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Best Lake Tahoe Swimming Beaches

Ahhh… Lake Tahoe. Just hearing the name of it brings to mind childhood memories of floating in the crystal blue water on an air mattress on one of the many beautiful Lake Tahoe swimming beaches that the area offers.

I grew up visiting Lake Tahoe every summer with my family and it remains one of my favorite places on this earth. I have passed on the love of this stunning alpine lake to my children and it is one of their favorite places to visit as well. When I ask them where they want to go on vacation, they say “somewhere with pine trees and clear blue water.” What better place than Lake Tahoe?!

Lake Tahoe kayaking | Island and Alpine

There are over forty beaches surrounding this beautiful lake and many of them offer amazing swimming holes in Lake Tahoe.

The water is so deep (1645 feet to be exact and it is the second deepest in the United States), so the water always stays cool due to its depth and the snowy mountains surrounding. This makes swimming in Lake Tahoe the PERFECT activity after a sweaty hike on a summer day. Check out our family favorite spots below.

*Hot Tip* Lake Tahoe’s beaches are BUUUSY in the summer. To make the most of your time there, it is important to choose your beach for the day in advance and arrive early to get a parking spot. For most beaches, around 9am should be safe.

When parking lots fill up, there is sometimes additional parking along the highway, but please be very cautious when doing this and check for signs to indicate whether or not parking is allowed.

I’ve heard too many stories of visitors driving from beach to beach for hours looking for an open spot. If you don’t wake up early enough to grab a spot, change plans and check out a hike, lakeside meal, window shopping, and then head back to your favorite beach in the late afternoon when the crowd starts to disperse. Sunset on Lake Tahoe is just as beautiful!

LAKE TAHOE’S BEST SWIMMING BEACHES FOR FAMILIES

  • Kings Beach
  • Hidden Beach
  • Sand Harbor
  • Emerald Bay
  • Meeks Bay
  • Sugar Pine Point State Beach
  • Zephyr Cove
  • Round Hill Pines Beach Resort

SWIMMING IN LAKE TAHOE

Swimming in Lake Tahoe is an incredible experience as the crystal clear alpine lake provides incredible views of shades of blue never before seen and surrounding snow-capped mountains. However, with this bucket list opportunity comes a great responsibility to “Keep Tahoe Blue.” This lake can only stay 99.994% pure if it is respected and cared for by visitors.

Here are a few tips to help you do your part:

  • Pack in and pack out – clean up and properly dispose of everything that you brought with you, especially ALL of your trash, please.
  • No fires are allowed on Tahoe’s beaches – no campfires are permitted to due to the lush surrounding forest and risk of forest fire.
  • Tahoe is Bear Country – while I have never personally seen a bear on the beach, I have seen them in my campsite on numerous occasions, so be aware when hiking and don’t leave any snack crumbs in your car! Likewise, do not feed ANY wildlife.
  • Be aware of the wind, waves, and cold water and make smart choices when swimming and boating.
  • If you are bringing a watercraft from home, drain, clean and dry it before arriving for your mandatory boat inspection.

NORTH LAKE TAHOE SWIMMING

Kings Beach

Lake Tahoe Kings Beach | Island and Alpine

The Kings Beach State Recreation Area is a beautiful beach located in the town of Kings Beach on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.

Visitors are drawn to Kings Beach for its large stretch of sand, easy facilities like restrooms, picnic table, and a playground, plenty of shallow water to swim, basketball court, and a beautiful pier. On the west side of the pier, boats of all shapes and sizes are rents seasonally for travelers to enjoy.

Lake Tahoe | Swimming at Kings Beach | Island and Alpine

Kings Beach tends to get crowded in the summer, especially weekends, partially due to its easy access from town. The sand is sure to be packed on ideal days, but there is always plenty of room for swimming!

Hidden Beach

Lake Tahoe Hidden Beach along the East Shore Trail | Island and Alpine

Hidden Beach is such a hidden gem in Lake Tahoe! One of my favorite spots on the lake, it is typically not very crowded due to the fact that it requires a little hike or bike ride to access it.

Park at The Bullwheel Parking Lot (address above; payment required) or take the East Shore Express #28 from Incline Elementary School.

Either bring or rent a bike or start your walk southward along the lake on the East Shore Bike Trail for approximately one mile.

The path is paved and is an easy walk, but the first mile is “mountain side” with a bit of an incline – but totally worth due to the incredible vantage points of the lake! After almost a mile, you will cross under the highway through a tunnel and come out on the other side next to the lake. From there, note the small sign indicating “Hidden Beach” and make your way down to the lake via the short path.

Beautiful Lake Tahoe Hidden Beach | Island and Alpine

The soft sand, gorgeous water, boulders, wooden stairs, and incredible sky make this Lake Tahoe swimming spot one of the lake’s best. Remember that the water is VERY chilly so make sure your bring a towel along and probably a sweatshirt too!

After enjoying this gorgeous beach you can return back the way you came, or continue along the path to one of the other 10 beach access points. Simple restroom facilities are here located too.

Sand Harbor

Swimming and playing in the sand at Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe | Island and Alpine
Beach closest to Visitor’s Center

Sand Harbor is arguable one of the most popular swimming beaches in Lake Tahoe and for good reason! This beach on the northeastern shore is stunningly beautiful with two crescent shaped beaches, amazing boulders that provide the perfect spot to sit in the clear, blue water, restroom facilities, watercraft rentals, a Visitor’s Center, and a wooden boardwalk path.

Sand Harbor fills up quickly on busy summer days (could be as early as 7am!), so definitely don’t hit snooze on your alarm on the day you plan to cross this one off of your bucket list. Parking on the highway and walking in is prohibited.

After parking in the paid lot ($10 in early January 2023), head toward the Visitor’s Center to get your bearings as this beach is pretty large. The crescent shaped beach directly in front of the center is one of two great spots to lay your towel. The sand area is huge here and plenty of space for swimming.

Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe
Beach to the right along the path

If you wish to check out the famous boulders and rent a kayak, you’ll want to head to the right either via the sidewalk, or better yet, via the wooden pathway.

For those up for an adventure, or for those who just overslept and couldn’t get a parking spot (wink, wink!), check out the Tahoe East Shore Trail mentioned above for Hidden Beach. Bike rentals can be obtained at Incline Village and ridden on the most beautiful paved path three miles directly to Sand Harbor. Entry fees are $2 per person into Sand Harbor Beach from the bike path. If the park is full, you may have to wait to enter.

Pack a picnic or pick up some drinks and snacks at the concession stand. Bring whatever you’ll need to stay for awhile, because once you arrive, you aren’t ever going to want to leave!

Current Notices/Warnings for Sand Harbor

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE SWIMMING SPOTS

Emerald Bay

Lake Tahoe - Emerald Bay

The view of Emerald Bay from the State Park’s overlook along the highway is one of the the most recognizable images of Lake Tahoe and definitely makes our list of best views of the lake. However, most visitors only see Emerald Bay from this vantage point.

Active visitors can make their way down the Vikingsholm Trail to actually see and swim in Emerald Bay. It is important to note that the hike down is only a mile long but the incline is steep, so be prepared and able to make your way back up.

On our recent visit, we saw many people pulling coolers down the paved path to the beach and my legs aches for them imagining them pulling them back up the mountain. We saw many tired children riding on shoulders as well! We recommend packing light with a towel, water, shoes, lunch, water, and sunscreen in backpacks for an easier trek.

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay is as beautiful from from lake level as you would expect and getting to swim in it is a dream. Fanette Island is the name of the only island in Lake Tahoe and it can be reached by boat. Visitors can explore the remains of the historic Tea House that was sadly damaged by vandalism,

The Vikingsholm Mansion along the waterfront is open for guided tours seasonally. There is also a sweet shop selling ice cream treats. Beautiful pathways wind themselves through the lakefront forests offering the perfect place to explore.

Scuba divers are in for a real surprise they discover that they can search old artifacts and history of the Emerald Bay Resort deep in the lake on the Maritime Heritage Underwater Trail.

Current Notices/Warnings for Emerald Bay

Lake Tahoe Swimming at Meeks Bay

  • Location: Meeks Bay
  • Open Hours: Varies seasonally
  • How to Access: Park in the Beach Access Parking Lot ($) or along the highway near Meeks Bay Resort
  • What’s Nearby:
Kayaking and Swimming at Meeks Bay, Lake Tahoe

I can’t count the number of times that I have picnicked in the forest along the sand and then floated all my cares away on an air mattress in the waters of Meeks Bay. My childhood memories are sprinkled with beautiful images of family summer vacations spent in this beautiful part of the lake.

Meeks Bay, Lake Tahoe

This easy to access swimming area is a must-do when visiting the west or south shore of the lake. A parking lot is available, or if you would rather save a few bucks (no shame here!), there is plenty or parking on the highway. Watch for signs, but there is typically plenty of legal spots.

You just might regret not paying for a closer spot when you are lugging all your beach gear, coolers, and kayaks from the free roadside parking spot…ask me how I know.

The calm waters are perfect for swimming, kayaking, and many hours of playing on the sand. Restroom facilities are available.

Current Notices/Warnings for Meeks Bay

Sugar Pine Point Beach – best place to swim in Lake Tahoe!

Lake Tahoe's Sugar Pine Point Beach

Of all the stunning beaches on Lake Tahoe, and there are many, none are as special to me at Sugar Pine Point Beach. I almost feel like I am giving away a secret, even though it is a State Park and therefore not much of a secret.

I have been here when we had to circle the parking lot looking for spots, but on a September weekday after the crowds have left, it will be like your own private alpine paradise.

Sugar Pine Point Campground is directly across the street from this beach and is arguably one of the best places to camp along the lake. If you are camping there, you can access this beach for free, but otherwise it is $10 per car for a daily pass.

Sugar Pine Point - one of Lake Tahoe's most beautiful swimming beaches

This Lake Tahoe swimming beach is a five minute walk from the parking lot. You’ll pass the Visitor’s Nature Center and Hellman-Ehrman Mansion (available for tours) along the way. A large expanse of grass is perfect for picnicking and playing. The large sugar pine trees provide plenty of shade.

The beach is down below the walking path. Rocky, but also sandy, it is the perfect place to spend the day. The lake is pretty calm here and excellent for swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. If you head down to the south end of the beach, during summer months, there are kayak rentals available.

There are several hiking trails around the park which provide a great place to warm up after a swim. The pier hosting the historic beach house is a great place to relax in the sun too!

Zephyr Cove

Zephyr Cove, Lake Tahoe

Zephyr Cove is a swimming beach in Lake Tahoe that we have returned to over and over again. Located on the South Shore, the long sandy beach stretches far around the lake leaving plenty of spots to set up for home base. Along the sand are beautiful sugar pine trees and some patches of Aspen that turn a beautiful yellow for those that visit in the fall.

Speaking of long sandy beaches, the sand at Zephyr Cove is like golden brown sugar! I absolutely adore it. A little granule-y with so much texture and beautiful against the cobalt blue of the lake.

While Zephyr Cove offers plenty of amenities (more on those below), what has drawn us back over and over again is the beauty of it. We even chose it as a family photo shoot location with a professional photographer. The other draw is that due to the way the wind blows and the boats in the area, the waves are gentle and constant. Our daughter loves floating in the waves for hours on end (too cold for me to last that long!) and we have to drag her out when the sun goes down.

For those that need a swimming break, we always pack a football and travel-friendly sand buckets so that we have fun in the lake and out!

Lake Tahoe Swimming Beaches - Zephyr Cove
Lake Tahoe Swimming Beaches - Zephyr Cove

This beach offers scenic cruises on the iconic M.S. Dixie II, clear kayak tours, as well as boat, kayak and paddleboard rentals, and jet ski rentals for those that want to explore independently. The restaurant, beachside grill, and general store mean that you’ll have everything you need to stay all day – and that is a very good thing!

Current Notices/Warning for Zephyr Cove

Round Hill Pines Beach Resort

Round Hill Pines Beach, Lake Tahoe

Round Hill Pines Beach Resort is in a gorgeous location in Zephyr Cove granting its guests free beach access. Lucky for non-guests, day-use passes are also available for $15 per car. Visitors should park in designated parking spaces only.

We were there on a blustery day and yet we still had a great time splashing in the water and enjoying the gorgeous sand. Picnic tables, take out lunch options on-site, beach volleyball, and parasailing adventures top the list of amazing things to do at this Lake Tahoe swimming beach.

The Marina is tentatively open from mid-May through the end of September. They offer rentals to suit all guests, such as jet ski, kayak and paddle boards, and boats. Check out prices and details here. They even rent lounge chairs if you are looking to just relax on the beach and enjoy the view. No judgement, I promise. This view is unbeatable.

Current Notices/Warning for Round Hill Pines

Lake Tahoe Swimming FAQs

Can you swim in Lake Tahoe?

Yes, you sure can! Lake Tahoe is lined with over 40 beaches and many of them offer beautiful swimming holes. The water is cold though – so prepared for that!

Is Lake Tahoe ever warm enough to swim?

Absolutely! Lake Tahoe is a wonderful place to swim and many beaches offer paddleboard rentals, kayaking and other water sports as well. However, Lake Tahoe is very chilly – usually between 63 to 70 degrees in the summer so be prepared to warm yourself up after a dip.

Why is Lake Tahoe water so clean?

A large portion of the rain and snow falls directly into the lake resulting in clean, fresh water. The rest of the water comes from melting snow. Tahoe’s clear, blue color is so unique also due to the lack of algae.

What part of Lake Tahoe can you swim in?

Many beaches circle all areas of Lake Tahoe and you can swim in many of them. Some of our favorites are Kings Beach on the north shore, Sand Harbor on the east shore, Ed Z’ Burg State Park on the west, and Zephyr Cove and Meeks Bay on the south side.

Do you have any other favorite Lake Tahoe swimming spots that we should add to our list? No matter where you put your toes in the sand, enjoy your time in this alpine paradise!

Thank you for sharing!

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