South Lake Tahoe (about 10 miles) and you'll come across the Emerald Bay Lookout, the park's crown jewel. And you should make sure you have a camera on hand – the scenery is breathtaking and travelers say there are photo opportunities everywhere you turn.

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  • #3
    Kings Beach State Recreation Area
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    #3 in Lake Tahoe
    Beaches, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Stretching along Lake Tahoe's northern shore, this beach is one of the largest in the area. The nearly 13-acre park – which encompasses a fair amount of shoreline on the northern edge of Lake Tahoe – is ideal for swimming, sunbathing and boating; plus, there is also a picnic area and a playground, as well as restroom facilities.

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  • #4
    Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum
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    #4 in Lake Tahoe
    Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum honor one of the darkest moments in American pioneering. Here, you'll find a great stone pedestal commemorating the Donner Party, the legendary pioneers who fell victim to the harsh Sierra Nevada winter of 1846 to 1847. The party (originally consisting of nearly 90 emigrants) was en route to California when their wagon train encountered a severe snow storm. Only half of the pioneers survived (many by resorting to cannibalism). The stone marker near the Emigrant Trail Museum stands 22 feet tall, marking the immense amount of snowfall from that winter.

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