October is a shoulder season in Lake Tahoe; too early for ski season but too cold for typical summer activities like outdoor music festivals.
Our California residents have created this guide to provide you with everything you should know for your autumn visit to South Lake Tahoe:
- The weather in October
- What to wear
- The crowds
- The best things to do
Our October Cruise Tip for You
Experience once-in-a-lifetime sceneries in October on this cruise with one of the best crews we’ve ever had. Worth every penny!
Is October a Good Time?
Although the days are getting colder, October is a very good time to visit Lake Tahoe, with mostly pleasant weather and fewer crowds. Visitors can take advantage of the cooler daytime temperatures and enjoy many outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
Weather Overview and Details
October is the month that bridges autumn and winter, as temperatures quickly cool and there’s a chance of snow towards the end of the month.
In Lake Tahoe in October, the average high temperature hovers around 60 F° (16°C) degrees. Evenings and mornings are significantly colder, and during the night, temperatures drop to freezing. Additionally, there is more cloud cover and precipitation in October than in September.
Average high temperatures during the day:
- Early October: 68°F (20°C)
- Mid-October: 62°F (17°C)
- Lad October: 56°F (13°C)
We’ll cover early-month, mid-month, and late-month October weather in South Lake Tahoe in detail:
If you don’t mind bundling up in warm clothing, early October is one of the most idyllic times to visit Lake Tahoe. At the beginning of the month, daily high temperatures in October are mid to upper 60 F° degrees, with evening and morning temperatures around freezing.
Between 2:00 and 5:30 p.m. are the most comfortable hours, and you can explore the outdoors with little to no sunscreen. The sun sets at around 6:30 p.m., and temperatures chill an hour before. Skies are not very cloudy in early October, though there is a 10% chance of rain.
Temperatures begin to steadily decrease through mid-October, with daily high temperatures in the mid to low 60 F° degrees. By contrast, evenings and mornings hover around 30 F° degrees, below freezing.
Temperatures are cool between 12:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., but if you stay active and layer up with warm clothing, you will probably find the afternoon comfortable. By this time in October, you have a 50% chance of clear skies and a 13% chance of rain. Depending on the temperatures, you may even experience snow.
By the end of October, many days will feel wintery, with daily highs in the upper 50 F° degrees. The evenings and mornings before 10:00 a.m. are almost guaranteed to be freezing-cold, so it’s definitely fireplace season.
By late October, most days will be overcast with a rapidly-increasing chance of rain, sleet, or snow (up to 18% chance). By October 31, you may expect a snowy Halloween day.
October in South Lake Tahoe is cold, but the chances of snow are still low, with about a 1% chance of snow across the month. On average, you can expect 1 or 2 snow days in October. Your most likely weather will be rain. However, the chance of snowfall increases towards the end of the month.
In recent years, we didn’t see any snowfall every time we visited Lake Tahoe during October.
Autumn is a fantastic time for “leaf-peeping,” or visiting and photographing trees’ changing leaves. The Lake Tahoe region is well-known for its golden aspen groves, which turn yellow, orange, and red. We loved going in mid-October when the fall colors are almost everywhere near Lake Tahoe.
You can see the beautiful fall color explosion in Lake Tahoe from late September/early October until the end of the month. The peak period in this region for gorgeous displays of fall color is typically mid-October. However, the prime time for when the leaves change color varies from year to year, depending on the weather conditions and temperatures.
Among the many places you can see this fall foliage is Hope Valley, which is about 30 minutes south of South Lake Tahoe.
For a closer visit, consider visiting Fallen Leaf Lake, only 10 minutes west of South Lake Tahoe.
More fantastic spots to photograph and watch the vibrant fall colors (including a Google Maps link for each):
What to Wear
October days in Lake Tahoe are cool and occasionally cloudy after freezing nights.
It’s best to leave the swimsuit at home as swimming can be dangerous during October in Lake Tahoe, with both air and water temperatures at around 50 F° degrees, making it risky for hypothermia.
October in South Lake Tahoe is the best season for visitors who enjoy bundling in autumn clothing and wearing sweaters, scarves, jackets, and boots. For the daytime, layers are essential, as afternoon temperatures are often warm and mild compared to freezing mornings.
We always bring waterproof clothing in October, as there is a chance of rain, sleet, or snow.
During the evening, temperatures drop to freezing again, so it’s a great time to wear all the winter clothing you have, including long underwear, hats, gloves, and wool socks.
October Packing List
October is getting colder, so here’s a list of items to pack for a Lake Tahoe stay.
- Layers of warm clothing for the daytime, including long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and scarves
- Beanie, hat
- Short sleeves for pleasant and sunny afternoons
- Waterproof Jacket, shell, or hoodie
- Warm winter clothing for the evenings, including wool layers, hats, gloves, and thick jackets
- Hiking boots with good grip
- Reusable water bottle
- Backpack/daypack or tote bag (depending on if you’re hiking)
Best Time to Visit and Crowds
There are excellent reasons to visit Lake Tahoe in October. First, it’s the best time to walk amongst the fall foliage like the golden-leaved aspen trees.
October is also less busy in Lake Tahoe as there are few to no crowds. For example, lodging places collect 30-50% less revenue than in August and September. And with the ski season typically starting in November, this is a shoulder season month ideal for visitors looking for a peaceful autumn visit.
So, you can visit any time during October when you prefer a less busy place. That’s also one reason why we went to Lake Tahoe quite often during this month.
However, when we liked to avoid the rain and snow and wanted to have more comfortable temperatures, we tried to visit Lake Tahoe in early October.
Lake Tahoe Activities in October
There are multiple activities to enjoy in South Lake Tahoe in October, including:
- Biking: Enjoy the cooler weather by renting a bike or bringing your own to explore the terrain around Tahoe, like Boreal Mountain Resort and Northstar California Resort.
- Hiking: Hiking is another excellent cool-weather activity, and there are many uncrowded trails in October, like those at Heavenly Ski Resort or other day hikes. Pack your umbrella for rain and microspikes or snowshoes in the chance of ice or snow.
- Aerial Trams: Even in the fall, you can enjoy a gondola ride to the top of Heavenly Ski Resort or experience an aerial tram over the fall foliage to the top of the Palisades Tahoe resort.
- Horseback Riding: Horseback riding is available even in the fall, as stables like Zephyr Cove offer guided family-friendly tours overlooking Lake Tahoe.
- Ice Skating: Lake Tahoe itself doesn’t freeze. So, if you’re in the mood to go ice-skating, you can always drop by the indoor South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena, which is open year-round. Or you can wait for Halloween when the outdoor ice rink at Heavenly Village Resort reopens for the winter season.
- Boat Cruises: Cooler temperatures call for covered boat activities, so consider signing up for an Emerald Bay day cruise with Tahoe Blue Wave Cruises or other companies.
3 Lake Tahoe Events in October
October is a chillier month than September and perfect for walking under golden aspens, enjoying the hot springs, participating in a road race, or celebrating Halloween at one of the many resorts.
Kokanee Salmon Festival
- WHEN: First weekend in October
- WHERE: Lake Tahoe Visitor Center, South Lake Tahoe
The free, family-friendly Salmon Festival happens in early October at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center near Camp Richardson, 10-minute drive west of South Lake Tahoe. This festival celebrates the yearly migration of Kokanee Salmon that swim through the Tahoe water. There are educational talks, food vendors, and a short, child-friendly walking path that puts visitors eye to eye with the salmon.
Take a Dip in a Hot Springs Pool
- WHEN: Daily
- WHERE: Grover Hot Springs State Park, South of Lake Tahoe
If you’re feeling cold, visiting a hot springs park may be just what you need to warm up. Fortunately, the popular Grover Hot Springs State Park is only 45 minutes south of South Lake Tahoe, and if you’re visiting Hope Valley for leaf-peeping, you’re only half an hour away. Reserve a spot in the hot springs for $10 per adult at ReserveCalifornia.com (note: suspended from late 2021 until facilities are renovated). Read more at Parks.CA.gov.
Cheer or Run a Marathon or Half Marathon
- WHEN: First or second week of October
- WHERE: Carnelian Bay, South Lake Tahoe
If you’re looking to experience “maybe the most beautiful race in the world,” consider registering for the Emerald Bay Half Marathon or Lake Tahoe Marathon. And if you want to skip the run, join the runners at Lakeside Beach near Stateline. You cheer at the finish line and join in on the beer, hot dogs, and live music there.