Dog Friendly Places in Lake Tahoe (Summer Edition)
Lake Tahoe is so Pet Friendly that it is definitely one of the most heavily visited places from San Francisco in both summer and winter. Tahoe boasts unlimited pet friendly off leash hiking trails and dog friendly beaches for a cold swim. Lake Tahoe is a crystal clear alpine lake nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains – the largest lake by volume in all of North America. Bring your dog and enjoy the panoramic mountain views of the Tahoe basin.
How to Get To Lake Tahoe
There are two ways to get to Tahoe – Drive or Fly. If you live in Northern California, we recommend driving but don’t get trapped in the winter snow! You will need all-wheel-drive, snow chains, and snow tires to get up the mountain during winter. We’ve had friends try to make it up without enough gear, and the story did not end well. Our Mini Cooper would certainly not survive the trip in the depth of winter. During high ski season it can take over 6 hours to get to Tahoe from San Francisco. The icy winding roads are also prone to accidents which makes the travel time longer (we’ve heard of 12 hour trips). In the summer, we left on a Friday afternoon and with San Francisco and Sacramento traffic, made it in 5 hours. Without traffic, you’re looking at a 3 hour trip from San Francisco.
There are some small regional airports in the area, but unless you have a private jet you’ll want to go to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. This is about a 45 minute drive to North Lake Tahoe. See more about flying to Lake Tahoe here.
When to Visit Lake Tahoe with your Dog
Tahoe is a great destination year round but unless you want to hike in the cold, it is best to bring your dog to Tahoe in the warmer months. If you visit Lake Tahoe with your dog after the snow has melted, you will get to enjoy all the Tahoe off leash dog trails and hikes. We visited in early summer just as the weather was getting warm. July/August are warmest months to visit Tahoe, with highs of around 80 degrees. In the winter, expect temperatures in the 40s and snow. We visited before peak tourist season and the trails were just finishing to thaw. We hit some snow on our hike up Squaw Valley and the lake still felt glacial. Expect a lot of tourists from June to August as trails finally thaw and summer activities are in full swing. For the least busy time to visit, check out Tahoe from March to May or in September at the end of summer vacation. Winters in Tahoe, although snowy, are not actually as blistering cold as other winter destinations. Check out the region from December – February for great winter sports.
Pet Friendly Hotels in Lake Tahoe
We found it easy to find pet friendly accommodations in Lake Tahoe. The lake is HUGE, so your biggest decision will be where to stay. All parts of Lake Tahoe are pet friendly, so regardless of your decision, you will not have trouble finding pet friendly accommodations. You’ll have to choose between North (Nevada Side) or South Lake Tahoe (California Side). We stayed in North Lake Tahoe’s Carnelian Bay. So…North vs. South? You can’t go wrong.
All parts of Lake Tahoe have great beach access for your dogs. North Lake Tahoe is known for being sleepier than its southern counterpart – and more “family friendly”. For winter sports, North Lake Tahoe is home to 8 ski resorts and a variety of challenging hikes. We also found that North Lake Tahoe has more dog beaches. South Lake Tahoe is where you’ll find all the “action” if you are looking to hit the town. It is home to a variety of bars and clubs that are open late and definitely the place to be if you’re looking to party.
Lake Tahoe Pet Friendly Summer Activities
Kayaking, SUP board, rafting, hikes, and swimming are all available for a pet friendly Tahoe experience. You’ll have to be cognizant of dog rules on certain beaches, but lakeside trails are all open for Fido.
Tahoe Dog Beaches
Dog beaches do exist in Tahoe, but make sure to look into where fido is officially allowed off leash before letting him loose. There are fewer pet friendly beaches than we would have liked but we still found areas for Calvin to take a dip into the water. Pups are allowed IN the lake, but just often not on the public sandy areas – this means they can be with you on paddle boards, kayaking ect but can’t frolic along the beach. To find the best dog beach near where you are staying, check out the list here.
Water Sports with Your Dog in Tahoe
Raft down the Truckee River with your furry friend, or take a Tahoe City Kayak onto the lake.
Tahoe City Kayak has a variety of rentals available, including kayaks with larger cockpits to accommodate a dog. We rented a Kayak at Commons Beach. Pets are not allowed onto the beach so please ask the associates where the dog pickup point is. One person will wait with fido at the pickup point and kayak over from Commons Beach (about 1 minute away).
Truckee River Rafting is another very pet friendly activity – raft 5 miles down the Truckee River and bring fido along. You are even allowed to bring coolers along to enjoy some food along the way.
Pet Friendly Trails in Squaw Valley: Hike to High Camp
Tahoe has an unlimited amount of pet friendly hikes. We recommend checking out the trails in Squaw Valley and choosing your best fit from this list. The main decision you will have to make is deciding whether you want to start at High Camp or if you want to start at the Base Camp and make your way up to High Camp. We did the Shirley Canyon Trail hike from the Base of Squaw Valley up to High Camp. We stopped at Shirley Lake on the way up (about 2/3 of the way up) and finally took the pet friendly Aerial Tram down free of charge for views of the entire valley. The Shirley Canyon trail is a great half-day hike that runs about 3.6 miles and considered one of the area’s best hikes. For a better understanding of the elevation: we visited in June and had to hike through snow by the end of the trail. Wear layers for the changing temperatures, and sneakers or boots with good traction. The trail was not always clearly marked, but there are enough hikers passing by to keep from getting lost. As another rule of thumb, online guides suggest making sure to always keep the flowing creek to your right to eventually find your way to Shirley Lake. When you reach areas of steep slabs of rocks, you know that Shirley Lake is right over the top of the hill.
Swim in Shirley Lake
About 2/3 up the Shirley Canyon Trail, you will come upon Shirley Lake. You can also get to this lake by taking the Aerial Tram up to High Camp and then hiking down the last part of the trail to the lake. We came upon families having picnics on the rocks overlooking the lake, and lots of dogs taking a refreshing swim. Locals told us that by the end of the summer the lake heats up enough for a more enjoyable swim. In early June, the water was glacial. Calvin didn’t mind one bit.
The Squaw Valley Aerial Tram is Pet Friendly!
The pet friendly Aerial tram leaves from the base of Squaw Valley and drops off at High Camp. The tram allows for a breathtaking view over the valley and you can catch trails from the top. Here’s the catch – the tram costs $40 a person to ride up, but is free on the way down. If you complete the long hike up to High Camp, you can save a lot of money and still get to experience the Aerial Tram on your way back down to the base of Squaw Valley. You’ll be so tired that you may even enjoy it even more!
Walk Through the Village at Squaw Valley
During summer months, you’ll find various pet friendly outdoor activities at the Base Camp of Squaw Valley. Walk through and pop into the cute shops, enjoy live music, lawn games, and refreshing summer energy from fellow visitors. You’ll run into many friendly pups – grab your pup his own Pupacino from the Starbucks and enjoy strolling through.
Check out Tahoe City
Tahoe City has a walkable main street lined with shops, food, and activity. It’s worth strolling down main street for the summer energy. Poppy’s Frozen Yogurt offers many refreshing flavors. If you visit during the Tahoe City Wine Walk you’ll be able to walk around town sipping wine and checking out fun booths.
Pet Friendly Restaurants in Lake Tahoe
We ate lunch at Mo’s Original BBQ in Tahoe City. The restaurant is pet friendly, lakefront, and out of the hot sun. Portions are generous, affordable, and lip smacking delicious. After lunch, we walked off lunch on the lakeside trail.
We also ate a meal at Moody’s in Truckee, but would NOT recommend it – overpriced and mediocre food. Thank you, NEXT.
Tahoe was a great weekend trip for early summer – the air is fresh, the views are amazing, and Tahoe accommodations are very pet friendly. We’ll be sure to come back next year!
-Your Pal Cal