These are only a few of the many stunning beaches along beautiful Lake Tahoe, but they are some of my favorite spots for different reasons. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy these beaches, and maybe you’ll add some of them to your list of favorite spots along Lake Tahoe.
1) Chimney Beach, Nevada
Sharing this little gem along Lake Tahoe is bittersweet because this has been one of my favorite spots for quite some time. But Wander Girl is about sharing and making the world a better place for all of us, so I’ll share my favorite spot along Tahoe with the world. And who knows, maybe we will run into each other on one of the quaint rock outcroppings someday!
The Chimney Beach area is one of my favorite beaches and short hikes, especially with my children. Secret Harbor parking lot is located about 3 miles south of Sand Harbor Beach along NV-28 and provides access to Chimney Beach and other quaint locations along the Tahoe’s eastern shoreline. If the parking lot is full, don’t worry, there are areas along the road where parking is allowed. If you have dogs, the southern portion of the beach is dog-friendly and often has dogs playing and swimming in Tahoe.
The short hike from the parking lot to Chimney beach is about a third of a mile. It is a fairly steep trail as is descends towards Tahoe’s crystal clear emerald blue water, but the trail is always in good shape. It is a bit of a challenge for our five-year-old, but the little guy plugs through it. While most people will stay on the trail north along beautiful Lake Tahoe to the beach, the hidden gem of this area is the trail that leads south along the lake.
Taking the trail south leads you to several quaint areas where boulders of various sizes give you access to the lake in small and relatively private areas. These are great little spots for picknicks or swimming in the pristine clear waters of Tahoe. There are several granite outcroppings scattered throughout the half-mile trail before the lakeside trail turns slightly inland just before you would reach Secret Cove beach, which I will talk about later.
Enjoy this little gem and explore what Tahoe has to offer!
2) Zephyr Cove, Nevada
Located about 6 miles north of South Lake Tahoe, Zephyr Cove is a beautiful beach that is very popular with tourists and locals alike. Zephyr Cove has vendors that rent kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats and more. You can even take cruises of Lake Tahoe on a paddlewheel boat. The beach is fairly long and provides great spots to explore the lake, swim, or just relax on the beach and soak up some sun. But remember sunscreen because Lake Tahoe sits at 6,225 feet, and the sun is pretty intense at altitude.
Along the beach near the main Zephyr Cove parking lot are a few volleyball courts and a small bar and grill that serves yummy food like chicken tacos and burgers as well a variety of great adult beverages. Parking does cost 10 dollars, 25 dollars during the fourth of July weekend, and they only take cash. It is also worth noting that dogs are not allowed on the beach. My first time to Zephyr Cove, I had my “Augie doggy” and ended up finding Chimney beach as a result.
Zephyr Cove is a great place to find a new adventure or sit back, relax, and enjoy all that Tahoe has to offer because of the variety of adventures that you experience have at one spot!
3) Sand Harbor Beach, Nevada
Sand Harbor beach sits along the northeast portion of Lake Tahoe about 23 miles north of South Lake Tahoe, CA, and a mere four and a half miles southeast of Incline Village, NV. It is a popular spot for both tourists and residents from all around the greater Reno/Tahoe area. Sand has a large parking lot as well as a boat launch with ample parking. Despite Sand Harbor’s large parking area, you will want to arrive early, especially during peak season. The lot fills up quickly, and parking along the roadway is illegal… and you WILL be cited and towed.
Part of the reason this beach is so popular is due to the beach’s almost unparalleled view of the mountains that the beach provides. It is really hard to oversell just how amazing the scenery is from Sand Harbor beach and just how beautiful it truly is. In addition to the long stretch of beach on the southern edge and Sand Harbor itself, there are several large granite boulders along Sand Point that are great for sunbathing or jumping into Tahoe’s clear and crisp water. There is also a convenient bar and grill located next to the Sand Harbor Visitors Center that serves excellent food and drinks all summer long.
Also, if you visit Lake Tahoe between July and the first week of September, you might want to get tickets to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, which is held at Sand Harbor. There are a variety of shows almost nightly throughout the summer that varies from the Reno Philharmonic, musicals, and Shakespeare productions.
While Sand Harbor beach can get pretty crowded, the limited number of parking spaces and the inability to park on the highway does limit overcrowding on the beach.
4, 5, 6) Secret Harbor, Creek, Whale, & Secret Cove Beaches
While these beaches do not have associated parking lots, there are turnouts and marked parking areas along NV-28 so that people can park and hike down to these beaches safely. The trails leading down to their associate beaches are steep in some areas but are all fairly easy descents and ascents. Secret Cove is less than a quarter mile from the road. Secret beach and Creek beach are maybe a third of a mile walk down to the beach, depending on which trail you take. The longest hike to of the four is to Whale beach at about half a mile. All of these beaches are easily accessible, and I will usually explore all of them, but that’s just me.
I mentioned Secret Cove beach when discussing the Chimney beach area because Secret Cove is a clothing optional beach, and there are usually several people taking advantage of the opportunity to shed their inhibitions… and by inhibitions, I mean clothing. Secret Cove is a surprisingly comfortable environment where people do their own thing that is free of the “gawking” that is often associated with these types of beaches.
Secret Harbor, Creek, and Whale beaches are also clothing optional beaches just south of Secret Cove. They are secluded from other beaches, which enhances the atmosphere at these clothing optional beaches. I initially stumbled onto these beaches, but quickly noticed that they are very laid back and didn’t have any of the negative stigma associated with them that I thought would come with clothing optional beaches. The environment is very welcoming with people of all ages taking advantage of “optional” aspect of clothing optional.
While this type of beach may not be for everyone, I find it to be a very welcoming environment that is worth the hike.