Crystal-clear water, skyscraping mountaintops, breathtaking scenery—these are a few reasons why Lake Tahoe is one of the top locations in the world. Every single year, millions of people flock to this massive lake on the California/Nevada border.
If you enjoy hiking, winter sports, and swimming in mountain-fresh water, Lake Tahoe is the place for you. Whether you’re looking to camp for a few days or stay for months, this area has something for everyone. In this adventure guide, you’ll learn why Lake Tahoe is perfect for those traveling in a camper van as well as where to stop along the way, best places to explore, hidden gems, and much more. Let Rec Van help you make this dream a reality.
About Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is a pristine lake with an elevation of 6,225 feet. It sits in the center of gigantic mountain ranges, with some peaks measuring 11,000 feet tall. Lake Tahoe is deep. In fact, its 1,645 ft. maximum depth makes it the second deepest lake in the United States, sitting behind Oregon’s Crater Lake.
Surrounding these majestic waters, you’ll find a few popular towns. South Lake Tahoe is found at the southern end of the lake, while Tahoe City, Kings Beach, and Incline Village line the northern edge. Known as a popular tourist destination, Lake Tahoe brings in crowds from all over the world.
If you’re looking to vancamp in this gorgeous area, there are plenty of places to park your ride. But before you even get to the lake, you should stop at some awesome places along the way.
Where to Stop Along the Journey
While Tahoe offers tons of adventure, the drive to the area also provides some top attractions. No matter what direction you’re coming from, you’ll pass through some breathtaking areas.
Coming from the North
If you’re driving south towards the lake, there are several incredible locations to check out. Seattle lines the edge of the United States, which features stunning views, great food, and plenty of outdoor adventure. There’s also Portland, Mount Shasta, and Lassen National Forest, all within hours of Tahoe.
Coming from the East
Carson City, the capital of Nevada, is found just minutes from the eastern edge of Lake Tahoe. It’s a great place to stay and catch some mountain views. The old mining town of Virginia City is also located nearby. Additionally, Salt Lake City is just an eight-hour drive to the east.
Coming from the South
There are countless destinations to check out if you’re heading north towards Lake Tahoe. For one, you have Yosemite, which provides some of the most dramatic views on the planet. If you’re into skiing or snowboarding, both Mammoth and Kirkwood are found within hours of the lake. Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Death Valley are other top attractions close by. Furthermore, all these locations are ideal for van camping!
Coming from the West
If you look southwest, you’ll find the massive region called the Bay Area. Here you’ll find the popular cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. Monterey is located just south of the Bay Area, which features an awesome aquarium. For those wine-lovers, Napa and Sonoma are found just north of San Francisco.
Lake Tahoe: Activities for Everyone
As you’re driving into the Lake Tahoe area, there are tons of places to camp. If you want to be right by the lake, a campground will be your best bet. The south shore and west shore offer the most options.Once you arrive at the stunning lake and find your spot, adventure is right outside your front door! In fact, you can hike, bike, and swim right from your camping spot! Here are some of the leading activities in the area:
Hiking trails are found everywhere around Lake Tahoe. If you’re looking to hike around the entire lake on a backpacking trip, then you must check out the Tahoe Rim Trail. This beast travels 170 miles around the lake, featuring stunning peaks, pristine alpine lakes, heart-pounding inclines, and dazzling views. The area also provides plenty of easy and moderate trails.
The crystal-clear waters are a unique quality of Lake Tahoe. In the summer months, swimming in these waters is an experience like no other. And luckily, there are some amazing beaches to enjoy. Sand Harbor is a popular spot near Incline Village, Nevada; found on the northeastern shore of the lake. Zephyr Cove and Pope Beach are other awesome swimming areas to check out. In addition, these locations are found right next to several campgrounds!
Lake Tahoe is a mecca for skiers and snowboarders. Palisades Tahoe is a world-famous resort found just minutes from the north shore, and Heavenly is right in the heart of South Lake Tahoe. These resorts are massive and feature trails for all ability levels.
No matter the time of year, kayaking or paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe is a special treat. While you’re floating over the insanely clear water and looking hundreds of feet down below, you’ll also witness mountain peaks in every direction. Furthermore, there are tons of places to launch a kayak or paddleboard just minutes from your vancamp spot.
Before heading out in your sweet campervan, here are some travel tips to keep in mind:
- Have 4×4 or chains during the winter months
- Winter is a long season—temps are chilly through May
- Best time for swimming is July and August
- Hiking is best in June and during fall months
- Some spots have snow through June
- Bring bug spray, hats, and sunscreen
- Have the right shoes
- Book campgrounds way ahead of time—they fill up fast!
- It’s a very popular area, so plan accordingly
- If campgrounds are full, consider looking for spots around Truckee, CA
With these insider tips in mind, you can save money, stay comfortable, and have the most fun possible!
Here’s where you can find these top Tahoe attractions:
- Eagle Rock Trail: 3370 W Lake Blvd, Homewood, CA 96141
- Tahoe East Shore Trail: 1924 Tahoe Blvd, Incline Village, NV 89451
- Emerald Bay State Park: 138 Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
- Mt. Tallac Trail: Mt Tallac Rd A, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
- Heavenly Mountain Resort: 3860 Saddle Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
- Palisades Tahoe: 1960 Squaw Valley Rd, Olympic Valley, CA 96146
- Jake’s On the Lake: 780 N Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, CA, 96145
- The Beacon Bar & Grill: 1900 Jameson Beach Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
- Brothers Burrito House: 2136 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
- Zephyr Cove RV Park and Campground: 760 US-50, Zephyr Cove, NV 89448
- Camp Richardson Campground: 1900 Jameson Beach Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
- Martis Creek Campground: Alpine Meadow Camp, Truckee, CA 96161
If you’re looking to go off-the-beaten-path around Lake Tahoe, check out these hidden gems:
- Mt. Tallac
- Star Lake
- Cave Rock
- Fallen Leaf Lake
- Desolation Wilderness
- Beaches on the east shore
- Mt. Rose summit
Start Your Adventure with Rec Van Today!
If you’re looking to experience the beauty and excitement of Lake Tahoe, Rec Van can bring this dream to life. We’re happy to be a leading source for buying and selling top-of-the-line camper vans and RVs! We carry popular manufacturers Winnebago, Phoenix USA RV, Midwest Automotive Designs, Storyteller Overland, Thor Motor Coach, and more.
Rec Van is here to make your Lake Tahoe experience unforgettable. Check out our wide selection of adventure vans today to get started!