Sand Harbor

 

 

As the largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe is stunningly scenic—not just because of its sheer size, but also for its renowned clarity and deep blue hues (after all, the lake is locally known as “Big Blue”). Straddling the state line between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe has no shortage of outdoor recreation opportunities, including four state parks along the eastern shoreline. Sand Harbor, Spooner Lake & Backcountry, Van Sickle, and Cave Rock are collectively known as Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, each offering up a different—and easily accessible—way to experience the Nevada side of one of the largest, most beautiful lakes in the world.

Whether you’re after a solid beach day, a backcountry camping experience, or learning the cultural importance of natural landmarks, the sky’s the limit when it comes to outdoor recreation at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks.

Sand Harbor

While there are dozens of public-access beaches on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, Sand Harbor State Park is a show-stopper with gently sloping sandy beaches, crystal-clear water, and striking granite boulders that promise unforgettable swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Because Lake Tahoe is the deepest lake in both California and Nevada, with its deepest point clocking in at 1,645 feet, you can also go scuba diving at Sand Harbor and explore Tahoe’s cobalt depths.

This incredibly beautiful stretch of eastern shoreline in the Lake Tahoe basin was once privately owned by the eccentric millionaire George Whittell, Jr.—a fact that helped prevent more extensive development like that found on the California side of Lake Tahoe. After his death, the entire property was donated to Nevada State Parks. Explore this fascinating history and dive into informative displays at the Sand Harbor Visitor Center and Gift Shop, which also offers self-guided tours and refreshments from the Kokanee Bar and Grill.

Feel free to just kick it on the enormous sandy beach Sand Harbor is so well known for, or reserve a group picnic area and ramada that can accommodate up to 200 people. The on-site boat launch includes two wave-protected double ramps, while a number of short hiking trails carry visitors to breathtaking vista points. If you’re into cycling, be sure to hop on the long-awaited section of nature trail that connects Incline Village to Sand Harbor. Dubbed “America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway,” the Tahoe East Shore Trail provides non-motorized access to public beaches, coves, and trails along the picturesque Nevada shoreline. In the summer months, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is headquartered at Sand Harbor, offering nightly live theater performances with Lake Tahoe as its unbeatable backdrop. During the winter, Tahoe Sleigh Ride lets you literally go dashing through the snow on a multi-horse open sleigh.

Memorial Point

When the crowds pack Sand Harbor in July and August, find respite at nearby Memorial Point Scenic Overlook, where an easy half-mile trail takes visitors to a beach so secluded it’s actually called Hidden Beach. While there are no parking lots here, it’s free to enter and well worth the short walk.

Sand Harbor Hours & Admission

Sand Harbor State Park is open daily from 8:00 AM until one hour after sunset. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, high visitation may cause the park to close at varying times during the day. Parking on Highway 28 is not allowed. 

Entrance fees at Sand Harbor are $10 per vehicle ($15 for vehicles without Nevada license plates), $20 for boat launch ($25 for non-Nevada plates), and $2 per bike. For the most up-to-date information and alerts, visit Sand Harbor State Park’s website.

Spooner Lake and Backcountry

If you’re looking to do some camping in Lake Tahoe, put Spooner Lake & Backcountry State Park on your radar. Almost hidden in plain sight, this amazing area is a haven for recreation with more than 12,000 acres of forested mountain terrain. High above the shoreline, views of Lake Tahoe abound on more than 50 miles of trails for hiking, legendary mountain biking, and even horseback riding. The world-famous, 4.4-mile, cliff-clinging Marlette Flume Trail can be accessed from the park, along with a section of the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail.

You can’t go wrong with the camping and fishing opportunities at Spooner and Marlette lakes. The park has three primitive campgrounds at Marlette Peak, Hobart, and North Canyon, as well as two coveted backcountry cabin rentals. The Spooner Lake Cabin is north of Spooner Lake and sleeps four comfortably, while the Wildcat Cabin is roughly 2.5 miles up North Canyon (and several hundred yards east of the road) and perfect for two. Both cabins are available May 1 through October 15, with limited amenities like composting toilets, beds, and cook and wood burning stoves. 

In the winter, Spooner Lake is an excellent option for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Snow permitting, gear up and enjoy groomed trails in Spooner Meadow (on the south side of Spooner Lake) and up North Canyon to Marlette Lake. All visitors are asked to be mindful of these groomed tracks and be careful not to damage the surface.

A recent addition to Spooner Lake & Backcountry State Park created a brand new visitor center and amphitheater that helps visitors access the park’s 13,000 acres of wilderness, acts as a venue for education and scientific exploration for Nevada students, and provides a jumping-off point for the park’s historical programs and ranger-guided hikes and tours.

Spooner Lake Hours & Admission

Spooner Lake & Backcountry State Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Entrance fees are $10 per vehicle ($15 for non-Nevada plates) and $2 per bike. For the most up-to-date information and alerts, including cabin fees, visit Spooner Lake & Backcountry State Park’s website.

Van Sickle Bi-State Park

3 hikers watching the sunset at the van sickle bi-state park
Van Sickle Bi-State Park
Tahoe South

Recreate in two states at once at Van Sickle Bi-State Park, which straddles the California and Nevada border. Named for and donated by the Van Sickle family, long-time Tahoe land owners and stable operators, this 542-acre state park invites hikers, cyclists, and equestrians to partake in adventure.

Not only is Van Sickle easy to get to, it also serves up some of the most awe-inspiring scenery the region has to offer. With dozens of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, Van Sickle Bi-State Park is minutes away from the main strip in South Lake Tahoe, making it one of the lake’s most accessible parks for visitors of all ages and skill levels. Pack a picnic and make a day of it under the natural shade of the forest.

Van Sickle Hours & Admission

Van Sickle Bi-State Park is open to pedestrians all year round, from sunrise to sunset. Vehicle access is open from May 1 through October 31, also from sunrise to sunset. There are no entrance fees at Van Sickle. For the most up-to-date information and alerts, visit Van Sickle Bi-State Park’s website.

Cave Rock

Cave Rock State Park
Tahoe South

Towering over Highway 50 on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, the landmark that gives Cave Rock State Park its name is too majestic to miss. The Washoe Tribe considers Cave Rock a sacred place, and the surrounding lands are also spiritually important. 

Swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, and non-motorized watercraft are all options here, and boats can launch from one double ramp with a dock in the middle. Rocky shoals provide good fishing, and there are three picnic areas with tables and barbecue pits.

Cave Rock Hours & Admission

Cave Rock State Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Boat launch hours are from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM May 25 through September 4, and 6:00 AM to 4:00 PM September 5 through May 24. 

Entrance fees at Cave Rock are $10 per vehicle ($15 for non-Nevada plates), $20 for boat launch ($25 for non-Nevada plates), and $2 per bike. It’s also $2 for a 15-minute photo stop. For the most up-to-date information and alerts, visit Cave Rock State Park’s website.

Hours:

The four units that make up Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park each have their own hours of admission. View complete details about Sand Harbor, Spooner Lake & Backcountry, Van Sickle, and Cave Rock at Nevada State Parks’ website or call Nevada State Parks at (775) 684-2770.

Admission:

Admission to Sand Harbor, Spooner Lake & Backcountry, and Cave Rock is $10 per vehicle ($15 for non-Nevada plates) and $2 per bike. At Sand Harbor and Cave Rock, boats are $20 ($25 for non-Nevada plates). Admission to Van Sickle is free.

 

Reservations are not required to visit or stay at Nevada State Parks, but a new reservations system can be used to book campsites, group areas, and cabins, as well as pay online for day-use entrance passes and buy annual permits.

This Location:

Northwestern, Nevada

Region

Northwestern