Can’t decide between mountains and beaches? Perched at an elevation of 6,225 feet, Lake Tahoe delivers an abundance of both, with a chill West Coast vibe and plenty of superb paddling thrown in for good measure.
Cradled amid the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the pine-scented shores and clear, cobalt waters of the world’s second-largest alpine lake have long attracted visitors seeking year-round relaxation and adventure. In 1872, widely traveled American humorist, Mark Twain, declared Lake Tahoe, “the fairest picture the whole earth affords.”
Evidence of Tahoe’s special appeal for kayakers and paddleboarders is apparent in the scores of outfitters, guides and rental shops that have sprouted around the lake. Each side of this dazzling blue jewel offers a different experience.
South Lake Tahoe boasts splendid sand beaches, while the North Shore features scenic, boulder-strewn bays and breathtaking mountain vistas. Head to Nevada’s pristine East Shore for Tahoe’s longest undeveloped coastline.
Where to Go
If you Want to paddle and dine
Rent boards and boats (or bring your own) and launch at Waterman’s Landing, a hip collective in Carnelian Bay on the North Shore that operates a beachside café as well as paddle education programs and a racing series.
Tour east along bustling King’s Beach and glide among the water-worn rocks in Crystal Bay, then return to the Landing (seven to eight miles round-trip) to sample their tasty lunch menu, organic coffee and local microbrews.
If you’re Into beaches
Three National Forest Service beaches in South Lake Tahoe offer soft sands, panoramic views and convenient access and amenities for paddlers. Pitch a tent at Nevada Beach’s popular campground, or explore the bird-filled marshes of the Upper Truckee River from Pope Beach. Launching from Baldwin Beach provides the closest boat access to beautiful Emerald Bay.
Allow a full day for the eight-mile round-trip, including a waterfall hike, stop at Fannette Island and tour of the century-old, Scandinavian-style Vikingsholm mansion. Kayak Tahoe (www.kayaktahoe.com) offers rentals and route suggestions at all three beaches.
If you Want to paddle into the sunset
For spectacular sunsets—and one of the prettiest places in all of Tahoe—head to Sand Harbor State Park on the northeast shore and slip into the crystalline shallows. Here, a rocky point embraces crescents of golden sand and tranquil bays sprinkled with polished granite boulders.
Arrive early and paddle south along miles of stunning coastline, with Insta-worthy sights around every point, including Bonsai Rock and Secret Cove. Find your own rock garden and watch the sun descend behind the Sierras across the lake.
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. | Photo: Richid Dahnoun/Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority