10 Best Beaches in Lake Tahoe: Visit These in Summer and Winter

Lake Tahoe has over 70 miles of shoreline, but only a small percentage of it is actual sandy beach. A majority of the lake is privately owned, or too rugged to even find a place to sit. Beaches are at a premium, but what there is is choice. However that also makes them very popular places to hang out. On hot summer days it can sometimes be hard to even find parking for one of Tahoe’s beaches, much less a place to plant your beach umbrella. In the fall and winter, Tahoe beaches are much less crowded and the wind has calmed down, making them perfect locations for a picnic.

Sand Harbor, home to Lake Tahoe's Shakespeare Festival, is probably the most beautiful of the beaches in Lake Tahoe. It has plenty of parking, shade, swimming beaches, a boat launch and a beach specifically for SCUBA divers called Diver's Cove. For some smaller beaches, head to Kiva Beach, Pope Beach or Commons Beach in Tahoe City. Kings Beach is great for catching a parasail ride or for renting a kayak and Lester Beach in D.L. Bliss State Park has a wonderful, clear blue bay where you can jump off the rocks and enjoy the sunshine.


Now a center for recreation and outdoor fun, this park also holds the memories of pioneer struggles, especially in regard to the Donner Party, who suffered a winter in the area and resorted to cannibalism to survive. Now, the tract of land in the Sierra Nevada range offers a wealth of warm- and cold-weather possibilities, including camping, fishing, hiking, boating, skiing, and more. Plus, the onsite museum charts local history and geology, and a memorial to the Donner party documents the conditions through which the survivors lived. Donner Park's beach is small, but the sand is really nice and the swimming area is protected for smaller children.

Recommended for Beaches because: Donner Lake is away from the Tahoe summer crowds and is surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Christina's expert tip: On the north side of Donner Lake are several free public piers for fishing and swimming.

Read more about Donner Memorial State Park →

Cave Rock is located on the Northeast area of the lake. The rock itself has a tunnel in which Highway 50 runs through on both sides of the road. The tunnel has been here since the early 1930s. Cave Rock stands about 400 feet high and the tunnels are about 80 feet above the surface of the lake. The rock is also considered to be sacred by the local Washoe tribe. Years ago, rock climbing used to be popular on the large rock, but restrictions have since been put on the activity. Cave Rock has a boat launching area that includes a double ramp, a dock and 40 spaces for trailer parking. Boat launching hours are May 1 through September 30, 6 am to 8 pm and October 1 through April 30, 6 am to 4 pm daily. Fishing and picnicking is popular in this area as well as swimming and snorkeling off the small beach.

Recommended for Beaches because: Cave Rock and the beach are sacred to the local Native American tribes.

Christina's expert tip: Cave Rock is a less crowded place to launch your boat than Sand Harbor

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Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay State Park on the southwest area of Lake Tahoe is home to park is home to Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion that is one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere. The views from any part of the Bay are fantastic. The park contains the only island in Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island where a small teahouse was built by the owner of the Vikingsholm Castle. The park is accessible by State Route 89 near the southwest shore of the lake. Emerald Bay is one of Lake Tahoe's most photographed and popular locations. In 1969, Emerald Bay was recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the federal Department of the Interior. In 1994, California State Parks included the surrounding water of the bay as a part of the park, making Emerald Bay one of the first underwater parks of its type in the state, protecting the various wrecks and other items on the bay's bottom. There are several camping areas in Emerald Bay including Eagle Point Campground, Bayview Campground and the boat-in campground on the West side of the bay. Parking around the bay is small and will cost you about $8 for the day. You can also access the popular Desolation Wilderness hiking and camping area from the Eagle Falls parking area.

Recommended for Beaches because: A mile hike down to the water will bring you to the Bay's pretty beach

Christina's expert tip: Plan to get to the park early in the morning to get parking. This is the most popular area of the lake.

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Commons Beach

This small and local friendly beach is right in the middle of Tahoe City. There is a grassy area with playgrounds and nice BBQ areas, but is not the best beach for swimming. Free special events are held all year long on Commons Beach including SnowFest! in the winter, the Farmer's Market all summer and fall and in mid-summer, the Concerts at Commons Beach are great for all family members where live music is played on most Sundays. On summer Wednesdays, the park is showing Movies at the Beach. Commons Beach is right on the Tahoe City Boardwalk and from the beach you can walk to many restaurants, coffee shops and stores.

Recommended for Beaches because: Common's Beach is popular in the summer for the free concert series.

Christina's expert tip: Children can wade around in the water, but there are two many rocks for swimming.

Read more about Commons Beach →

Pope Beach is the longest of all Tahoe's beaches, and has parking along the length of it. Bring your pitchers of beer along with you, for alcoholic beverages are allowed, so long as you don't have glass bottles. As with other beaches in this area (Baldwin, Kiva, Camp Rich) there is typically less wind than the east shore. There is a $5 California Park Service fee to park here. There are restrooms, picnic tables, and standing BBQs. Pope Beach is located on the south side of Lake Tahoe, approximately 3 miles north of the "Y" (the intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 89) in South Lake Tahoe. Parking costs $7 a car and dogs are not allowed.

Recommended for Beaches because: Pope Beach has an amazing view of Mount Tallac on the South Shore.

Christina's expert tip: Pope Beach is one of the lesser known beaches.

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Kings Beach State Recreation Area

Although it's open year-round, this park really comes into its own when the weather turns warm. At that point, its 700 feet of lakeshore are inundated by sun worshippers, who lounge on the beach, splash in the water, tool around the lake, and engage in sports on the shore. Kids can take advantage of playground equipment, and families and groups relish the opportunity to spend time together laughing, eating, and basking in the beauty of the lake. Kings Beach is a great spot to go on a parasail ride or rent a kayak or paddleboard. Several companies have huts on the beach where you can book a day trip. There are a ton of restaurants and bars near the beach as well as a small theater and many hotels and lodges to choose from.

Recommended for Beaches because: King's Beach has a great children's playground with a view of the water.

Christina's expert tip: Kings Beach is called the Banana Belt of Tahoe and is a great spot even in the winter.

Read more about Kings Beach State Recreation Area →

D.L. Bliss State Park is located just a few miles past Emerald Bay on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. It consists of several hundred acres of granite hillside and pine forests and a large and family-friendly campground. The bottom of the park is Lester Beach, one of the prettiest beaches on the Lake. The entrance and parking fee for D.L. Bliss is about $8, but there is plenty of parking for day users as well as campers. The campground has private and semi-private spots, firepits, plenty of tent spots and hot pay showers. From Lester Beach, you can paddle past Rubicon Point towards Emerald Bay as you glide through the the clear blue-green waters. You an also access the beautiful Rubicon Trail that runs about 3 miles along the shoreline to Emerald Bay. Another, shorter hike is the Balancing Rock Hike. The Balancing Rock is the feature attraction of a short, half mile self-guided nature trail in the northwest section of D.L. Bliss State Park. The granite of this large rock began weathering more rapidly at the joint plane, an extensive horizontal crack that is easily seen at its "waist". The overlying rock weighs around 130 tons and is now balanced on the rock below.

Recommended for Beaches because: Lester Beach is beautiful and popular--get here early in the morning for the best parking.

Christina's expert tip: Camping is popular here, you may need to book several months in advance.

Read more about D.L. Bliss State Park →

Kiva Beach

This pleasant little beach is known for its great view of Mt. Tallac and dog friendly area. Right by Camp Richardson, but away from the crowds. This beach is very lengthy and full of brightly-colored sand, and is located near South Lake Tahoe's "Y". The beach is dissected by Taylor Creek, a popular destination on it's own. To get to Kiva Beach, turn right at the Forest Service Visitor Center turnoff near Camp Richardson and follow the road past the Visitor's Center (this is also the parking for the stream profile chamber) to the beach parking lot. The lot may be full on hot summer days.

Recommended for Beaches because: Kiva Beach allows friendly dogs on the sand and in the water.

Christina's expert tip: Kiva Beach has free parking.

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If you're planning a family vacation, a reunion, or just a weekend getaway, Camp Richardson has it all. On a long sandy beach on the southwest shore, this woodsy retreat offers a wide array of activities and several lodging and dining options. Its two restaurants offer lakeside dining, but there are also more informal dining options, plus a general store, a candy store, and an ice-cream parlor. The sports center rents all the seasonal equipment you'll need. You can ski right along the shore, scale the rock-climbing wall, or visit the stable for horseback riding. The full-service marina rents ski boats, jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboats, and offers guided tours, cruises, and chartered fishing trips. Lodging options include a hotel, cabins, a beachside inn, a marina duplex, tent campgrounds, and an RV park. The children will fall into bed exhausted at night with all of the organized activities available. Cabins rent only by the week in summer and fill up quickly. Tip: Check their website for seasonal money-saving packages.

Recommended for Beaches because: Camp Richardson's restaurant, The Beacon, is located right on the beach.

Christina's expert tip: Every June, Camp Richardson becomes the home of the Lake Tahoe Renaissance Festival.

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Sand Harbor

Sand Harbor is considered the most beautiful beach in Lake Tahoe. It is located on the Nevada side of the lake in the Lake Tahoe National Park. The beach has a small museum and store, bathrooms, showers, parking, a boat launch, picnic tables and BBQs and plenty of golden sand to put down a blanket and umbrella. Some areas around the beach have rocks that you can jump off of. There is an $8 parking fee at Sand Harbor during the summer and fall months. During the summer season, Sand Harbor has beach lifeguards. The boat launch area of Sand Harbor is located on the North side of the beach and launch fees and boat inspections apply. There is also a bay just for SCUBA divers called Diver's Cove.

Recommended for Beaches because: Sand Harbor has a bay and beach specifically for SCUBA divers.

Christina's expert tip: The rule of thumb for Sand Harbor is to get there before 10 a.m. on summer weekends. Parking fills up fast.

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Meet Christina Nellemann

Christina has lived in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area since she was a baby. A first-generation Nevadan, her Danish parents instilled in her an intense love of travel and the wild, rugged outdoors...  More About Christina