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10 Things To Know About Visiting Lake Tahoe In November

10 Things To Know About Visiting Lake Tahoe In November

If you visit Lake Tahoe in November you can expect mixed weather, empty hiking trails, lower hotel prices and ski lifts beginning operation ready for the winter season. Lounging on golden sandy beaches and swimming in crystal clear waters are out of the question, but you’ll be able hike and explore the area in almost total solitude.

In this guide we walk you through 10 things you need to know about visiting Lake Tahoe in November based on our experiences.

Our Lake Tahoe Experience

Photographer with blue pants and maroon sweater sat on a wall with camera in hand, and a lake with trees and thick clouds behind
Kristen enjoying the view over Emerald Bay

We spent 5 nights at various hotels around North and South Lake Tahoe in November 2021, and we think the late fall is a fantastic time to visit. Not only did we have hiking trails and popular photo spots to ourselves, but it also meant we could take advantage of cheaper hotel rooms. In the summer months you can’t get parked, trails are overcrowded and hotel prices are sky high.

Sure, it was far too cold for us to sunbathe or paddle-board but we’re hikers and photographers, so the lack of crowds was far more important for our trip. We were lucky to have clear and warm days, but the mornings and evenings certainly came in cold! Overall, we highly recommend a November visit if you’re more interested in exploring Lake Tahoe without the crowds and inflated prices. Read more about us.

1. Crowds

Empty beach with boulders and clouds in Lake Tahoe during november
Chimney Beach completely empty

November is one of the quietest months of the year for tourism at Lake Tahoe, which makes it the perfect time to visit if avoiding crowds is your top priority. Most tourists flock to the lake between May and September for the summer season (which has a real problem with overcrowding) or between December and March for the ski season.

Our Experience: We never had any issues getting parked at trailheads, taking photos at popular sunrise and sunset spots, or finding last minute hotel rooms. Visiting in November allowed us to have a flexible itinerary.

Annual Visitors

Around 15 million people visit Lake Tahoe each year, which is an enormous volume of tourists for such a small area. It’s unquestionably one of the most popular year round vacation spots in the US.

Consider for a moment that Yellowstone and Zion each receive around 4 million visitors annually. It’s a huge difference! And what you have to remember is that all the touristy things to do hug the shores of the lake tightly, so there’s not much room for all those people.

What Does It Mean For You?

Well, it means visiting Lake Tahoe in November is about as good as it gets for avoiding crowds. You’ll be able to park at trailheads, hikes won’t be packed full and you’ll have more flexibility over your hotel choices.

So you might not be able to swim in the lake, but at least you’ll be able to get parked so you can walk down to the beach! April is another great shoulder month for avoiding the crowds, but you won’t benefit from the warm Christmas buzz beginning to grow.

2. Weather

Four deck chairs on a north lake tahoe beach in late afternoon
Tourists we saw sat on deck chairs on a North Lake Tahoe beach in late afternoon

Lake Tahoe’s weather is mixed and changeable in November. You’re certain to have cold mornings and evenings, but during the day you can benefit from pleasantly warm temperatures, especially early in the month. The chance of rain, snow and cloud coverage increases throughout November.

Our experience: We were lucky to have perfect hiking conditions during the daytimes, but we were wrapped up in winter coats at freezing cold sunrise and sunset photo shoots. For us, cooler conditions are part of the trade off against fewer crowds and cheaper prices.

Temperatures

Here are the high, low and average Lake Tahoe November temperatures:

November 1st:

  • High Temperature – 56°F (13°C)
  • Average Temperature – 41°F (5°C)
  • Low Temperature – 27°F (-3°C)

November 30th:

  • High Temperature – 45°F (7°C)
  • Average Temperature – 34°F (1°C)
  • Low Temperature – 23°F (-5°C)

Source: Weather Spark

Daytime highs drop by 11°F and nightly lows drop by 4°F between the beginning and end of November, which represents a significant difference in comfortability.

But we think mid-50’s or even mid-40’s during the day are great for hitting the trails. It’s just those chilly lows you’ll have to contend with early and late that’ll be less appealing.

Can You Expect Snow?

Yes, there’s a good chance you’ll see snow if you visit Lake Tahoe in November, especially towards the end of the month. As the fall season transitions into winter in the High Sierras, the chance of snowfall rapidly increases from an average of 3 inches on November 1st to an average of 8.3 inches on November 30th.

You stand a good chance of photographing Lake Tahoe covered in snow or hitting the ski slopes if you visit at the end of November. It didn’t snow once during our trip, but we tracked the weather and saw a huge dumping of snow hit the area 2 days after we left.

3. Roads

Elevated photo spot overlooking a road running alongside a lake at sunset with clouds in the sky
Roads are safe to drive and there’s barely any traffic

Yes, the roads around Lake Tahoe are perfectly safe to drive around if you visit in November. The only exceptions are if you get caught in heavy snow or a cold front passes through and water on the road turns icy as temperatures plummet. But if the weather stays fine, you won’t have to make any compromises or accommodations.

Our experience: We were able to access every single attraction, trailhead and restaurant on the loop road around the lake and all other roads leading away. But in truth, we didn’t have to deal with any snow, ice or even rainfall. You’d be unlucky to have any issues on the roads at this time of year.

Road Closures

One of the most important things to remember if you do visit Lake Tahoe in November is to stay on top of checking current conditions of highways in the area. You can see live road closures, traffic buildups and even live webcams showing various roads in the area.

You should be fine in November and especially in the first half of the month. But you might have to adapt your plans to be safe if you get caught in heavy snowfall.

4. Restaurants

Exterior photo of Base Camp Pizza co in South Lake Tahoe in the afternoon sun
Base Camp Pizza is one of the most popular places to eat in South Lake Tahoe

You’ll be happy to hear that all restaurants are open as usual around Lake Tahoe throughout November. In fact, not only are they open, but they also won’t be constantly full or booked up, so you won’t have to make reservations weeks in advance like you might have to in summer.

Our experience: We had no problems walking straight into any restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner on all sides of the lake. And we ate at a wide range of places from food trucks through fine dining, so you can rest assured food won’t be an issue for your trip.

Restaurant Recommendations

Lake Tahoe is overflowing with excellent restaurants, cafes, lunch spots and snack bars. We tried to eat a diverse selection of food on both the north and south shores, so we could recommend a bunch of great places for you to try.

South Lake Tahoe:

North Lake Tahoe:

Tahoe City:

5. Hotels

Tourist sat on a beach waiting for sunrise with mountains in the background
Kristen waiting for sunrise on a beach in South Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe’s hotels are typically more expensive than average US hotel prices because it’s a high end tourist destination. But the lack of crowds in November provides you with a unique opportunity to take advantage of low occupancy rates and much cheaper prices compared to the summer months.

Our experience: We spent 2 nights in South Lake Tahoe, 1 night in North Lake Tahoe, 1 night in Tahoe City and then a final night in South Lake Tahoe for a total of 4 different hotels. We’ve been traveling the world for 6 years and we run a hotels blog, so we know more than most about hotel prices, and we found booking hotels easier than expected because there were so many rooms available at competitive prices.

Hotel Recommendations

South Lake Tahoe:

Further Reading: The 12 best hotels in South Lake Tahoe

North Lake Tahoe:

Further Reading: The 10 best hotels in North Lake Tahoe

Tahoe City:

Further Reading: The 5 best hotels in Tahoe City

6. Things To Do

Heavenly Gondola in operation on a sunny day
Heavenly Gondola on a sunny day not long before opening for the ski season

Visiting Lake Tahoe in November allows you to do almost everything you’d do in summer, but without the crowds. Top things to do in November include hiking, photography and driving the lakeside road. Plus, you might even be able to ski at the end of the month if you get snow. There’s also a cheerful festive Christmas spirit in the air and the ice rink at Heavenly Resort is open for the kids.

You’re not going to be able to swim in the lake or sunbathe on beaches like you would be able to in summer. The weather in November really isn’t suitable for the beach and the water is freezing cold. But other than the typical sun, beach and swimming side of things, you can still do everything else and more because of the transitioning seasons.

Our experience: For us, the beauty of visiting Lake Tahoe in November is being able to do the most popular activities without the overwhelming crowds. This huge benefit is not something we took lightly, especially after talking to people who also regularly visit in summer!

Top Activities

Here’s what you can’t miss at Lake Tahoe in November:

  • Sunrise and sunset photography
  • Hike fun trails to overlooks with awesome views
  • Ride the Heavenly Gondola later in the month
  • Drive around the lake
  • Ski or snowboard if there’s snow on the slopes
  • Explore the famous Emerald Bay State Park
  • Eat and drink your way through the towns
  • Soak up the Christmas buzz

7. Hiking

Couple standing together at the summit of a hike in Lake Tahoe on a sunny but cool day
Here we are at the summit of Monkey Rock Trail

November is a fantastic time of year for hiking in Lake Tahoe because all the popular trails are open, crowd-free and have parking spaces available. Compare that to summer when you’ll seriously struggle to park and the trails are always full. As long as the weather stays fine for your late fall trip, you’ll be rewarded with huge hiking benefits.

Our experience: We had so much fun hiking excellent trails around Lake Tahoe during our trip. Daytime temperatures were idyllic for us to hike in light layers without overheating or being too cold. We took lots of thick layers on sunrise hikes and made sure we had backpacks to store them once it warmed up.

Top Hiking Trails

Here are the hikes you can’t miss at Lake Tahoe:

8. Photography

Sunrise photo in Emerald Bay State Park in Lake Tahoe with stunning colors in the sky
Spectacular sunrise at Emerald Bay State Park in Lake Tahoe during our November trip

Lake Tahoe is a truly magical place to photograph any time of year. In November you’ll have the enormous benefits of being able to easily park your car and have some of the most amazing photo spots to yourself. Plus, you’ll have later sunrises and earlier sunsets, so you can set your morning alarm later and be back for dinner at a reasonable hour.

Our experience: We knew Lake Tahoe was going to be incredibly photogenic but we were still blown away by just how impressive the landscape was at almost every turn. Our cameras took a real hammering and we brought home so many postcard-perfect photos. We’ll be printing at least one for our wall!

Best Photo Spots

Here are some of our favorite photography locations around Lake Tahoe:

  • Bonsai Rock
  • Boathouse on the Pier
  • Eagle Rock summit
  • Eagle Falls
  • Fannette Island
  • Monkey Rock summit

Further Reading: 10 best sunrise and sunset photo spots in Lake Tahoe

9. Skiing

Ski resort with light snow on the hills covered in trees in Nevada
Mt Rose ski resort in mid-November

The Lake Tahoe ski season typically begins around mid-November or Thanksgiving weekend depending on snowfall, so you can usually ski if you visit at the end of November. And there’s dozens of world class downhill slopes and backcountry tracks to explore.

Our experience: It didn’t snow before or during our visit to Lake Tahoe, but the Heavenly Gondola began operation for the winter season on the morning we left because they knew a heavy snowfall was due. We’d love to go back to Tahoe for the ski season one day!

Top Ski Resorts

Here are the best ski resorts in the Tahoe area:

10. Packing

Hiker in long sleeve thin shirt on a sunny afternoon with a lake in the background
Mark wearing shorts and light long sleeve hiking shirt in the warm November afternoon sun

Packing for your trip to Lake Tahoe in November is all about layers. To begin, make sure you have lots of moisture wicking shirts, shorts and pants for hiking. Next, you’ll need middle and heavy layers for keeping warm in the mornings, evenings and after hiking. Pack plenty of thick socks and don’t forget to take at least two different pairs of shoes. Oh, and leave your swimsuit at home!

Our experience: We were taking a hiking and photography road trip from Seattle to Sedona so we had all the gear and clothes we needed. At Lake Tahoe we used our thick winter coats, gloves and hats every morning and evening because it got cold. And during the days we burned through hiking gear.

Basic Packing List

Here are the basic essentials you should pack:

  • Underwear and normal socks
  • Hiking socks (we use Darn Tough)
  • Shorts and light long pants for hiking
  • Moisture wicking t-shirts for hiking
  • Medium layers to pack on hikes
  • Smart casual gear for dinner and drinks
  • Sunglasses and maybe a baseball cap
  • Heavy coat, gloves and hat for sunrises and sunsets
  • At least 2 pairs of shoes for hiking and evenings
  • Camera, lenses, tripod and plenty of data storage

The Morgan Conclusion

Photographer crouching on a rock next to boulders and water with camera on a tripod
Mark in his element photographing Bonsai Rock at sunset

To wrap things up, we think November is a fantastic time to visit Lake Tahoe if avoiding crowds and keeping costs down are your priorities. You’ll have to put up with cold temperatures and you won’t be able to use the beaches or swim in the lake. But that’s the trade off.

We recommend visiting Lake Tahoe in late fall if you’re a hiker or a photographer because you’ll see the most benefits. But if you want a relaxing sun, sand and swim type of experience, you should consider June, July, August or September instead.

More From Lake Tahoe

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Want more California content? Head over to our California Travel Guides to explore national parks, popular road trips and things to do in major cities of the sunshine state.


We hope this guide to visiting Lake Tahoe in November helps with planning your trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains!

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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