Lake Tahoe. From the moment you get there you will know exactly why people travel from all over the world to see North America’s largest alpine lake. Famous for it’s vibrant blue water, surrounding snowcapped mountains and an endless array of adventures, Lake Tahoe is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. I consider myself very lucky to have called Lake Tahoe my second home since I was a child. When I was younger, my family and I would go there on school breaks for hiking, cycling, skiing and hanging by the lake. To this day, I make as much time to get up there as I can, and enjoy a little slice of paradise by the lake.
I actually got into paddleboarding in Lake Tahoe when I was in high school (I know, super long time ago). As soon as I stood up on the board, I knew it would be a new adventure addiction. It’s such a wonderful way to see the landscape, and a killer full-body workout! There are so many amazing spots in Tahoe to paddleboard, and to be honest it was really hard to narrow it down to these. If you have a favorite spot, let us know in the comments! Here are five awesome spots in Lake Tahoe to paddleboard, in no particular order:
SAND HARBOR STATE PARK
You’ve seen Sand Harbor. You’ve scrolled past photos of it in your social media feeds and read about it in travel blogs. Sand Harbor is famous for its turquoise and deep blue hues, sparkling clear waters, rock formations, family-friendly shallow swimming areas and pristine sand beaches. If you like to experience calmer waters, where the water looks like glass, make sure to go early in the morning. And, it’s super easy to launch your board there, as the parking lot is just steps away from the beach. There is a rental shack here if you don’t have a board of your own. It is located near the boat launch area. You have to pay for parking, but it goes back to the parks services and maintenance. In the summer, prepare for large crowds. Go early, and go on a weekday.
You can explore many places here, and you can’t go wrong with any route you decide to take. If you decide to go south, I highly recommend hitting up Secret Cove and Bonsai Rock. If you want to explore the northern side I suggest going up to Incline and discovering the beaches there.
Photography Tip: You need a permit to drone within the Nevada State Parks. Make sure to read the guidelines or speak to a ranger to be informed. If you don’t have one, GoPro works wonders. Just make sure to bring a selfie stick!
South Lake Tahoe is the more glitzy side of the lake. Famous for its resorts casinos, it also offers plenty of gorgeous beaches, hiking trails and ski resorts. One of the more popular beaches and paddleboarding spots here is Zephyr Cove. There are many places to explore after launching from Zephyr Cove, all depending on the time you have. If you set aside a big chunk of the day, I recommend checking out Emerald Bay (to the west) or Secret Beach and Sand Harbor (to the north). You can also rent boards here, so it’s really a convenient spot for people who don’t own one.
I am super biased about Carnelian Bay, as this place has been my second home since I was a baby. However, most people agree with me that it is a great place to launch a paddleboard, if not one of the best. It boasts amazing views of the surrounding mountains, a gorgeous beach and a restaurant and rental shack. It’s also one of the most convenient places to launch, as there is a parking lot right by the shore. In the summer it can get full fast, and you may need to park on the street. My suggestion is to get there early, get a parking spot and hit the lake. Getting there early also ensures you will have calmer waters to paddle.
If you need a rental, food or advice on where to go, Waterman’s Landing is the place to be. You can find it right by the parking lot. You can’t miss it – there are brightly colored paddleboards and kayaks surrounding it. Everyone who works there is super friendly and knowledgable about the region, and always willing to help you out. And, the food is delicious! My favorite way to end the day is to hang out on the patio, enjoy a meal and take in the views.
As for paddling, from Carnelian Bay, you can paddle to King’s Beach if you veer left or Tahoe City beaches if you go right. You can’t go wrong either way.
Carnelian Bay also has some gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, so I definitely suggest making an effort to paddleboard during these times. It makes for a really amazing experience, and it is less crowded on the water. During these times, I usually feel like I have the entire lake to myself.
Photography Tip: You can also drone here without a permit. Go early to get calmer waters and smaller crowds.
D.L. BLISS STATE PARK
D.L. Bliss State Park is located on the western shores of Lake Tahoe. It is known and frequented by locals and tourists alike for hiking trails, stunning beaches and family-friendly campsites. One of the more popular beaches is Lester Beach, and from there many people head over to Emerald Bay or Meeks Bay. If you decide to come back early, I recommend you hit the trails or some of the points of interest in the area, such as sections of the Rubicon Trail, Balancing Rock, Calawee Cove or Rubicon Point Lighthouse.
Emerald Bay is known internationally as one of the most photogenic spots, and it’s easy to see why. This iconic spot is easily one of the most recognizable in the region, and is home to various hiking trails, waterfalls, small nearby lakes and a beach on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Emerald Bay is a photographer’s dream; a dramatic landscape of a stunning turquoise bay set amongst the cobalt blue lake and surrounding trees and mountains. It’s also home to some of the best sunsets in the region. Check out Inspiration Point, a favorite spot to get the perfect shot of the lake and Fannette Island.
There is no direct launch from Emerald Bay, unless you want to lug your gear down the Vikingsholm trail. There are, however, many places to launch to get there. Some of the more popular launch points can be found at Kiva Beach, Baldwin Beach and Meeks Bay. Make sure to prepare for a full day of paddling if you decide to go here, and pack accordingly (layers, food, water and sunscreen). A great spot for a lunch break is the little island in the middle of the Bay.
I hope you have the best time paddleboarding around Lake Tahoe. It holds a special place in my heart, and is to this day still one of my favorite spots to paddle. Adventure on!
Founder and main contributor to This Adventure Life, Kirsten Alexis has passion for all things adventure and the outdoors. She is an avid participant in action sports, such as skydiving, paragliding, snowboarding, high-altitude trekking, mountain biking, surfing and more. She is passionate about inspiring others to live their wildest dreams as well as conserving the environment for others to enjoy for years to come.