10 Great Swaths of Sand
  • Ahhh, summertime, and the beaches are great, especially at Lake Tahoe, where 72 miles of shoreline call out for days of sunny relaxation. Of the many beach choices, the facilities vary widely – from sparse (rest rooms and a couple picnic tables) to full service (including jet skiing, volleyball and boat cruises) – but one thing they all have in common? Non-stop views of lovely Lake Tahoe.

    Meek’s Bay Resort | Commons Beach Park | Burnt Cedar Beach | Chimney Beach, Etc. | Cave Rock State Park | Zephyr Cove | El Dorado State Beach | Camp Richardson | Fallen Leaf Lake Campground | Donner Lake West End Beach

    1. Meek’s Bay Resort

    Enjoy a marina, barbecues, designated swim area, plus nearby store and campground with a long swatch of beach. The visitor’s center offers a snack bar and Native American gifts – the white sand beach was once a meeting ground for the local Washoe Indians. Meek’s Bay is located a little more than 11 miles south of the ‘Y’ in Tahoe City, directly on Hwy 89.

    Best for: Boating

    2. Commons Beach Park

    This Tahoe City landmark hosts four acres of lakefront fun for kids and adults. Children can let off some steam on the posh playgrounds, the soft green grass or the mini-climbing wall; adults can enjoy heavenly views from the scattered picnic tables or start the family’s barbecue. No dedicated parking, no dogs allowed. Located directly east of the ‘Y’ intersection (Hwys 28 & 89) on Hwy 28 in downtown Tahoe City.

    Best for: Families

    3. Burnt Cedar Beach

    Incline Village saves its beach space for residents, but there are day passes for those staying short-term in the town, plus their guests. Good thing, because the Burnt Cedar Beach is beautiful, with sweeping paths meandering past restful benches, barbecues, a snack bar and heated pool. Directly on Lakeshore Drive, 1.4 miles east of the Hyatt and Country Club Drive.

    Best for: Summer swim parties

    4. Chimney Beach, Etc.

    These little hidden beauties were a local secret, but since the Forest Service created true parking the east shore beaches are more accessible. The four-to-five separate beaches are bare-bones (no services); just quiet, calm Tahoe sunshine (and no entry fee). Necessary note: half these spots are known as ‘clothing optional,’ so check before parking your towel. Drive just over one mile south of Sand Harbor or six and a half miles north of Spooner Summit on Hwy 28 to the mountainside car park, then take a 10 minute stroll down the dirt fire road across the highway.

    Best for: Scenery, solitude

    5. Cave Rock State Park

    This is a low-key spot, with little more than a few picnic tables, parking, boat ramp and a small slice of beach with direct views of mighty Mt. Tallac. Located in a small crescent cove directly south of the Cave Rock landmark tunnels, this is a great way to simply enjoy the lake away from all the crowds. On Hwy 50 East, 7 miles up from Stateline, Nev.

    Best for: Out-of-the-way adventure

    6. Zephyr Cove

    This is one of the big ‘scenes’ in the Lake Tahoe summer. Daily volleyball tourneys draw a large audience, and there is beachside bar service and a nearby restaurant. Add in live music, jet ski, kayak and paddleboat rentals for a very full day. Located four miles into Nevada from the Stateline casinos (or twp miles after the Safeway stoplight) is the light marking Zephyr Cove Resort, directly on Hwy 50.Best for: Beach parties & the young at heart

    7. El Dorado State Beach

    In the heart of South Lake Tahoe, this beach is either easy-going or crazy-busy. It’s the prime spot for viewing 4th of July fireworks, so folks tag sections early. At other times, enjoy the long stretch of sand, kayak and jet ski rentals and inexpensive launch ramp. Grassy play areas, barbecues, picnic tables and a paved path for strolling. On Hwy 50, almost two and a half miles west of the Stateline casinos, or just under three miles east of the “Y” in south shore.

    Best for: Water sport amenities

    8. Camp Richardson

    Another hot spot on the south shore, with full-service bar and restaurant, kayak rentals, boat cruises, music … you name it. It’s also the closest place (along with three neighboring beaches) to paddle into Emerald Bay. Located two and a half miles up Hwy 89 from the 50/89 intersection (the Y), on the lake side. Special note: There’s an ice cream parlor.

    Best for: Emerald Bay paddle trips

    And for those holiday weekends when the above beaches may be jam-packed, here are a couple nearby places for a less-crowded option:

    9. Fallen Leaf Lake Campground

    Fallen Leaf Lake itself is a little gem, often lost in the shadow of Tahoe’s popularity. A half-mile north of Camp Richardson is a left turn onto Fallen Leaf Lake Road. After another half-mile, there’s a campground entrance on the right. Then veer to the left, and follow the “Day Visitors” signs before parking. Be careful to park on the roadside, not in someone’s campsite! Then it’s a short walk on a well-marked dirt trail to the beach – dogs welcome.

    Best for: Dogs

    10. Donner Lake West End Beach

    Just five minutes from downtown Truckee, West End Beach boasts a mile and a half of of shoreline and 10 acres offering horseshoe pits, snack shack, picnic areas with barbecues, kayak and paddleboat rentals and a tennis court, plus a designated swim area. From Truckee, go north on 89 (and under I-80) until it meets Donner Pass Road. Turn left, heading west for four and a half miles, then left on Southshore Drive. The beach is immediately ahead on the left.

    Best for: Non-Tahoe picnics