Lake Tahoe in January is Absolutely Magical

Last Updated on April 22, 2024 by foxintheforest

Winter is a wonderful time to visit Lake Tahoe, with incredible skiing and snow-capped mountains making the always-incredible views extra stunning.

You’ll find so much to do, see, and explore in Lake Tahoe in January that you might not want to leave!

If you’re looking for local advice for Tahoe in January, I’ve got you covered. I’ve spent the last 22 years visiting Lake Tahoe every winter. Yup, you read that correctly, 22 years.

My family moved here 22 years ago, so I’m in the Lake Tahoe Basin multiple times a year, every year, and I can help you visit Tahoe in January like a local, not a tourist.

About this Local Guide to Lake Tahoe in January

Inside this expert guide to visiting Lake Tahoe in January, you’ll find locally tailored advice about:

  • Why you should visit Lake Tahoe in January
  • Snow conditions
  • Why it’s worth going to Lake Tahoe in winter
  • The best things to do
  • Additional Lake Tahoe travel resources

Why You Should Visit Lake Tahoe in January

Are you wondering if Lake Tahoe is nice to visit in January? Well, I would say that visiting Lake Tahoe in January is simply awesome!

From skiing to snowshoeing to sledding, the list of fun winter activities in Tahoe is long.

And if you want to cozy up inside, you can take in a show at one of the casinos, have a relaxing spa day, or check out the Tahoe Adventure Film Festival.

Local Tip: Unlike the busy holiday season, Lake Tahoe is little more laid back in mid to late January. Same goes for Lake Tahoe in February. It’s still expensive, but it’s not as crowded as it is during the holiday rush. The snow may also be better too!

Is There Snow in Lake Tahoe in January?

The short answer is yes, you should definitely expect lots of Lake Tahoe snow in January. In fact, January is typically the snowiest month in Lake Tahoe! The average Lake Tahoe snowfall in January is 68 inches.

Lake Tahoe weather in January averages high temps in the mid-40s (°F) with lows in the mid-20s. It’s a winter wonderland, so bring your cozy clothing to stay warm when winter hiking and exploring.

Local Tip: Over the past 22 years I’ve seen the snow totals fluctuate quite a bit – sometimes January can be a bare-bones month for snow or it can dump feet!

Keep an eye on overall weather trends if your main mission is snow-driven.

Is It Worth Going to Lake Tahoe in Winter?

Honestly, I think winter is one of the best times to visit Lake Tahoe! Lake Tahoe in winter is especially gorgeous with snow-capped peaks surrounding the aquamarine lake, and many of the Lake Tahoe hikes feel extra special in the snow.

You can also warm up inside the many mountain lodges and cabins after your brisk outdoor adventures, and it feels almost like you’re in a winter fairytale.

However, if you don’t enjoy the cold weather and skiing sounds boring, then I would skip Lake Tahoe in the winter. It’s extremely beautiful, but most activities involve snow and you certainly won’t want to swim!

Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in January

You definitely won’t run out of things to do when you’re visiting Lake Tahoe in January. In fact, if you’re only planning a weekend in Lake Tahoe, you might want to extend your trip!

Hit the Slopes

Lake Tahoe in January is an absolute mecca for skiers and snowboarders. Here are some of the best Lake Tahoe ski resorts, including options in both South and North Lake Tahoe:

  • Heavenly Mountain Resort: Featuring 4,800 skiable acres, Heavenly has 97 runs and one terrain park. Heavenly is located in South Lake Tahoe, and you can actually ski across the California/Nevada state line here. Lift tickets start at $139.
  • Kirkwood Mountain Resort: This resort in South Lake Tahoe gets more annual snowfall than any other Tahoe resort. It attracts advanced skiers with its 86 runs and access to backcountry terrain on Kirkwood Peaks. Lift tickets start at $109.
  • Northstar California: Located in North Lake Tahoe near Truckee, Northstar is a fun, family-friendly resort with a great village scene. Along with 100 runs, Northstar also has 8 terrain parks. Lift tickets start at $175.
  • Palisades Tahoe: Enjoy 270 trails on 6,000 acres of skiable terrain at Palisades Tahoe in North Lake Tahoe. You’ll find something for all levels here, from advanced runs to a mountain-top beginner area. Lift tickets start at $179.
  • Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe: This hidden gem in North Lake Tahoe features extreme terrain on the Chutes, plenty of intermediate blue runs, and beginner options, too. Lift tickets start at $129.

Snowshoe the Trails

If you’re looking for things to do in Tahoe besides ski, snowshoeing is the perfect way to explore Lake Tahoe.

Some of my favorite winter hikes in Lake Tahoe, including Donner Peak, are just so gorgeous under a layer of snow.

And check out the snowshoe trails at Sugar Pine Point State Park, located on the west side of the lake.

Local Tip: Be sure to check recent avalanche conditions before you head out. After a winter storm, the snowpack can be unstable and dangerous.

A person in a blue jacket and white hat looking out at a stunning view of Lake Tahoe with clear skies and snow on the ground in January in Lake Tahoe.

Explore Emerald Bay

For some of the very best Lake Tahoe views, head to Emerald Bay State Park on the west shore.

You can snowshoe here or bring your microspikes to enjoy the jaw-dropping Sierra Nevada scene of the turquoise lake with a backdrop of snowy peaks and pine trees.

Local Tip: Emerald Bay does close if there has been bad weather, so always be sure to check local road conditions before heading out (ask me how I know, haha).

Lace Up Your Ice Skates

Glide around the rink in an alpine atmosphere when you go ice skating in Tahoe in January.

Heavenly Village has a charming rink right in the center of the village, and the rink at Northstar has fire pits where you can hang out and watch the skaters when you take a break.

Local Tip: The skating rink at Heavenly gets extremely crowded throughout the day – we had to wait over an hour to skate once!

So if you’re looking to ice skate, try to get there early or visit during the week.

Sled Down the Hills

Sledding and tubing in Lake Tahoe is an absolute blast for anyone, kids and adults alike!

Many of the Tahoe ski resorts have snow tubing hills, including Blizzard Mountain at Sierra at Tahoe and Adventure Peak at Heavenly.

Granlibakken even showcases night sledding on Saturdays with lights and music.

For free sledding, check out the sledding hill along Mount Rose Highway (Tahoe Meadows Trailhead).

Spending an afternoon sliding down this hill is one of the most classic Incline Village activities in the winter.

Local Tip: Parking near the Mt Rose sledding area has gotten a bit more challenging over the years. We regularly drive this road, since it’s near my house, and it gets ungodly busy on a weekend!

Cops do patrol the area, so be sure that you’re following all signs and park where it’s allowed.

Go Cross-Country Skiing

If you prefer to keep your feet on flat ground, you can skip the slopes and cross-country ski in Lake Tahoe.

In South Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood Cross County Center features 50 miles of groomed tracks and skate skiing lines.

And in North Lake Tahoe, you’ll find Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort which, at 6,000 acres, is the biggest cross-country ski area in North America with 92 trails.

Local Tip: I attended a cross-country ski class for beginners at the Tahoe XC on the North Shore while pregnant.

It was a BLAST! The trails were stunning and the instructors were great. You even got a free pass for the day to enjoy the nearby trails.

Attend The Tahoe Adventure Film Festival

Each January, Lake Tahoe hosts the Tahoe Adventure Film Festival, which is not your typical film festival!

It brings the essence of adventure to the screen with a fast-paced program featuring short segments of selected films, along with guest speakers, DJs, and more.

The film festival takes place at Bally’s Lake Tahoe.

Dine with a Lakeside View

While you might not be sitting out on the patio in Lake Tahoe in January, there are plenty of restaurants with beautiful lake views even in the winter.

  • Edgewood Tahoe: This is absolutely the place to be for lakeside dining! The splurge is worth it for an incredible meal in this upscale lodge with floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the scenery of South Lake Tahoe.
  • Gar Woods: On the North Shore, Gar Woods offers a nostalgic old Tahoe atmosphere with stunning views out over Camelian Bay.

Sample the Local Brews

Lake Tahoe has a plethora of local breweries where you can raise a glass for your adventures! Sidellis is the perfect après stop after a day at Heavenly with its cozy interior and great food.

South of North Brewing features firepits and a variety of fun beers, while you can visit South Lake Brewing Company at either the brewery or libation lodge in South Lake Tahoe.

Up the Ante at a Casino

Lake Tahoe has lots of casinos where you can spend some time inside trying your luck at your gamble of choice.

In North Lake Tahoe, you can soak up the vintage vibes while playing the slots at the historic Tahoe Biltmore, or you can find a more modern atmosphere at Harrah’s in South Lake Tahoe.

Relax at a Spa

Enjoy some serious relaxation and melt away any lingering stress to start the new year at a Lake Tahoe spa.

One of the best things to do in South Lake Tahoe is visit Blue Water Day Spa for a rejuvenating massage, facial, or full body wrap.

In North Lake Tahoe, make an appointment at SAGE, which features facial treatments using local plants along with massages and energy healing.

Shop ‘til You Drop

Lake Tahoe features lots of local shops, with gear, gifts, and more. Heavenly Village is the heart of shopping in Lake Tahoe, and the Crossing at Tahoe Valley is another must-stop for shopping.

Just be sure to compare South Lake Tahoe versus North Lake Tahoe so that you know where you want to be.

Have Fun at an Arcade

Both Harrah’s and Harveys have arcades where the whole family can play games and compete at Skee-Ball or air hockey. These arcades are a fun indoor escape on a cold January day.

Practice Your Putting at Mini Golf

For a full-on indoor adventure, head to Flatstick Pub which has an actual mini golf course inside! You can also try your hand at cornhole and chow down on casual Mexican fare while sipping craft beer here.

Additional Lake Tahoe Travel Resources

Travel like a local, not a tourist with these locally curated guides to Lake Tahoe:

Picture of Meg Atteberry
Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.