Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular destinations in the United States for lovers of nature. This alpine lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains receives about 15 million visitors per year.
Lake Tahoe is a popular destination all year round for outdoor adventures and relaxation. You can explore the trails in one of the several state parks around the lake, including Emerald Bay State Park, Sand Harbor State Park, and Kings Beach State Recreation Area.
In the winter, you can even go skiing at several resorts clustered around the lake, and there are casinos and resorts offering creature comforts. But while there’s enough to do to keep even the most active tourist busy, is Lake Tahoe safe to visit? Here’s our take.
Is Lake Tahoe Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Lake Tahoe is a safe place to visit, as you can tell from the fact that it has millions of annual visitors. Some of the towns around Lake Tahoe, such as Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe, do have some crime.
The biggest danger you need to keep in mind when visiting is danger from nature, such as drowning and ski accidents. The area around Lake Tahoe does see some crime.
The lake is big enough that there are several towns around its shores, and these towns see crime just like in any other place. Plus, the steady influx of visitors can also be attractive to criminals.
Crimes that can happen around Lake Tahoe include:
- Petty theft
- Bag snatching
You should take some precautions and secure your valuables when you visit Lake Tahoe. However, crime shouldn’t be that much of a concern when you visit, especially if you are staying at a private resort and spending most of your time in nature.
However, one thing that you should be concerned about is the potential for accidents in nature. Most people come to Lake Tahoe to enjoy outdoor adventures such as boating, swimming, hiking, and skiing.
All of these activities come with inherent risks. The landscape in Lake Tahoe is beautiful, but don’t let that beauty fool you — nature here is just as punishing for careless visitors as it is anywhere else.
Lake Tahoe authorities warn that people become lulled into a false sense of security when they see the clear, seemingly calm waters of the lake. The water is very cold, causing cold-water shock if someone falls into the lake, rendering them unable to swim to safety.
Plus, the lake sometimes behaves like an ocean instead of a placid mountain lake, with strong winds, swells, and currents that can be dangerous to boaters and swimmers.
In the summer of 2020 alone, police recorded 15 drownings in the lake. When you go out on the water of Lake Tahoe, make sure that you are taking the right precautions to keep yourself safe.
If you fall in, make sure that you force yourself to stay calm, as panicking can cause you to inhale water accidentally. Check water conditions ahead of time, and don’t go far from shore, both in terms of swimming and with a boat, if you are not experienced enough.
If you go out on a boat, make sure that you are experienced or that you are with someone who is. The local Coast Guard says that most accidents happen due to “operator inexperience.”
Common accidents include boat collisions, groundings, capsizing, and flooding.
In the winter, you should also be careful when visiting Lake Tahoe. If you are going skiing, make sure that you are wearing a helmet and sticking to trails that are appropriate for your skill level.
The local authorities also warn people that winter driving can lead to accidents. If you are driving up to Lake Tahoe, make sure that you follow tips for staying safe.
Finally, before visiting Lake Tahoe, you should know that the lake is suffering from an overcrowding problem, so much so that Fodor’s travel guide put in a list of places not to visit in 2022.
Local authorities responded and said they have the infrastructure to handle these many visitors.
Crime in Lake Tahoe
Crime in Lake Tahoe is not your biggest worry — your biggest worry is staying safe in the lake. However, criminal incidents do happen. Several towns are placed around the lake, and you will have to stay somewhere.
Most of the towns around Lake Tahoe have moderate crime rates. Tahoe City is one of the biggest and most popular destinations for visitors. Its crime rate is 50.57 incidents per 1,000 residents.
The vast majority of crimes are property crimes, including burglary and vehicle theft. However, Tahoe City does have a violent crime rate of 7.552 incidents per 1,000 people, with most violent crime being assault.
South Lake Tahoe is another popular destination for tourists around Lake Tahoe. Many guides recommend it for families visiting Lake Tahoe.
It has a slightly lower crime rate than Tahoe City, at 27.79 incidents per 1,000 people. Most crimes in South Lake Tahoe, about 81%, are property crimes. In 2021, only 114 violent crimes occurred all year.
Other communities around Lake Tahoe are smaller villages or townships that see barely any crime. For example, Stateside, on the Nevada side of the lake, saw nine total crime incidents in all of 2021.
Incline Village saw 54 total crime incidents, making it safer than 72% of American cities. King’s Beach and Homewood also report very low crime rates. Crime does occur along Lake Tahoe, but it is usually minor and nonviolent.
While you should take some precautions, such as not leaving your valuables completely unattended, you’ll probably have a perfectly safe time no matter where you stay.
To get an idea of how safe the area around Lake Tahoe is, take a look at local news. If a news item as absurd as a wave of snowblower thefts in South Lake Tahoe can make news, then that means few other incidents happen.
Although crime rates are overall low around Lake Tahoe, thefts sometimes happen. Thieves usually take advantage of inattention to grab people’s valuables. Phone theft, in particular, can happen around Lake Tahoe.
You probably won’t be accosted by pickpockets wherever you go, but some basic precautions are in order. Don’t leave your valuables unattended at any point in time.
For example, when you dine in a restaurant or café, put your bag where you can see it instead of dangling it over the back of your chair. You should also be careful when heading to the beach.
Always leave most of your valuables in your hotel room instead of taking them with you. If you’re going with a group, designate one person to watch your things as the rest of you swim.
While thefts are rare in Lake Tahoe, this is still a good precaution to take whenever you go swimming because thieves will sometimes lurk on public beaches to rifle through unattended bags.
Most forms of theft in Lake Tahoe are petty theft, and it is rare that violent incidents happen. More aggressive forms of robbery usually involve locals or robbers targeting local businesses, not tourists.
Vehicle break-ins have been trending upward across the country over the past few years, and the area around Lake Tahoe is no different. Vehicle break-ins happen all over the Lake Tahoe area, including in normally sleepy towns such as Incline Village.
It’s a mistake to think that you are safe if you park in an area where there aren’t that many people. There have also been cases of thieves targeting cars parked at trailheads.
They know that whoever owns the car is on a long hike and probably won’t come back in time to catch them.
Many victims of vehicle break-ins are visitors, as thieves will target out-of-state plates and operate in areas where they know there are a lot of visitors, such as vacation homes, trailheads, and the beach.
Some basic precautions are usually enough to detract would-be vehicle burglars. Even if you’re just going on a short hike, never leave something as valuable as your wallet in the car; always put it in your backpack with you.
Never leave anything visible in the car, even something as small as spare change or a portable charger. Put it in the glove compartment or trunk to avoid attracting the attention of thieves.
It’s also important to lock your doors and close your windows. You would be surprised how many people get lulled into a false sense of security around Lake Tahoe, forgetting that criminals can just as easily come to appreciate the beauty of the area.
Avoiding Bad Areas
There really aren’t bad areas around Lake Tahoe that you should avoid. Tahoe City has the highest crime rate of the towns and villages around Lake Tahoe, but even then, the crime rate is lower than the national average.
Things to Consider
Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when you visit Lake Tahoe:
- Before embarking on any outdoor activity, make sure you read the weather report with care. The weather this high in the mountains can be very fickle, and you don’t want to get caught in a storm unprepared. Record all emergency numbers before you head out on a trail or on the water, and know how you will contact rescuers in case of an emergency.
- Although solo adventuring is fun, you don’t want to go outdoors around Lake Tahoe by yourself. When you’re going out boating, make sure there is at least one other person with you to help you in case of an accident. The same goes for hiking unfamiliar trails. Always let someone at home know your itinerary as well.
- The water in Lake Tahoe may be cold, but in the summer, the air gets hot! Avoid outdoor activities during midday when the sun is strongest. Wear sunscreen even if you’re in the water, as that is when sunburns are most likely to happen.
- Wear a life vest if you are going boating, jet skiing, or engaging in any other water activity. It will help you float to the surface if you fall overboard. Remember that the water is cold, and even if you are normally a strong swimmer, your body might go into shock before you can swim to safety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few other questions you might want to think about before you visit Lake Tahoe:
Is Lake Tahoe a safe place to visit?
For the most part, Lake Tahoe is a safe place to visit. However, exercise precautions when going out on the water, as there are several drowning incidents each year.
Is Lake Tahoe a tourist spot to avoid?
Some travel guides are urging tourists to stay away from Lake Tahoe as the area has become too popular with tourists, leading some analysts to worry about damage to the environment. However, if you don’t mind the crowds and are mindful about your actions, you can come anyway.
When should you not go to Lake Tahoe?
Lake Tahoe has seasonal activities all year round, so the answer will depend on what you want to do — for example, don’t go to Lake Tahoe in the winter if you want to go boating. If you don’t want to deal with crowds, June to August is the worst time to visit.
Why should you not go to Lake Tahoe?
If you don’t like crowds, then Tahoe is not the best place to visit. Over-tourism has also caused some damage around the lake, including congestion on local roads, litter, and even water pollution.
What is the threat to Lake Tahoe?
Lake Tahoe’s famously clear waters are in danger due to pollution. There are increasing levels of algae and fine sediment particles, as well as invasive plant and animal species. This decline is the worst close to the shore.
So, Should You Visit Lake Tahoe?
In terms of crime, Lake Tahoe is safe to visit. However, you should still be very careful when going out on the water or hiking a dangerous trail, as without the right precautions, your life could be in danger. Happy travels!