15 Fun Dog-Friendly Things to Do in South Lake Tahoe, California

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dog is feeling joyful in south lake tahoe ca

In northern California on the Nevada-California border, South Lake Tahoe is a famous tourist town where folks go in the summer for water activities and in the winter for skiing. In fact, people come from all over the world to visit the famous ski resorts there. Although the population is only about 21,000 people, there are often hundreds of thousands of people there during the winter months. And if there is no snow, they make their own. 

Another thing people visit South Lake Tahoe for is casino gambling. They are all right across the border in Nevada, which is less than three miles from downtown South Lake Tahoe. As a matter of fact, you can get to the casino faster than you can get to the ski resorts. Because your fur baby is not allowed on the slopes or the casino floors, you will have to find some other pooch popular fun in town. Here are 15 of our best ideas.

Love the Luxury: Beach Retreat & Rooms

At Beach Retreat & Rooms in South Lake Tahoe, your pup is welcome to join you. Doggie bag stations and receptacles are located throughout the hotel for your convenience. If you get hungry, head to the Sidelines Sports Pub, where they have special menus for dogs. There is a fee of $50 per day per dog in the room, and the limit is two dogs per room. Your pooch must be on a leash at all times and should never be unattended outside your room. 

From May to October, the beach out front is public, and pups have to be on a leash under six feet. From October to May, he still has to be leashed, but it is private only to hotel guests. Your cuddly buddy must have all of his shots and a license as well as a rabies tag. As always, remember to pack extra doggie bags and pick up after your pup. 

For a comprehensive overview of dog-friendly beaches in the area, be sure to visit our dog-friendly South Lake Tahoe beaches guide for Dog Owners. This resource is packed with valuable information, helping you and your four-legged friend make the most of your beachside experience in South Lake Tahoe.

Spend the Night: Tahoe Campgrounds

Instead of staying in a hotel or resort, why not enjoy the Northern California weather while staying at a campground or RV park? Tahoe Valley Campground in South Lake Tahoe is open all year and has 439 sites that are dog-friendly. Some of them have full hookups, while others just have water and electricity. They also have quite a few tent sites in the woods. All of them have barbecue grills and tables. You will also find a pool, playground, fishing, and picnic areas, as well as a store, showers, and a dog park! 

Another fantastic place to stay with your pooch is Fallen Leaf Campground. It is just four miles from the lake in the forest along Echo Creek. There are only 204 sites here though so it is best to book your spot way in advance. Each one has a bear-proof storage locker, pedestal grill, picnic table, and a campfire ring. They also have coin-operated showers, restrooms, and water. 

Get a Lift: Northstar

There are several dog-friendly aerial lifts in South Lake Tahoe where you and your fur baby can get some of the most stunning views of the lake. At Northstar, your cuddle buddy is welcome as long as he is on a short leash less than six feet long. The gondolas are completely enclosed, so they are safe for dogs and children. The unenclosed lifts do not allow dogs. This is great during the off-season when you want to hike the trails. Northstar drops you off at the Tahoe Rim Trail. 

Heavenly Valley also has an enclosed tram that allows dogs, but only during the off-season. During the ski season, only service dogs are allowed. During the summer, this is a great way to get up there on the mountain to hike the trails. The Powerline Trail and High Meadow Trails are both nearby, as are many other unnamed trails you can explore with your leashed pup. 

Absorb Some History: Tallac Historic Site

If this is your first time to South Lake Tahoe or you have never taken the time to see the historic sites, you really should put Tallac Historic Site on your itinerary. It is just west of South Lake Tahoe by Kiva Beach and the picnic area. The site was considered to be the Grandest Resort in the World about 100 years ago and was a main retreat for the rich and famous. 

Today, the resort is still there, what is left of it, and there are several outbuildings and estate homes from the 1800s you can see. The main two homes, the Baldwin and the Pope Estates are huge tourist attractions. They were built between 1892 and 1920 and are on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open from May to November with a set of easy trails that take you all over the grounds. Just keep Fido leashed and bring doggie bags and water. 

Go for a Hike: Van Sickle Bi-State Park

Van Sickle Bi-State Park has over 574 acres of recreational space for you and your pooch to explore as well. Part of it is in California, while the other half is in Nevada. The main trails, the Barn Trail and Cal-Neva Loop, are both in California. You can take the Rim Trail Connector through Nevada about 2.5 miles to the Tahoe Rim Trail and beyond, as far as you want to go. 

The easiest trail is the Barn Trail to Cal Neva Loop. It is about three miles long and takes about 1.5 hours to complete, with an elevation gain of 525 feet. It is very popular, so you will likely see other folks along the way. The 6.5-mile Van Sickle Rim Trail Connector is a bit more challenging, with an elevation gain of 1,350 feet. It typically takes just over three hours, depending on your skill and how often you stop. 

Have a Bite: Heavenly Village

The popular Heavenly Village is a pup-friendly place to visit all year long, although it can be crowded during the ski season. Not only do they have a lot of shops you and your pooch can visit, but they also have several dog-friendly eating establishments. The most pup popular is Base Camp Pizza Compan, where you and your pooch can enjoy a slice on the patio. They also have pasta and beer. For the pups, they have water bowls and treats. 

Fire & Ice is another fun place to take your canine companion. You pick what you want in your bowl, and they will make it right in front of you, so you know you are getting the freshest food in town. Well-behaved dogs are welcome. California Burger loves fur babies so much they even have a doggie menu. They also have the best burgers, sandwiches, and 100 different kinds of whiskey.

See the Fishes: Clearly, Tahoe

Clearly, Tahoe is a unique kayak rental company with clear see-thru kayaks. Yep, you can see right through them. And with Lake Tahoe being so crystal clear, you can see all the way to the bottom in many spots. Take the guided tour for the best views. The Scenic Shoreline Tour is about four hours of fun with a moderate level of difficulty. You and your pooch will explore several stunning coves with fools, gold rock formations, and cliffs. 

You can view up to 75 feet beneath the surface, where there are all sorts of fish and other marine creatures to see. It starts with a free shuttle to the site, a brief instruction tour, and a cooler full of water and granola bars. They supply life jackets for humans, but you will need a life jacket for your fur baby. Please bring doggie bags and arrive 15 minutes prior to launch time.

Stand Up and Paddle: South Tahoe SUP

Instead of sitting, why not stand up and paddle? You can rent a stand-up paddle board (SUP) from South Tahoe Standup Paddle that both you and your doggo will love. The shop owners have lived in South Lake Tahoe their entire lives and will give you some recommendations on where you and your fur baby can go during your SUP trip. They load everything up for you and even supply the life jackets. 

The closest beaches are Pope and Baldwin, but dogs are not allowed there, so stick to El Dorado, Tallac, Regan, and Kiva. The rates are incredibly low at only $15 per hour, or you can keep it all day for $50. You can also rent a kayak if you would rather stay seated. They even have a dry bag to keep your towels, phone, and keys from getting wet! Just make sure you have a doggie life vest and a leash that is safe for this kind of activity. You can get a SUP leash that attaches to your ankle for safety. 

Let Someone Else Paddle: Venetian Gondola Rides

Feel like you are in Venice, Italy, on a Venetian gondola ride. If you have always wanted to visit
Venice for one of these unique rides, but do not have the time or money, you can do it in South Lake Tahoe. One of several gondoliers will take you around the lake for a whole hour, and your leashed fur baby is welcome to join you. Bring along a bottle of wine or champagne, and the gondolier will open it for you. But do not forget to bring some water for Fido.

You can also bring some cheese and bread for a true Venetian experience. You and your pup will cruise through the Tahoe Keys Marina right up against the 6,000-foot Sierra Mountains, where you can see Mount Tallac. The gondolier will give you a running commentary on the city and the history of the gondola. Be sure to bring some doggie bags, just in case.

Hit the Beach: South Tahoe Beaches

There are several beaches in South Lake Tahoe that are dog-friendly. Kiva Beach is the most pup popular. El Dorado Beach is another great spot, as is the Tallac Shoreline Beach and North Zephyr Cove Beach. In fact, within about five miles of South Lake Tahoe downtown, you and your pooch can find lots of waterfront space that is dog-friendly, but he will have to stay on a leash for most of them. 

The exception is Regan Beach, where your canine companion can play off the leash in the water or on the sand. They have a doggie water park at the eastern end of the beach where you can both swim, build a sandcastle, have a picnic, or just soak up the sun. It is a fun place to spend the day. There are Mutt Mitt dispensers, but you should still bring your own. It is open from April through September, from sunrise to sunset.

Hit the Slopes: Heavenly Mountain Resort

During the winter months, skiing becomes the thing to do. Many people come from all over the world to visit some of the local ski resorts. While many of them do not allow dogs, some of them let your pup come along as long as he is on a leash. Heavenly Mountain Resort is open from November through February. Located high up in the Sierra Mountains, not only do you get some of the most awesome ski trails, but you also get the most amazing views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area. 

One of the pup-friendly lodges at the resort is the Station House Inn on Park Avenue. Tucked into the pinewood forests, you will be just a few blocks from the gondola and Heavenly Village. It is also just a few blocks from the casinos and two blocks from the lake. You are allowed to have two dogs with you per room with a $75 per night fee. 

Go Fishing: Tahoe Sport Fishing

If you want to go fishing but do not have a boat or even a fishing pole, Tahoe Sport Fishing has experienced captains who know exactly where to go, and they supply everything you need. Your cuddly buddy is welcome as long as he is friendly and he stays on a leash. Just let them know when you reserve your spot. They will take you jigging, drifting, trolling, or just show you where to toss in a line.

You will spend about four hours on Lake Tahoe catching salmon, three different kinds of trout, and whatever else you may happen to hook. They supply the poles, bait, tackle, water, coffee, and expertise. You can bring your own food and drink as well. You could also rent a private fishing charter that provides everything, including fish cleaning and sightseeing. It can be cold in the mornings and warm in the afternoons, so dress in layers.

Let Him Play Off the Leash: South Tahoe Dog Parks

Wherever you go in South Lake Tahoe, you are not far from a dog park where fur pups are welcome to run and play without a leash. The closest off-leash pup play space is at Bijou Community Park, about a mile from downtown South Lake Tahoe. Bijou Dog Park on Al Tahoe Lane has almost a full acre of fenced fun space with plenty of grass, shade, benches, waste stations, and water fountains. 

Across the border into Nevada, you can also find some great dog parks, including the Fuji Dog Park in Carson City. It is separated for large and small dogs (under 30 pounds), has a water spigot for filling dog bowls, and lots of shade with seating for pup parents. They even have some tunnels for the pooches to run through. K9 Korral in Gardnerville, Nevada, is another awesome pup park with loads of space across from the Walmart Supercenter. 

Treat Your Dog to a Spa Day: Pawfection Pet Salon

Taking your pooch out to play in the water and on the trails can get them dirty. There is just so much rolling around in the dirt your cuddle buddy can do before he needs a bath. Why not take him to get a whole new hairdo? At Pawfection, your fluff pup can get a bath, just a toenail trim, or a full spa experience with a shampoo, style, and nail trim. Even if you have both been indoors, we know dogs need baths, so why not let someone else do it?

Pawfection Pet Salon has been in business for longer than a decade and has been voted the Best Pet Grooming Salon by Tahoe Daily Tribune readers several years in a row. The groomers are pet lovers who really care about your dog almost as much as you do so you know they will give him the finest treatment and a gorgeous look. 

Have a Brew or Two: Cold Water Brewery and Grill

Right up the street from Pawfection, the dog-friendly Cold Water Brewery and Grill in Swiss Chalet Village has an outdoor patio for pup parents and their pups. You can try some of the Cold Water craft beer or other adult beverages like the Wild Mountain Mule, Tipsy Ricky, and a Key Lime Pie martini. They also have four different kinds of margaritas, a variety of ales, and classic drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.

You cannot get beer fresher than the all-grain brews made on-site here, and they go great with their menu items. Sandwiches and burgers are sold with fries on the side/ The rock shrimp tacos, fish and chips, and mahi mahi tacos are some of the local faves, as well as the lemon ricotta fettuccine and mini naan falafel. They also have wild rice bowls with sesame seeds, cashews, edamame, and mushrooms, or you can have a half rack of ribs.

The Final Woof

From the finest resorts with spas and luxurious rooms to the brew up the street, there is a lot to do with your dog in South Lake Tahoe. You can hit the beaches and let your pup swim, take a hike on one of the many trails, or go fishing on a charter boat. You can even rent a see-through boat where you can see the fishes underneath you! Or let a gondolier take you around the lake in a Venetian boat. There are also lots of off-leash dog parks where your fur puppy can play unleashed with other poochies. Then, take him to get his hair done before going out to eat at one of the local dog-friendly eateries or pubs.

For more detailed information on dog-friendly activities, weather, hotels, places to visit, and tips for enjoying South Lake Tahoe with your dog, make sure to check out our dog-friendly South Lake Tahoe tour guide. This guide is an invaluable resource for making your trip with your canine companion as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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