Lake Tahoe beaches: The five best swimming spots of the East Shore

As beachfront shorelines go, Lake Tahoe’s East Shore is fairly untouched – no oversized hotels stuffed with tote-toting tourists and no $20 chaise lounge carried by a guy who looks like he also knows how to hotwire your car. This makes it a smart destination for beach lovers looking to get some sun time in a laidback and no-frills environment, one that you usually have to hike into.

The East Shore is only a little more than an hour’s drive from Reno via Interstate 580 though, and a bit over two hours from Sacramento.

Note: While adult use of marijuana is legal in Nevada, having cannabis on federal lands is still prohibited, so get to know the local geography and use responsibly. Without further ado, here are five sweet spots for swimming, sun-bathing and generally getting beach-baked in this scenic section of Lake Tahoe:

Secret Cove

Photo: Yowusa.com

No corn dogs and ice-cold Cokes here – this stretch of secluded beach isn’t very secret anymore – but it sees light traffic, partly because it takes a 20-minute hike to reach. The clear-blue and exceptionally tidy shoreline is dotted with giant boulders, some within walking distance out into the water, that make for great selfies and sunning sites. It should be noted that this is a clothing-optional beach (less to carry in, right?) as well as dog-, 420- and alcohol-friendly. Locals monitor the space and help clean it so for the most part, the state lets the freak flags fly (as long as everyone behaves). Do the locals a solid and keep track of your trash.

Skunk Harbor

Photo: singh-ray.com

Hike or bike the 1.6 miles down into Skunk, a.k.a. Dog Beach, and then just fling yourself into the crystal-clear water, which starts out green along the edge and gradually changes to a magnificent turquoise as you wade deeper. Located about two miles north of U.S. 50 on Nevada 28, this popular beach is usually overrun with all kinds of pups doing their off-leash thing. Not to mention, the picturesque views in the surrounding mountains and conifer forest will make all your Facebook friends jealous. Remember that whatever you haul down there, you must later carry back uphill.

Chimney Beach

Photo: Wendy Hudnall

About a mile north of Secret Cove sits Chimney Beach, which is appealing because when the main beach gets full, there are still plenty of secluded little coves to hike to nearby. White sand leads into the strikingly green-blue water, and if you’re looking for more exercise than the strenuous hike in, this shoreline is a fun, if rocky, trek in either direction. Bring some water, but it’s better to leave the bulky cooler in the car. The bigger rocks make for cool jumping-off points, and the old chimney at one end is weird and intriguing, a remnant from a former caretaker’s cottage. Bonus points for the restroom at the trailhead and the dog-friendly attitude.

Hidden Beach

Photo: Trevor Bexon

The actual beach at Hidden Beach is rockier than most and you’ll have to navigate them to get in the water. But this long, pretty stretch of sand is also well concealed by the trees and mountains around it. Despite its location close to Carson City, it doesn’t get as crowded as some of the other more touristy spots. Hike to the nearby mouth of the Upper Truckee River for an even more remote and relaxing scene.

Sand Harbor

Photo: thebackpackers.net

Part of the Nevada State Parks system, Sand Harbor is the best known of the East Shore’s beach destinations and thus usually the most crowded, especially on weekends. Swim, kayak and snorkel in the pristine water, or just find a space on the wide-open sandy area and set up for the sun. Because this is such a popular public place, there are restrooms and other amenities, including adjacent picnic sites with tables and grills. Throughout the summer, the annual local Shakespeare Festival is within walking distance. ‘Tis high time you get to planning!

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Author: Kyle Wagner

Kyle WagnerFreelance writer Kyle Wagner has been a journalist for 30 years; most recently, she was restaurant critic and travel editor at The Denver Post until 2014, and has written for The Cannabist and other cannabis-oriented publications since. In 2017, Kyle left Colorado for Sherwood, Ore., to co-found the hemp farm Queen Bee Bliss. In the off-season, the mother of two adult daughters adds to her list of 40+ countries visited, and is an enthusiastic mountain biker and river rat.

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