"Charming crew, stunning vistas, amazing experience!"
Originally established in 1992, Lake Tahoe Balloons has successfully operated balloon flights over Lake Tahoe for well over two decades. We are the only balloon ride operation in the world where the entire ballooning process begins and ends on the deck of a boat! Our one of a kind hot air balloon recovery vessel, the Tahoe Flyer was built specifically for the purpose of recovering hot air balloons.
Lake Tahoe Balloons was founded by Robert Allen (Bob) in 1992. Having flown in the growing Napa Valley wine region for several years, and being familiar with the challenges of a land based ballooning operation, Bob decided it was time to reinvent hot air ballooning. By flying over water and landing on a boat, Bob realized he could eliminate the hazards of power lines and other land based obstacles, rough landings in high winds and nearly all the navigational challengers of trying to steer a balloon to a fixed landing location. Having a landing platform that could match the speed and direction of the balloon eliminated the risks that a traditional land based operation faces.
The early days were tough. Finding investors that both understood ballooning and his vision were tough to come by. While his peers scratched their heads and wondered if he'd lost his mind, Bob and naval architect Zach Reynolds put their minds together to create the Tahoe Flyer.
Bob ultimately sold Lake Tahoe Balloons to Harley and Tammy Hoy in 2001. With decades of unrivaled marine experience, Lake Tahoe Balloons and the Tahoe Flyer were taken to a whole new level. Harley and his knowledge of the local weather and his familiarity with boats and the Coast Guard was able to find and make the changes necessary to the boat and business for Lake Tahoe Balloons to remain a safe and viable business. Through Harley's efforts and innovations, Lake Tahoe Balloons grew and thrived.
In 2014, Harley and Tammy decided it was time to do some traveling and enjoy retirement and sold Lake Tahoe Balloons to Gabe Gundling, owner of Napa Valley Balloons and founder of Balloon Pacific, one of the countries largest hot air balloon ride organizations. Harley remained with Lake Tahoe Balloons long enough to impart some of his wisdom before starting long awaited travels around the US and Canada.
Gabe and his team have ushered in a new era bringing with them a fresh passion and enthusiasm for hot air ballooning over Lake Tahoe. With decades of experience in Aviation, Marine and Hospitality Operations, each and everyone of our staff offers something unique and valuable to our company. With the help and dedication of our expert crew of local Tahoe enthusiasts, Lake Tahoe Balloons continues to push the standard for what ballooning can and should be.
Meet Our Staff
You're in good hands
Born and raised in Baltimore Maryland, Greg has enjoyed a passion for all things outdoors since a very young age. The grand California playground and landscapes drew him to Tahoe in 2008, a decision that has left him with no regrets. When he isn't captaining the Tahoe Flyer, you might catch a glimpse of him flying down Tahoe slops on his snowboard or hiking the local mountains with his two dogs. Greg's Lake Tahoe Balloons career began as boat/balloon crew in 2010. After several years of training under one of the Lake's most experienced captains, he was promoted to boat captain in 2015 making him the full-time captain of the world's smallest aircraft carrier.
His love for his work, if you can call it work, and his enthusiasm for Lake Tahoe Balloons is hard to miss.
As a semi-pro snowboarder in the winter months, an avid rock climber and hiker in the summer, Greg is a wealth of knowledge on the best places to hike, visit and eat while in Tahoe. If you're lucky, he might even tell you where you can find the best $1 tacos in the Tahoe Basin.
A Las Vegas native, Sheldon began flying balloons in 2003 and has since amassed more than 2400 hours as a hot air balloon pilot. He has flown balloons of all shapes and sizes all over the world and is proud to have maintained a perfect safety record. Sheldon's passion for ballooning has taken him to balloon festivals around the globe including The Great Reno Balloon Race, Taiwan Balloon Festival, Cielo Magico in Santiago, Mexico, and The International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM - recognized as the Olympics of ballooning. As a professional balloon pilot, he flew commercial balloon rides in Las Vegas before making the move to Lake Tahoe Balloons.
With the spectacular Lake Tahoe views, the world's only hot air balloon aircraft carrier to land on and his undying passion for hot air ballooning, Sheldon looks forward to sharing this one-of-a-kind adventure with you!
Born and raised in the Napa Valley. After watching and encouraging balloons to land on his parent's field as a child, Gabe swore he'd be a balloon pilot when he grew up. He began his ballooning career as chase crew with Napa Valley Balloons in 2003 and earned his commercial balloon pilot's certificate in 2004. After buying out the remaining partner in 2012, Gabe became the sole owner of Napa Valley Balloons, Inc.
Looking for an excuse to spend more time in Tahoe and having the confidence of knowing he had the industries best office and support staff, Gabe purchased Lake Tahoe Balloons in 2014. He now delights in sharing Lake Tahoe, one of the Earth's most scenic places, with guests from all around the world.
Blake, George, Athena and Patrick:
All are Tahoe residents and all are expert Lake Tahoe Balloons crew. In addition to being top notch crew, Blake has also earned his boat captain's license as well as a commercial balloon pilot's license. Blake has been with LTB for over 5 years.
George is also seasoned LTB crew. With over 6 years as crew on the Tahoe Flyer, early morning's don't scare George. His dedication and enthusiasm for Lake Tahoe Balloons and our guests is appreciated every morning. All of our crew are experts in the region and are happy to share their knowledge of the regions highlights, hiking trails and beauty.
By Air and By Sea
The "Tahoe Flyer"
The Tahoe Flyer is a 21 ton, 120 x 22 foot, double decker, Catamaran Style aircraft carrier vessel. It was specifically designed and built to inflate and launch hot air balloons off of its upper deck. It is also currently the only vessel of its type in the World and is regulated under the US Coast Guard. With speeds of up to 16 mph, the Tahoe Flyer acts as the hot air balloon's chase vessel, following the direction of the balloon as it makes it's way around the Lake. Catching the balloon and bringing her safely back down onto the upper deck of the Tahoe Flyer is a safe and effortless maneuver and a once in a lifetime sightseeing adventure. It has been said by many of our guests that just actually watching the crew and the operations of inflating, launching, landing and deflating, is worth the trip all by itself! To further accommodate our guests, when you are not participating in the Hot Air Balloon activities on the upper deck, you may enjoy our continental breakfast and view our merchandise all set up on the lower deck. An area for relaxing, private bathroom and comfortable seating are all available to you downstairs.
The "Vivid Dreams"
Chase boat extraordinaire. At 40 feet in length, the Vivid Dreams was design to catch and retrieve hot air balloons. As far as balloon retrieval boats go, it is sleek and fast and originally it was designed and used to return fully inflated balloons to shore for deflation on the beach. In combination with the Tahoe Flyer, the Vivid Dreams has proven to be more effective as an aid vessel and secondary balloon chase boat on mornings when two balloons are flown. The Vivid Dreams is used primarily for private flights and as a boat for boat tours and private boat charters.
Our Hot Air Balloons
Our state-of-the-art FAA certified hot air balloons are built by Cameron Balloons U.S., in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Considered to be the top U.S. manufacturer of hot air balloons, Cameron designs balloons that not only outperform those of competitors but that are also more durable. While foreign and other U.S. manufactures may offer a lower purchase prices, the comfort and knowledge that you are flying in the best that money can buy is priceless. Our balloons vary in size but our largest can carry as many as 16 passengers. The baskets are compartmentalized to maximize the space, comfort of and safety of each guest. They are constructed of rattan which is both light weight and extremely durable. Each basket is individually woven by hand onto a rigid frame. The envelope is typically constructed using fire-treated nylon or dacron that meet specific manufacturer requirements and while the material is lightweight, it is also very strong.
what people are saying
"Charming Crew, stunning vistas, amazing experience" My husband and I took a balloon ride with Lake Tahoe Balloons during our honeymoon (some friends paid for it as a gift). It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. The view from the balloon is stunning.
We launched from a boat on the lake and rose up to about 3,000 feet above the water, where we had a stunning view of Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake, and Fallen Leaf Lake. The pilot even took us down to lightly skim the lake's surface before rising again.
The ride was so smooth, and I felt completely safe the entire time. After we landed, they took a second wave of passengers up, which meant I got a lot of great pictures of the balloon in flight (taking off, landing, touching the water, etc.). I cannot sell this enough. This was by far the coolest part of our stay. The entire crew is phenomenal. The skipper was so charming, and the pilot taught us a lot about balloon travel, its history, and how it works. There was breakfast available at the beginning, and at the end we had a toast. Each passenger was given a souvenir champagne glass. If you have the means, do a balloon ride with Lake Tahoe Balloons. You will not regret it.
"Beyond Incredible" Hot air ballooning over Lake Tahoe was simply the most incredible experience. It's almost too amazing to describe. So, I'll comment on the professionalism of the crew and service.
Continental breakfast and hot coffee amongst new friends was a great way to start the (early) morning. The crew kept us all posted on weather conditions and how they would determine our ballooning experience. After setting sail, we got to watch the crew prepare and inflate the balloon. Once we were in the air for about an hour, we touched back down on the barge and handed cameras to the crew so they could take photos of us as we headed back up. They truly thought of everything. I can't recommend this experience enough.
"Just do it. Worth it!" Safety and friendliness of the staff is outstanding! Amazing experience. Good history lesson on ballooning. Suggestion- since they can't go up every day due to wind and weather, book on your first day there so you have a chance to go again if they must cancel.
In my experience, Nobody does it better than this company.
"Breath Taking Balloon Ride!!" A very wonderful experience and it was a beautiful day. It was very cold when we arrived at 5:45 am and there was frost on the boat that melted quickly in the sun. The crew was excellent and executed the launch without a hitch. They are extremely professional and personable.
Once in the air; it was so calm; just floating. I highly recommend this experience for anyone. We were first timers in a balloon. The Pilot's eyes light up when he talks about ballooning and his experience. You can tell he loves what he does. The crew will help you into the balloon if you need it (wished we had a video of us trying to get into the basket-omg, we were like head first without their assistance-lo). The crew also explains all the steps as they inflate the balloon and take pictures for you/with you. After the perfect landing and docked in the marina again, everyone toasts with champagne!! What a perfect way to start the day!
"Great tour, friendly fun crew, amazing views!" Well worth the cost, best views of the entire skyline and they feed you! What more could you ask for?
"Serene beauty" We thoroughly enjoyed our flight today from watching the set up process to take off to flight to landing. Views are INCREDIBLE!
"Highlight of our vacation" Our hot air balloon ride with Lake Tahoe Balloons was the highlight of our trip. The scenery is just amazing and the staff was incredibly friendly. If we ever make our way back to Tahoe, we will ride again.
"Only Way To Do A Balloon Ride" You take off and land on an aircraft carrier ship on Lake Tahoe. The take off and landings were very smooth. The boats matches the balloon speed and you do not have a rough landing. Best experience I have had in a long time. Views are spectacular!
David T. - South Lake Tahoe, CA Wow. Seeing The Tahoe basin from the air is truly amazing. No compromises on a fun, safe and smooth ride. Professional and knowledgeable and they know how to show a guest a great time. 5 Stars on the launch and retrieval from the mini aircraft carrier. True experts in this specialized field. I've never seen anything like it.
You'll get a beautiful and entertaining boat ride out to the lake. A balloon launch from the boat leading to spectacular views and then a smooth as silk landing back on the boat. My wife enjoyed this ride for her birthday and her smile was ear to ear. We loved it and appreciate the very attentive and friendly Pilots, Captains and Crew. Bravo on a job well done!
Pete T. - Milwaukee, WI Every minute of our experience today was fantastic. From the boat ride, to watching the balloon inflation, to the magnificent ride itself, to the champagne toast, we could not have had a better time. The crew was wonderful, and we would give our experience 10 stars if we could!
We flew with Lake Tahoe Balloons in June 2016 and had a fantastic time. The crew was highly professional and safety was a top priority. Aside from the breathtaking views, we loved learning about the history of hot air ballooning, champagne celebrations after flight, and the Lake Tahoe area with our pilot. Absolutely incredible adventure!
Marcus E. - Annville, PA What an amazing experience! The crew is super friendly, knowledge, and professional. And the experience of taking off and landing on a boat cannot be beat. If you visit Tahoe and don't do this, you will regret it. Can't wait to come back and see our new friends again!
Milka E. - Baldwin Park, CA First time on a hot air balloon! Loved the experience with this company. Everyone was nice, friendly, and knowledgeable! The balloon pilot did a great job! I never felt uncomfortable on the ride. It was smoother than an elevator ride! The views from the balloon were stunning!
You get to see them inflate and deflate the balloon! Took my go pro, got some great memories!! I got some beautiful scenic views on video and photo! Postcard Perfect!! I highly recommend this adventure!
Benjamin B. - Pleasant Hill, CA Fantastic experience! Unbelievable views from the balloon of the whole lake and mountains but also from the boat of the balloon floating above.
Paul C. - Omaha, NE I was skeptical of the reviews but if there were more stars and accolades to hand out, I would. Simply amazing. Thanks to the crew for making for the best anniversary present ever.
Margaret W. - Ewa Beach, HI Once in a lifetime! A must do! This is an amazing adventure that is sure to please and impress anybody. The staff is so friendly and truly makes an amazing experience even better. Yes, you might have to wake up early, it might be cold, blah blah, but you will leave with a smile on your face.
The staff does provide jackets and blankets, snacks, hats and even a few surprises! Crossing this one off my list with a smile on face!
"ABSOLUTELY PHENOMONAL!" ABSOLUTELY PHENOMONAL! All the crew are exceptionally nice. They will help you with any and everything. They all know the area well and will readily give you advice. The balloon pilot is extremely knowledgeable and experienced. If you are scared of heights don't be scared of this.
You don't feel the fear at all. I can't explain why. I loved my experience. Worth every penny!
"Amazing experience" Amazing experience. This was a belated birthday gift for my dad. We had the perfect morning weather with clear skies and a comfortable temperature. The crew took excellent care of us and was proactive about answering questions and making sure we were having a good time.
The pilot and the captain were both highly skilled and made the entire process seamless and smooth. They provided a good variety of snacks and drinks to appeal to a range of preferences. We took beautiful pictures and had a wonderful time. I would highly recommend Lake Tahoe Balloons!
"INCREDIBLE!" INCREDIBLE! The crew is the best. They are helpful during the ride and plenty of suggestions for after flying. Gabe the pilot is a master at his craft - skimming the Lake, gentle landing on a boat, knowledgeable of the area and ballooning. This was truly the HIGH of my trip.
In the Media
The recognition we value the most is that of our customers in online reviews, thank you notes and cards, and the positive notes in our guest book. That said, it's always nice when other's take notice of what we do and who doesn't like being listed amount the BEST BALLOON RIDES IN THE WORLD! Here are just a few of the recent articles in which ballooning over Lake Tahoe with Lake Tahoe Balloons was featured: