Things to Do This Summer at Kirkwood


Summertime fun in the Sierra Nevada mountains includes hiking, mountain biking, and many more fun things to do in Kirkwood.

Posted on June 15, 2023

General Store in Kirkwood, CA.

Throughout every season, the top things to do in Kirkwood, CA, are all various forms of outdoor adventure in the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountains. In summer, this means venturing up and down forested slopes flanked by wildflower meadows, playing in local lakes and alpine streams, and taking in all that glorious California sunshine.  

Plentiful summer activities at Kirkwood mean there’s no need to leave the resort property to enjoy days full of action. Beyond the resort, consider the vast El Dorado National Forest and Mokelumne Wilderness as your own serene, unspoiled playground for unforgettable adventures.  

Hikes at Kirkwood and Nearby 

Summer in the Sierra brings some of California’s best hiking trails out of their snow-covered dormancy. Bring your sturdy footwear, sun protection, and plenty of water because hikes near Kirkwood are a must-do activity throughout the season.  

Start with the dozen multi-use trails right at the resort, which cover diverse terrain including forests and meadows full of wildflowers. Hiking at Kirkwood is a great way to admire the mountain scenery, offering views of multiple lakes, ridges, and near and distant peaks. Stop in at the General Store or Summer Ticket Office for a map and recommendations. Options include the easy, flat, 2.6-mile Kirkwood Meadows Loop at the base of the resort, the moderately challenging, 3.5-mile Red Cliffs Loop, and the easy to moderate, 4.2-mile Snowkirk Trail.  

Outside the resort, but within close reach, are countless trails for all abilities. Just a few stand-out hikes near Kirkwood include the 4.7-mile out-and-back Lake Margaret Trail, which starts just north of the Kirkwood Inn and Saloon. For a lengthy hike with a moderate challenge, consider the Emigrant Lake Trail from Caples Lake to Emigrant Lake. Allow about 4 hours for this 9.6-mile hike, which starts with a flat stretch followed by a steep climb. In the same vicinity is a waterfall hike — the Caples Falls Trail. Don’t let the 0.7-mile length fool you, as this is a tough hike involving some scrambling.  

Kirkwood Mountain Biking 

Whether you’re experienced or a beginner, mountain biking at Kirkwood is one of the best ways to have fun at the resort during summer. More than 20 trails make up the resort’s summer bike terrain, mostly singletrack and service roads. The resort trails are multi-use, so look out for hikers sharing the track. Class I e-bikes are also allowed on select trails. Bring your own bike or rent one from an outfitter in South Lake Tahoe.  

Consult the trail map and create your own loops out of the various easy, difficult, and advanced trails. First-timers should stick to easy trails like Snowkirk, Girl Scouts, and the West and East Meadow trails. Bike Tahoe suggests a Kirkwood West Valley Loop starting and ending at the Village. It encompasses stretches of the paved Kirkwood Meadows Drive and the Dangberg Trail and crosses ski runs on the Cutback and Solitude trails. 

Disc Golf at Kirkwood 

One of the most fun things to do in Kirkwood with friends — no experience or preparation necessary — is disc golf. The resort’s own DiscWood disc golf course is considered one of the most challenging on the West Coast. The course is free to play. Get a scorecard and map at the General Store or the Lodge, or pull up the digital copy on your phone. The straightforward rules, plus tips for courteous play, are printed on the scorecard. 

Head to the Timber Creek base area and find DiscWood between the TC Express and Bunny lifts. The course covers varied terrain, taking you around a mountainous, forested landscape at 7,800 feet in elevation.  

Fishing and Boating Near Kirkwood 

Along with Lake Tahoe, less than an hour’s drive away, there are three lakes ideal for fishing and boating near Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Caples Lake, 4 miles east of Kirkwood, offers beach access, swimming spots, and picnic areas. There's also a marina where you can rent fishing boats, single and double kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) for 2 to 8 hours. Silver Lake, 8 miles southwest of the resort, has similar recreational facilities and is stocked with rainbow, German brown, and Mackinaw Lake trout. The smaller Kirkwood Lake, just across CA-88, is a popular swimming spot.  

Fishing is one of the most popular things to do in Kirkwood and the nearby area in summer. You can purchase bait and tackle at the General Store. Consider guided excursion trips with local outfitters, such as Tahoe Fly Fishing.  

Day Trips from Kirkwood 

While there are plenty of amazing things to do in Kirkwood, you can expand your recreation options even further if you’re happy to hop in the car or arrange a guided excursion. One example is a horseback riding adventure with a local outfitter like Kirkwood Sierra Outfitters. They offer scenic day rides from Silver Lake, ranging from a few hours to a full day in the Mokelumne Wilderness.  

The city of South Lake Tahoe is 34 miles north of Kirkwood. In summer, the mountain road is ice-free and easy to navigate, making this a popular day trip. The city is the biggest on the lake and offers a wealth of retail, dining, and day spas, plus beaches with concessions for water sports. One of the most popular sights to see around the southern section of Lake Tahoe is Emerald Bay State Park. Here, you can tour the historic Vikingsholm mansion, hike steep lakeside trails, and admire the jewel-toned water.   

Fuel Up for Summer Mountain Adventures 

Whether you prefer to spend your summer vacation at Kirkwood mountain biking, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, or just hanging out with friends, you should always find time for ice cream at the General Store. The store, located in the Red Cliffs Day Lodge, is open daily. It also offers coffee, grocery items, and a deli where you can pick up picnic supplies before a day of adventure. For a full sit-down meal in a historic venue, stop in for smokehouse favorites at the Kirkwood Inn and Saloon. It’s an excellent way to end a busy day enjoying all the fun things to do in Kirkwood.  

Take a Summer Vacation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

Ready for an amazing summer vacation in the mountains? Start planning your trip to Kirkwood Mountain Resort today!