Lake Tahoe – the largest alpine lake in the US

Stef Zisovska
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe - Author: Michael - CC BY 2.0
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe - Author: Michael - CC BY 2.0

Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake spread between California and Nevada. It’s one of the favorites lakes to visit, not only in the States but also in the world. Some people call it the beach in the mountains because of the variety of activities it offers throughout the year. In winter, the winter sports lovers are the most frequent visitors of the Lake Tahoe area, while in the summertime, there are plenty of water activities that you can do here.

The depth of the lake is 1,645 ft. which makes it very attractive for sailing enthusiasts. There are many interesting facts about the largest lake in the country that you may have forgot or have never heard.


Ski slopes overlooking Lake Tahoe
Ski slopes overlooking Lake Tahoe

For all of you that are interested in learning more about the country’s natural beauty, here are some amazing facts that you should know.

  • Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States, after Crater Lake in Oregon and the tenth deepest in the world. The maximum depth is 1,645 ft., and the average is around 1000 ft.
  • Lake Tahoe is the highest lake of its size in the US.
  • Two-thirds of the lake’s surface lies in California and one-third in Nevada.
  • Lake Tahoe’s water is 99.994% pure. This fact makes it one of the purest large lakes on the planet. To understand how pure it is you should know that the purity of the commercially distilled water is 99.998%. Sounds great, right?
  • If you think you’ll freeze in winter around Lake Tahoe, you’re wrong. There are 274 sunny days on average, which makes it pretty much warm and pleasant most of the year.
  • Each day, 330 million gallons of water evaporates from the lake. If you translate that into a water supply for a city, it means that Los Angeles would have enough water for five years.
  • If Willis Tower, the tallest tower in North America was dropped into the lake, it would be submerged by 195 ft.
  • The whole lake contains 39 trillion gallons of water, which is enough to cover California to a depth of 15 inches.
  • Lake Tahoe’s age is over 2 million years. It’s on the list of the world’s 20 oldest lakes.
  • The original name of the lake was Da ow a ga which means the edge of the lake in the language of the Native American Washoe tribe. The newcomers misspelled the name and it eventually became Tahoe.
  • The shoreline of Lake Tahoe is 72 miles.
  • There are 63 tributaries feeding Lake Tahoe and only one outlet at the Truckee River in Tahoe City.
  • Lake Tahoe’s water temperature at the surface changes between 41 to 68 degrees F, while below the surface at a depth of 600 to 700 ft., the temperature of the water is always a constant 39 degrees F.
  • The number of people that visit Lake Tahoe each year is around 3 million.
Showing the north shore of the lake from the east – Author: Lara Farhadi – CC-BY 2.0
Showing the north shore of the lake from the east – Author: Lara Farhadi – CC-BY 2.0


Lake Tahoe is a popular boating destination during the summer and the fall. The most prestigious wooden boat shows, like Lake Tahoe Concours D’Elegance, are very popular in the area. There are also sailboat races, paddling activities, and scuba diving. You can choose whatever water sport you like and have fun with your friends.

Hiking and bicycling

View of Lake Tahoe looking north from Tahoe Rim Trail – Author: AT2663~commonswiki – CC BY-SA 3.0
View of Lake Tahoe looking north from Tahoe Rim Trail – Author: AT2663~commonswiki – CC BY-SA 3.0

If you are not a water person and prefer to stay dry, there are many hiking and mountain biking trails around the lake that you can visit. Tahoe Rim Trail is one of the most visited and its 165 miles long. You can choose to do just a section of it or dedicate a week or two to explore the area around the lake. West of the lake you can visit Granite Chief Wilderness, a wilderness area in Tahoe National Forest, where you can hike and camp. As for the bikers, the Flume Trail on the east shore is the best choice if you prefer to see the area from a two-wheeled perspective. Good luck!

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stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival