The best Lake Tahoe beaches – including all of the practical info you might need and why they’re where you should be on a hot day at the lake.
Most people don’t think of the Sierras or high altitude lakes when they think of the beaches in California, but stunning alpine beaches are one of our best-kept secrets.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Lake Tahoe, but exploring the beaches is one of my favorite activities to do around the lake.
Last fall, when the weather was still warm, I spent a month living in Lake Tahoe exploring a lot of the coastline. From that trip, and other trips I’ve made to Tahoe over the years, I came up with this list of the best Lake Tahoe beaches.
There are a lot of options for beaches to visit around Lake Tahoe, but this list will give you an idea of where to start and why each one of these is worth discovering.
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Tips for Visiting Lake Tahoe Beaches
- Bring cash – Many of the beaches on the lake are part of local or state parks that require a day-use fee. You can sometimes use a card if someone is manning the entrance kiosk, but that’s not always a guarantee. Most day-use fees are around $10 per car.
- Be prepared for the cold – The water in Lake Tahoe is not quite as warm as what you’ll find in Southern California or even the Bay Area. It’s located in the Sierras, after all! You can still swim in the crystal clear waters, especially on those really warm days. Just be prepared for colder water than you might be used to.
- Get there early – If you’re visiting in the summer, or even the spring or fall, you’ll want to get to the beaches on the earlier side to find parking. Sometimes you can find street parking if the paid lots are full but it’s not always guaranteed. Also, since this is a popular weekend trip from San Francisco, weekends will always be busier too.
5 Best Beaches in Lake Tahoe
Kings Beach is North Lake Tahoe’s main beach and one of the easiest and most family-friendly beaches to visit on the North Shore. It’s conveniently located about a 20-minute drive from Tahoe City and it’s next to a ton of bars, shops, and restaurants, some of which have seating directly on the beach.
This long white sand beach is the perfect spot to sunbathe or try your hand at one of the many water activities that are offered near the beach (including jet-skiing, parasailing, and paddleboarding).
Kings Beach also has warmer water compared to most of the other beaches in Lake Tahoe, meaning it’s a great place to swim as well.
- Parking: $10 Pay-to-park lot and free street parking
- Amenities: 18 picnic tables, barbecues, a playground, restrooms, volleyball courts, basketball court (just a half-court), and plenty of water sport rentals like jet-skis and paddleboards
- How to get there: Kings Beach off Highway 267, along Bear Street. It’s one mile west of the Nevada State Line, 13 miles southeast of Truckee, and 10 miles northeast of Tahoe City
Sand Harbor Beach
One of Lake Tahoe’s most popular beaches, Sand Harbor Beach is by far one of the best beaches in Lake Tahoe for its scenic nature and clear waters.
This half-a-mile-long beach is one that features large white boulders, aquamarine water, and long sandy stretches that are perfect for a relaxing day in the sun.
With how clear the water is, this is a great beach for kayaking (there are rentals at the beach), swimming, and scuba diving (at Divers Cove) – just be mindful of the large round boulders that are throughout the water!
One of the coolest things about Sand Harbor is the accessible walking path near the water (along the Water Trail) that gives you stunning views of the lake and sandy beach.
And, if you time your visit right, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival takes place at the park every summer.
- Parking: $10 per vehicle, parking lot inside the state park entrance
- Amenities: Barbecues, paddleboard/kayak, and jet ski rentals, picnic tables, restrooms, showers, volleyball courts, and boat launch area
- How to get there: Sand Harbor Beach is located off Highway 28, about five miles south of Incline Village
Secret Cove & Chimney Beach
Secret Cove and Chimney Beach are only about a half-mile from each other so I like visiting both of these together when I have the time.
Plus the hike from one beach to the other is beautiful and mostly along the water. They’re also only about three miles south of Sand Harbor Beach, so they’re a good alternative if Sand Harbor is full or too crowded.
Secret Cove has become not so secret in recent years so it’s often crowded during the middle of the day. And since it’s already a small beach, it can be hard to find a place to layout if you’re going during peak hours.
With that said, it’s a stunning cove and well worth seeing, even if it’s just to take in the views. Just note that Secret Cove is a nudist beach and most beachgoers stick to their birthday suit.
Chimney Beach, named for its random stone chimney that can be found near the beach, is slightly larger but not quite as popular as Secret Cove.
Since there’s a parking lot near Chimney Beach, I’d recommend starting there and hiking over to Secret Cove and back when you want to explore more of the surrounding area.
Note: These are also both dog-friendly beaches if you’re traveling with your pooch.
- Parking: Chimney Beach parking area or free parking
- Amenities: Porta-potties
- How to get there: Only a short drive from Incline Village, the easiest way to get to these beaches is to try and find a spot at the small Chimney Beach parking area. If that’s full, look for street parking as close as you can to Chimney Beach or Secret Cove along Highway 28 (just avoid the sections that have “No Parking” signs). Just note that the trail down to the beach is pretty steep near Secret Cove
Emerald Bay Beach
The clear waters at this beach take on a unique emerald tinge in the sunshine, which is a sight to see in itself. This is also where you’ll find the famous Vikingsholm, Fannette Island, some of the best viewpoints in Lake Tahoe, and plenty of nearby hikes.
If you’re into snorkeling or scuba diving, don’t miss the Maritime Heritage Underwater Trail. Otherwise, go swimming in the dedicated swimming area, spend the day laying out on the sandy beach watching the boats, or take a tour of Vikingsholm if it’s open.
- Parking: $2-$10 per vehicle depending on where you park and for how long. The closest parking lot is the Vikingsholm parking lot near Highway 89. You can also park at Eagle Point Campground or D.L. Bliss State Park if you’re hiking the Rubicon Trail. Otherwise, free parking along the street is first-come, first-served. If you are visiting during the off-season, D.L. Bliss State Park might be closed.
- Amenities: Picnic tables and restrooms
- How to get there: Emerald Bay is located off Highway 89 in South Lake Tahoe. You can either get to Emerald Bay from the Eagle Point Campground, D.L. Bliss State Park (via the Rubicon Trail hike), or the Vikingsholm parking lot if you’re lucky enough to snag a spot. Just note that the trail is very steep to get down to the beach from the Vikingsholm lot. Lastly, you can also rent kayaks from Baldwin Beach and paddle to Emerald Bay.
Pope Beach is one of the best beaches to visit in South Lake Tahoe due to its lively atmosphere, long sandy stretches, and convenient location.
Pope Beach is a great family-friendly beach for swimming and picnicking in the summer with dunes nearby and shady pine trees that give you a break from the sun.
Besides swimming, this is a popular beach for boating, windsurfing, and kayaking (with kayak rentals on the beach) to explore more of the coastline. Pope Beach is also not too far from Tallac Historic Site if you want to get some more sightseeing in.
- Parking: $8 per vehicle, Paid parking lot at the beach
- Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables, and snack bar
- How to get there: Pope Beach is located off Emerald Bay Road (Highway 89) near Camp Richardson. If you don’t want to drive, the beach is also accessible by bike via the Pope/Baldwin bike path
More Tahoe Beaches to Visit
- Sugar Pine Point State Park Beach – Just 10 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, this is a great little beach next to Hellman-Ehrman Mansion
- Kiva Beach – Kiva Beach is one of the more dog-friendly beaches in South Lake Tahoe
- Commons Beach – Commons Beach is a great Tahoe City beach that has free live music in the summer
- Lake Forest Beach – Another beautiful beach on the West Shore in Tahoe City and just two miles north of Commons Beach
- Skylandia State Park – This beach offers stunning views of the lake, just two miles north of Commons Beach
- Moon Dune Beach – A quiet beach located on the North Shore and less than a mile from Kings Beach National Recreation Area
- Lester Beach & Calawee Cove (at D.L. Bliss State Park) – These are two of the best West Shore beaches, both can be found at D.L. Bliss State Park
- Baldwin Beach – You can rent a kayak from Baldwin Beach and paddle to Emerald Bay
- Sandy Beach – A stunning beach on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe that is less than two miles from Kings Beach
- Nevada Beach – Nevada Beach is another dog-friendly beach just south of Zephyr Cove
- Zephyr Cove Beach – Zephyr Cove is a good beach to visit on the East Shore for a variety of family-friendly water activities
- Regan Beach – Regan Beach is another family-friendly beach with its shallow waters and other amenities like a sand volleyball court and a playground
- William Kent Shoreline – Located on the West Shore and two miles south of Tahoe City, William Kent Shoreline offers shaded areas and picnic tables
- Cave Rock – On the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, this is a popular boat launch area near a rock tunnel with scenic views
- Lakeside Beach – Located in South Lake Tahoe with a lot of nearby live music venues and restaurants. It’s also less than a mile from the South Lake Tahoe Visitor Center
- El Dorado Beach – Another South Lake Tahoe favorite right off Highway 50 that is close to a lot of restaurants
Common Questions About Visiting the Beaches in Lake Tahoe
Where is the Clearest Water in Lake Tahoe?
There are a lot of spots with crystal clear water in Lake Tahoe, but Emerald Bay, Secret Cove/Chimney Beach, and Lester Beach at D.L. Bliss State Park are my picks for the best beaches with the clearest water.
Which Part of Lake Tahoe is the Most Beautiful?
It’s a hard call and really depends on your preference. Do you like long sandy beaches or more rugged hidden escapes?
I personally enjoy the West and North Lake Tahoe beaches the most due to their scenic nature and some more tucked away spots, but the South Lake Tahoe beaches can be great too.
Is North Shore or South Shore Lake Tahoe Better?
The age-old question that once again depends on your preference. I wrote up a whole article comparing the two, you can find my take on North vs South Lake Tahoe here.
Can You Go Swimming in Lake Tahoe?
Yes! It’s cold but you can definitely go swimming in the lake. It’s best to go swimming during the summer or early fall and on a hot day.
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