Top 8 Things to See in South Lake Tahoe This Summer

Sightseeing in South Lake Tahoe is one of the primary reasons to plan a summer vacation at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Posted July 5, 2023


Family Hiking in Heavenly, CA.

The unforgettable pleasure of sightseeing in South Lake Tahoe begins the moment you get your first glimpse of the sparkling sapphire lake. Visitors from all over the world travel to this natural treasure in search of action-packed summertime adventures. Yet, the simple pleasure of admiring the prettiest places around South Lake Tahoe is as memorable an experience as any. From the base of Heavenly Mountain Resort, all the top things to see in South Lake Tahoe are within easy reach. Be sure to feature some of our top eight things to see in South Lake Tahoe in your sightseeing itinerary. 

1. Ride the Heavenly Gondola 

The best way to admire the top sights in South Lake Tahoe is by heading up to a high elevation. With a ride on the Heavenly Gondola, you'll take in 360-degree views of the lake, forest, and mountains while riding 2.4 miles up the steep slopes of Heavenly Mountain. Stop at the Observation Deck, midway along the gondola journey at 9,123 feet, before continuing to the 9,150-foot Top of the Gondola.  

Along with being one of the prettiest places in South Lake Tahoe, the Top of the Gondola area is an activity hub with dining at Tamarack Lodge, numerous trailheads, and seasonal attractions such as gold panning and a climbing wall.  

2. Hike to the Tamarack and Skyline Trail Overlook 

Depending on the season's snow conditions, a summertime ride on the Heavenly Gondola might give you access to some fantastic high-elevation hiking trails. Check Heavenly's hiking page for up-to-date details. When conditions allow, don't miss the chance to hike to the overlooks along the Tamarack and Skyline trails.  

The Tamarack Trail starts at the Top of the Gondola and takes you a steep 1.3 miles up the mountain to the Carson Valley Overlook. Continue on the Skyline Trail, 0.9 miles along the mountain's crest, to the resort's highest overlook. The combined route is one of the tougher hikes at Heavenly, but the panoramic views of four mountain peaks and the lake below are definitely one of the top sights in South Lake Tahoe. 

3. Explore Emerald Bay State Park 

Drive 25 miles west of Heavenly Mountain Resort, following the contour of Lake Tahoe's southern shore, and you'll reach the stunning Emerald Bay State Park. The bay's name is a nod to its pristine, jewel-like waters, which make this corner of Lake Tahoe especially striking. The park encompasses Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe, as well as Vikingsholm, a historic mansion notable for its outstanding Scandinavian architecture.  

Guided tours of Vikingsholm, among South Lake Tahoe's most popular sightseeing tours, are available throughout the summer. Access to the mansion and shores of Emerald Bay is only via a steep, 1-mile (each way) hike over rocky terrain. You can also hike to a stunning waterfall above the bay. 

4. Cruise on M.S. Dixie II 

For one of the best sightseeing tours in South Lake Tahoe, get out onto the water! Head to Zephyr Cove, just 15 minutes from Heavenly, to board the charming vintage paddle wheeler, M.S. Dixie II. The two-story cruise boat carries up to 500 passengers and offers sightseeing cruises as well as sunset dinner cruises.  

Relaxing, scenic cruises take just over 2 hours to meander from Zephyr Cove into Emerald Bay and back again. They're narrated, so you'll learn a lot about the history and topography of the lake. Food and drinks are available at the onboard restaurant and bar. 

5. Visit Nevada Beach 

No list of the prettiest places in South Lake Tahoe could skip over the area's beaches. One of the best public beaches near Heavenly, Nevada Beach, is perfect for a few hours – or a full day – of summer fun. Choose a picnic table or lay out some towels on the sand for the simple pleasure of a beach day.  

The half-mile-long sandy beach is ideal for swimming in the clear, cold waters of the lake on a hot summer day. You might rent kayaks from an on-site concession offering food and drinks. The panoramic lake and mountain views at Nevada Beach, located on national forest land, are outstanding as well. 

6. Discover D.L. Bliss State Park 

A 30-minute drive from Heavenly, just past Emerald Bay, is D.L. Bliss State Park. The best-known landmark at the park is Balancing Rock, a geological wonder and one of the top things to see in South Lake Tahoe. Stroll the half-mile nature trail that leads to the rock, and marvel at how the enormous granite boulder balances so precariously on its much punier base. Other reasons to visit the state park include hiking trails through the pine forest and opportunities for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding at Lester Beach.  

7. See Lake Tahoe From Above 

Various local outfitters offer unique options for sightseeing in South Lake Tahoe – from the air! Lake Tahoe Balloons takes passengers up and over the lake in the Tahoe Flyer, a USCG-certified hot air balloon. The bird's eye views expand beyond Lake Tahoe, across the vast Sierra Nevada range, and sometimes as far as Yosemite. A champagne toast and snacks are included at the end of this unforgettable flight. 

For a similar experience with a different vibe, book a helicopter tour with Tahoe Helicopters. These tours are available year-round and depart from South Tahoe Airport. Choose from tours focussing on top sights in South Lake Tahoe like Emerald Bay and Zephyr Cove, the lakes and waterfall tour, or a sunset tour.  

8. Take a Tour at Tallac Historic Site 

If you're interested in the local history, a visit to the Tallac Historic Site promises to be one of the best sightseeing tours in South Lake Tahoe. The site, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, encompasses the summer homes and gardens of the Pope, Baldwin, and Valhalla estates. These lavish lakeside resorts were built from around 1894 to 1921.  

Visitors are welcome to explore the preserved properties, some of the earliest at Lake Tahoe, as well as the site's beach and forest trails. Browse the interesting exhibits inside the Tallac Museum and take one of the guided tours of the property, available only in summer. 

Ready for Unforgettable Sightseeing in South Lake Tahoe? 

If you're excited to take in the most beautiful sights in South Lake Tahoe, it's time to start planning your summer vacation at Heavenly Mountain Resort