A Guide on How to Elope in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe - sometimes called “America’s playground” - is the perfect place to elope for adventurous, outdoorsy couples! People travel across the world to visit Tahoe and it’s no surprise why. This beautiful area has everything: skiing and snowboarding in the winter, water sports in the summer, and hiking year-round. Tahoe is one of my top California elopement locations for couples looking to get married in the mountains (fair warning: I might be biased - I got married in Lake Tahoe in 2013!)
Where is Lake Tahoe?
Lake Tahoe sits high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, straddling the statelines of California and Nevada, roughly two hours northeast of Sacramento or 45 minutes south of Reno, Nevada.
For visitors flying in, the most popular options are San Francisco International (about 200 miles east of Tahoe) and Reno-Tahoe International (35 miles north of Tahoe).
Lake Tahoe is about 4 hours north of Yosemite National Park and 7 hours from The Redwoods National and State Parks.
How Big is Lake Tahoe?
Lake Tahoe stretches 22 miles vertically and 12 miles wide, with about 72 miles of shoreline! The Tahoe Basin is home to about 50,000 year-round residents, but the total population rises to roughly 300,000 on peak days when part-time residents and tourists are visiting. About 78% of the land surrounding Lake Tahoe - over 150,000 acres - is public land managed by the USDA Forest Service.
When is the Best Time to Elope in Lake Tahoe?
Tahoe is enjoyable year-round but weather varies significantly between the seasons, and you’ll experience differences between the eastern and western shores. Lake Tahoe averages nearly 300 sunny days per year, so no matter when you visit - even on days it’s snowing - you’re likely to enjoy some sunshine! Here's a breakdown of each season in Tahoe and what to expect on your visit.
Sunny days with blue skies with fresh snow. A true winter wonderland.
Springtime is cold and snowy in the Tahoe Basin - snowstorms are common even through March and April. Around the U.S. temperatures start rising, but Tahoe in Spring means “Bluebird days” full of blue skies and fresh snow, making for some of the best skiing and snowboarding available!
Great weather for an adventure together and cooler nights made for quiet snuggling moments.
In the Summer, temperatures sometimes reach the 80s or 90s and there are mostly blue skies - like at Kristina and Jordan’s summer elopement! Summer nights are still chilly, so come prepared with layers for the nighttime chill when it drops to the 50s and 60s. On the trails, in the shade of the massive alpine trees it’s often slightly cooler - like at this Summer Engagement Shoot at Lake of the Skytrail! Tahoe is generally warmest from mid-June to mid-September but very rarely humid.
Best time for Lake Tahoe. Fall colors and not a lot of tourist.
Fall is one of the best times to visit Lake Tahoe - it’s warm enough to still enjoy activities on the lake or one of the great hikes, but the tourism season is over which makes it feel much more intimate. I got married in September 2013 at Squaw Valley (home to the 1960 Winter Olympics). Personally, I think September is the best month for weddings in the Tahoe Basin!
Lower temperatures and lots of snowfall.
In the winter, prepare for cold temperatures. Between November and March, the daily highs are in the high 40s, but the daily lows reach below 20°F regularly! Snow is frequent all winter - Tahoe South receives up to 500 inches of snow or more some years! It’s no surprise people come from all over the world to spend some time on the slopes in Tahoe, since the area has the highest concentration of ski resorts in the country. My favorite spots to ski are Sierra in Tahoe South and Northstar Resort in Truckee. Northstar is family-friendly, and besides hitting the slopes you can also roast s’mores over a fire pit, go snowtubing, or eat at one of the restaurants in the resort’s village!
Great Places to Stay in Lake Tahoe During your Elopement Weekend
There are several towns all around Lake Tahoe - each with its own identity! On the Nevada side, the most popular places to stay are in Incline Village, Glenbrook, or Stateline. In California, stay in Truckee, Tahoe City, Meeks Bay, or South Lake Tahoe. Check out these gorgeous places to stay near Tahoe!
Where Should You Get Your Marriage License For a Lake Tahoe Wedding?
If you’re getting married in Lake Tahoe, you’ll need a marriage license! Where your ceremony takes place - California or Nevada - will determine where you need to apply. There are no waiting periods in California or Nevada for marriage licenses, but California licenses are good for a 90-day period whereas Nevada licenses are good for up to one year. (For more information on Lake Tahoe marriage licenses click here). Your officiant will have more advice on this as well! Looking for a great officiant? I highly recommend inquiring with Megs Gurley or Cindie Wilding, two of the most talented officiants in the area!
The Best Hikes in Lake Tahoe
The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) spans 165 miles around the Lake Tahoe Basin, made up of smaller trails throughout the area. No matter what your comfort level with hiking there’s a trail for you!
For a moderate alpine hike, check Big Meadow to Round Lake; for something with a more expansive view, hike the moderate Spooner Summit to Snow Valley Peak Trail. Just as gorgeous but on the easier side, visit Mccloud Waterfalls Trail.
Nothing beats the fresh air and the views of the outdoors
Summer is peak tourist season in Tahoe, so plan reservations ahead! Rent a jet ski, parasail over Zephyr Cove, or “hike” an underwater trail at Emerald Bay State Park.
Catch the annual event, Tahoe South Spring Loaded, for four weeks of fun events like Boarding for Breast Cancer and the Pond Skimming World Championship.
Besides the endless skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing opportunities, Tahoe is home to other winter activities too! Go Disco Tubing at Squaw Valley, attend the Alpenglow Mountain Festival, or visit Heavenly Village for “Heavenly Holidays” - a month full of holiday events!
Around October, the landscape begins to burst with color all around as the Aspen and Cottonwood trees signal the start of a new season. Fall also brings more fun events to Tahoe like the annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival!
photo credit; Anita Martin Photography
Tips for Your Lake Tahoe Elopement
Hi, I'm Liz!
I believe that the connections we build with those in our lives is what makes life worthwhile. I am truly a people person. I thrive being around others, and being part of a couples’ wedding day feeds my soul!” My couples aren't just my clients, they are my friends and we are building a friendship through your whole wedding journey.
As an elopement photographer – and avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast – I’ve visited tons of great places for elopement ceremonies. I’m excited to share them with you in this post!