Jason Daniel Shaw
Best Summer Spots in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe in the summer is a completely different feel than in the winter. The summer lake activities are endless and make for a great week of vacation. Some of my favorite spots (in no particular order) are South Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, Cave Rock, Secret Cove, Sand Harbor and Kings Beach. We spent the 4th of July week exploring and enjoying the area while taking in a couple fireworks shows. Lake Tahoe sits on the border of Nevada and California with the state line running through South Lake Tahoe (in the south) and Kings Beach (in the north). We used both of these locations as our home base. Read on to find out more about our favorite spots.
South Lake Tahoe – Lake Tahoe, CA
South Lake Tahoe was our first stop and home to Heavenly Mountain. It is a great spot to setup camp to explore the south half of the lake. There are plenty of resort, restaurants and events to keep you busy, With the state line running through the middle of town, the Nevada side has plenty of casinos if you are looking to try your luck at gambling. There are plenty of other operations that can get you on the water, such as boat and jet ski rentals. We took advantage of that and rented a jet ski for half a day to explore the lakeshore from the water. Our 4-hour rental allowed us to see everything from Emerald Bay to Cave Rock at our own pace. I would highly recommend a jet ski day – just remember that the lake typically gets more rough in the afternoon so plan your rental accordingly.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express – South Lake Tahoe. I have stayed here once in winter and now in summer. It is great, no matter the season. The value and the location make it a perfect home base.
Emerald Bay – Lake Tahoe, CA
Emerald Bay is one of the most iconic spots in Lake Tahoe with Fannette Island and Vikingsholm being popular destinations. We visited Emerald Bay both via water and car. My favorite was by water, of course, however, it is worth a visit either way.
There are many hikes surrounding the bay along the highway. We hiked to Eagle Falls/Eagle Lake and Cascade Falls/Cascade Lake. Eagle Falls is well-worth the short hike as is the lower falls (between the lake and the road). Eagle Lake was a bit of a longer hike and worth it only if you are going to take a picnic or have extra time. Cascade Falls is a nice area to explore as is Cascade Lake but, again, only if you have extra time. Inspiration Point is the perfect place to stop to take in the beautiful views of the lake, however, between there and the Eagle Falls parking lot is the best place to get unobstructed views of Emerald Bay.
Fannette Island in the middle of Emerald Bay houses the “tea house” that was built by the owner of Vikingsholm. The “tea house” is a building that resembles a castle built atop the highest point on the island and is only accessible via SUP or boat. Vikingsholm is a 38-room mansion built in 1928/1929 and is now open for tours. While we did not visit the inside, the outside is open to anyone and is quite impressive to see. Emerald Bay is a must-see if you are visiting Lake Tahoe for the first time.
Cave Rock – Lake Tahoe, NV
Cave Rock is a short hike that we were told about by the Holiday Inn Express staff. It is only 0.8 miles out and back with a moderate climb but easily doable climb. You are rewarded with panoramic views of the entire lake from a rock outcropping that can be seen from anywhere on the lake. It is a great place to take a lunch and take in the views before heading on to explore other places around the lake. There is a small pullout with a few parking spots off Cave Rock Rd. It can sometimes be busy so you may have to wait for a spot, though.
Secret Cove – Lake Tahoe, NV
Secret Cove (nude beach) and Secret Harbor Beach are my favorite spots in Lake Tahoe. The water is so clear and turquoise that you may just think that you are in the Caribbean. Parking is just on the side of the road along 28. If you search for Secret Cove on Google Maps, park at the closest spot along the road. From there it is a steep hike down to the lake so bring good shoes and take your time. When you arrive at the water, you will realize that the hike was definitely worth it.
The nude portion of the beach is my favorite because there are boulders that are strewn around the cove making it a picturesque location. You don’t have to go nude to visit here as we kept our clothes on and were welcomed by the local nudists. Just respect their privacy and be courteous. If you are looking for a non-nude area, the shoreline to the south of here is just as scenic.
This is the perfect spot to relax and spend the day. However, bring whatever you may need for the day because there are no facilities here. An alternative is to rent a SUP or jet ski and visit via the water. Make sure to bring your camera because there are plenty of options for photos.
Sand Harbor – Lake Tahoe, NV
Sand Harbor State Park is a great alternative to Secret Cove and is much more accessible. Because of this, it was get extremely crowded in the summer, so much so that they often close the park due to being at capacity. We visited a couple days because we enjoyed it so much. There are plenty of facilities such as restrooms and even a restaurant and snack shop. You can rent kayaks and SUPs here from a local shop. There was even an independent guy renting jet skis. During the summer, Sand Harbor houses the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at their outdoor theater.
Make sure to visit during different times of the day to get different experiences. Sunset is great for amazing colors and to watch the sun set over the water. Sunrise is the best time to SUP and capture photos of the clear water because there is virtually no waves during the morning. Make sure to stop and check out the park as you will not be disappointed.
Kings Beach – North Lake Tahoe, CA
Kings Beach is a town on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, just west of Incline Village. We stopped here to watch the fireworks show (the day before the 4th of July) and came back to make this our home base to explore the north side of the lake. As with South Lake Tahoe, there are plenty of things to do to keep you busy. Kings Beach seems to have less tourists than the more familiar South Lake Tahoe.
In Kings Beach, we stayed at Ferrari’s Crown Resort. It was a good price with a pool and hot tub that overlooked the lake. While, there weren’t many options for rooms during this busy week, we were able to book a room last minute. If you like to plan ahead, there are a few rooms that have amazing views over the lake and even balconies. I would highly recommend Ferrari’s Crown Resort and Kings Beach for your north lake exploration base.