See the lake and mountains from 8,000 to 10,000 feet above, with Lake Tahoe Balloons (tel. 800/872-9294 or 530/544-1221; www.laketahoeballoons.com) in South Lake Tahoe. A 4-hour tour costs about $250 per person.
Here are a few popular spots around the lake. All have sandy beaches, picnic areas, and restrooms; many have playgrounds. Remember that this is an alpine lake, so the water is very cold.
- Baldwin Beach: Hwy. 89, 4 miles north of South Lake Tahoe
- Commons Beach Park: Downtown Tahoe City; free movie (Fri at dusk; tel. 530/583-3348)
- Connolly Beach: U.S. 50 at Timber Cove Lodge; boat launches
- D. L. Bliss State Park: South of Meeks Bay on Hwy. 89; camping, trails
- El Dorado Beach: Between Rufus Allen and Lakeview in South Lake Tahoe
- Kings Beach State Recreation Center: Hwy. 28 in Kings Beach
- Pope Beach: Hwy. 89, 2 miles north of South Lake Tahoe
- Sand Harbor: 4 miles south of Incline Village on Hwy. 28; lifeguards
- Sugar Pine Point: Hwy. 89, just south of Tahoma; camping, trails, pier
- Zephyr Cove Beach: U.S. 50 at Zephyr Cove
Miles of paved bicycle paths surround the lake. Incline Village has a scenic, easy 2 1/2-mile path along Lakeshore Boulevard (a safe choice for younger children). In Tahoe City you can follow the path in three directions. The one that follows Truckee River is a relaxing, beautiful ride. On the South Shore, the Pope-Baldwin bike path runs parallel to Hwy. 89 through Camp Richardson and the Tallac Historic Site. Nearby, in South Lake Tahoe, a paved pathway runs from El Dorado Beach along the lake, paralleling U.S. 50. The Tahoe City trails are my favorites, especially the Truckee River section. You can rent a bicycle from any of the shops listed below.
A dizzying choice of mountain biking trails awaits mountain bikers in Lake Tahoe. For maps and information, check with one of the bicycle-rental shops. In North Lake Tahoe, try the Olympic Bike Shop, 620 N. Lake Blvd., Tahoe City (tel. 530/581-2500); or Tahoe Bike & Ski, 8499 N. Lake Blvd., Kings Beach (tel. 530/546-7437; www.tahoebikeski.com). In South Tahoe, try Anderson's Bike Rental, 645 Emerald Bay Rd. (tel. 530/541-0500; www.andersonsbicyclerental.com), or Lakeview Sports, 3131 Hwy. 50, at El Dorado Beach (tel. 530/544-0183).
Another great choice is Cyclepaths Mountain Bike Adventures, 1785 W. Lake Blvd. in Truckee (tel. 800/780-BIKE  or 530/581-1171; www.cyclepaths.com), where you can arrange a guided off-road tour. Whether you're into hard-core downhill single track or easy-going scenic outings, the expert guides will provide you with the necessary gear, food, and transportation. The shop has a second outpost at 10200 Donner Pass Rd. (tel. 530/582-1890) in Truckee.
If you have an appetite for the great outdoors, here are a few of the many good campgrounds at Tahoe:
D. L. Bliss State Park, on the western shore (tel. 530/525-7277), has 168 campsites, fine beaches, and hiking trails.
Sugar Pine Point State Park, open year-round on the western shore (tel. 530/525-7982), has 175 campsites, a picnic area, beach, nature center, and cross-country skiing.
Campground by the Lake, 1150 Rufus Allen Blvd., South Lake Tahoe (tel. 530/542-6096), features 170 campsites, a boat ramp, a gym, and a history museum.
Zephyr Cove RV Park and Campground, at Zephyr Cove Resort on U.S. 50 (tel. 775/589-4907; www.zephyrcove.com), has a beach, a marina, and complete facilities.
The cold, clear waters of Lake Tahoe are home to massive kokanee salmon and rainbow, brown, and Mackinaw trout. Fishing here is a challenge in the deep water, so most anglers opt to use a guide or charter boat. Dozens of charter companies offer daily excursions. Rates run about $65 for a half-day to $95 for a whole day (bait, tackle, fish cleaning, and food included). On the North Shore, try Mickey's Big Mack Charters at the Sierra Boat Company in Carnelian Bay (tel. 800/877-1462 or 530/546-4444; www.mickeysbigmack.com). On the South Shore, try Blue Ribbon Fishing Charters, Tahoe Keys Marina (tel. 530/544-6552; www.blueribbonfishing.com), or Tahoe Sportfishing, 900 Ski Run Blvd. (tel. 800/696-7797 or 530/541-5448; www.tahoesportfishing.com). If you'd rather try your hand at fly-fishing, the Northstar-at-Tahoe resort (tel. 530/582-5393; www.northstarattahoe.com) has a private 10-acre reservoir stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout, reserved for catch-and-release fly-fishing only. Equipment is available for guests at no extra cost, and there's a guide on-site daily to provide helpful hints.
The Incline Recreation Center, 980 Incline Way, Incline Village (tel. 775/832-1310; www.inclinerecreation.com), is impressive, with a heated indoor Olympic-size swimming pool, aerobics, basketball, cardiovascular fitness room, lounge, fireplace, and on-site child-care. It's $15 for adults and $9 for children.
With its world-class golf courses, mild summer weather, and magnificent scenery, Lake Tahoe is a golfer's paradise. All of the following courses are very busy in the summer, so call far in advance for tee times. For more information about Tahoe-area golf courses, log on to www.tahoesbest.com/Golf.
The north end of the lake has six highly rated courses: Incline Village Championship Course, 955 Fairway Blvd., and the smaller Incline Village Mountain (Executive) Course, 690 Wilson Way (tel. 866/925-GOLF  for both; www.golfincline.com); Old Greenwood and Coyote Moon at the new Ritz-Carlton Highlands (tel. 530/562-3000); Northstar-at-Tahoe (tel. 530/562-3290); and the Resort at Squaw Creek (tel. 800/327-3353).
In the south, Edgewood, U.S. 50 at Lake Parkway, Stateline (tel. 775/588-3566; www.edgewood-tahoe.com), is home of the Celebrity Golf Championship; Lake Tahoe Golf Course, 2500 Emerald Bay Rd., South Lake Tahoe (tel. 530/577-0788; www.laketahoegc.com), also has some good 9-hole municipal courses. There's also Old Brockway Golf Course, 7900 N. Lake Blvd., Kings Beach (tel. 530/546-9909; www.oldbrockway.com); Tahoe City Golf Course, 251 N. Lake Blvd., Tahoe City (tel. 530/583-1516); and Bijou Municipal Golf Course, 3464 Fairway Ave., South Lake Tahoe (tel. 530/542-6097).
Most stables offer a variety of guided trail rides and lessons for individuals, families, and groups. Choose the one that appeals to your sense of adventure: 1- to 2-hour trail rides; breakfast, lunch, or dinner rides; or half-day, full-day, overnight, and extended pack trips. Expect to pay $25 to $35 for a 1-hour ride, $6 for a half-hour pony ride. Saddle up and savor the scenery. Try Alpine Meadows Stables, 355 Alpine Meadows Rd., Tahoe City (tel. 530/583-3905); Squaw Valley Stables, 1525 Squaw Valley Rd., north of Tahoe City (tel. 530/583-7433); Camp Richardson Corral, Hwy. 89, South Lake Tahoe (tel. 530/541-3113); or Zephyr Cove Stables, Zephyr Cove Resort, U.S. 50 at Zephyr Cove (tel. 775/588-5664; www.zephyrcove.com).
Accessible only by a tram ride up the mountain, Squaw Valley's High Camp (tel. 530/583-6985) has an ice rink that's open year-round, with one of the world's most beautiful views for a skating rink. On the North Shore, there are also ice rinks at the Northstar-at-Tahoe resort (tel. 530/562-0321), and the Resort at Squaw Creek (tel. 800/327-3353). South Lake Tahoe has two rinks: the South Tahoe Ice Arena (1176 Rufus Allen Blvd.; tel. 530/542-6262), open year-round, and the Heavenly Village Ice Rink, at Heavenly Village on Hwy. 50 (tel. 530/543-4230; www.theshopsatheavenlyvillage.com).
For a swift but gentle ride down the Truckee River (the lake's only outlet), try Truckee River Raft Rental, 185 River Rd., Tahoe City (tel. 530/583-0123; www.truckeeriverraft.com). It's available only in the summer, and the rates are $35 for adults and $30 for children 6 to 12 (kids 5 and under are free). If you prefer a more exciting whitewater experience, Tributary Whitewater Tours (tel. 800/672-3846; www.whitewatertours.com) offers daily excursions (in season) down the Truckee River amid Class 2 to 3-plus rapids. It's the perfect trip for neophyte rafters and families -- exciting but not dangerously so. For a half-day trip, rates range from $68 to $98 for adults and $60 to $70 for kids 7 and older.
The mild summer weather at Lake Tahoe is perfect for great tennis. If you want to sharpen your skills, Northstar-at-Tahoe (tel. 530/562-0321) offers several excellent tennis packages for its guests only. Squaw Creek (tel. 530/581-6694) tennis courts are open to the public for $14 an hour. Kirkwood (tel. 209/258-6000), MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa (tel. 775/588-3515), and Harveys Casino & Resort (tel. 775/588-2411) all feature tennis courts for a fee.
Budget-minded players should visit Tahoe Lake School on Grove Street in Tahoe City, or Tahoe Regional Park, at the end of National Avenue in Tahoe Vista. South Tahoe Intermediate School on Lyons Avenue has eight lighted courts and charges $3 per hour. South Tahoe High School, 1735 Lake Tahoe Blvd., has free courts.