Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. There’s only one word to describe the clarity of the water against the backdrop of enormous pine forests and giant boulders that pepper the shore line, and that is absolutely stunning! So it is only natural that you will want to compile a list of Lake Tahoe’s best views before you get there so you don’t miss out on anything Lake Tahoe has to offer! To help you plan your time in Tahoe, here’s our itinerary that includes places that offerup Lake Tahoe’s best views. Plus, they are all 100% kid friendly!
Where is Lake Tahoe?
Lake Tahoe is in the USA and straddles the stateline of California and Nevada. Therefore some of the lake is in California and some is in Nevada. Lake Tahoe is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide and is celebrated as the second deepest lake in the USA. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive around the entire lake and its 72 miles of shoreline. This means there are lots of scenic views of Lake Tahoe to enjoy!
Is Lake Tahoe Worth Visiting?
Lake Tahoe is a bit of a bubble. What I mean by ‘bubble’ is that it feels protected from the rest of the world. When you’re in Lake Tahoe it doesn’t feel like you’re in the US. It has this feeling of perfection, almost Truman Show-esque. However, you’ll be pleased to know there’s no actual bubble over the Lake and you can leave any time you want!
Social issues you might see in other areas of the US, or even the world, don’t seem to exist here. I realise that’s a pretty big sweeping statement, and it could be that I just didn’t spend enough time here. However, I can only compare Lake Tahoe to other places I’ve visited in the US and this place sure does feel a bit special.
Still asking yourself why Lake Tahoe? Here’s a little breakdown of what you might expect:
Uninterrupted views of the mountains furnished with a host of different ski resorts such as Northstar and Heavenly which you can ski on in the winter months and hike around in the summer months. Get in or on the water in any way you can and look down! You can see around 80 feet down into the lake with complete clarity. Then there are the towns and beaches all the way around the lake on the californian and Nevada side. There are so many excellent places to see the very best views of Lake Tahoe, if you know where to find them!
Kings Beach, California for Lake Tahoe’s best views.
Legend has it that Kings Beach was named after the local postmaster who won the rights to the land in a poker game over a century ago. As far as origin stories go, that one is particularly cowboy in my book!
Kings Beach has a really easy-going and laid-back vibe and is very walkable. That’s a big thing in the US as places aren’t always walker-friendly. There are lots of shops, motels and eateries along the main road, which even includes a mini-golf course and a T-Shirtery (that might be the best word ever).
Kings Beach has a lovely long sandy beach with easy access for boats, kayaks and paddle boards. It’s one of the warmest swimming areas on the lake because of the amount of sunshine it gets and there is a great little play area for kids that looks out over the water.
We actually stayed in Kings Beach while we were in Lake Tahoe and we loved the undeveloped feel of this part of the lake. Most importantly we also loved how accessible the lake was for us without the need for a car. It’s also stunning which is why it has to be included in our list of Lake Tahoe’s best views.
Emerald Bay – Lake Tahoe’s best views
This is the place everyone talks about when you’re in Tahoe and for good reason. It is pretty special.
Emerald Bay is so unique because it is the only part of the lake with an island which has on it it’s very own castle (It’s actually more like a folly for entertaining purposes).
However, the very desirable beaches of Emerald Bay cannot be accessed by car, so you either have to hitch a ride on a boat or hike down via one of the trails. It may be the one of the prettiest spots on the Lake, however it’s certainly not one of the easiest to get to.
But in my mind the best views of all this beauty aren’t necessarily down on the beaches (which are pretty gorgeous I have to say), but rather up on the trails. So, it depends what you want from Emerald Bay – the views or the beaches?
If it’s just views you are after then park along the road at Eagle Falls, scramble down a little rock face and stand next to the falls as you look at Fannette Island and enjoy all the sights and sounds on offer. In my opinion, this is one of Lake Tahoe’s best views!
There is a hiking trail from here as well which will take about an hour to complete and is moderate to easy in difficulty. But, if you are only looking to watch, this is the best place to take a picture and just enjoy the moment!
Sand Harbour – Lake Tahoe’s best views
Sand Harbour State Park is on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe and not too far from Kings Beach. It’s totally gorgeous! It is family-friendly, with pristine sands, the clearest water and lots of those beautiful boulders to explore, climb (if you can) and take pictures of.
It’s a great place to paddle board or go for a swim and the backdrop of the Californian mountains makes it a very special way to spend the day.
Bear in mind the parking at Sand Harbour is charged on a day rate (2022 – $15) and at peak times of the year the car park can be full by 8.30am. However, there is a free bus that runs from some of the villages and there is scope to take a trail to arrive on foot.
Tahoe City has a really quaint and traditional feel to it, whilst being one of the bigger places to visit on the lake.
There is a lovely high street filled with art studios, t-shirt shops, bars, restaurants and cafes, plus a big Safeway if you’re looking to do a bit of a food shop.
Aside from the shops there are two main reasons why I think Tahoe City offers some of Lake Tahoe’s best views.
The first is the lake sidewalk that takes you past some lovely quiet areas with uninterrupted views of the lake and those beautiful mountains. There’s lots of opportunity here for some really wonderful pictures.
The second is that this walk includes passage to Commons Beach which has the most lovely area for kids to play with a huge play park included. In the summer months Commons Beach also puts on live performances and little concerts most weekends. When you’re travelling with little kids it’s places like these that make all the difference.
Tahoe East Shore Trail One of the prettiest places in Lake Tahoe
This is essentially a walk along the east side of Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side. It starts at Incline Village and finishes at Sand Harbour, but it is simply too beautiful not to mention in our list of Lake Tahoe’s best views.
On a warm day I can imagine there is nothing better than taking a picnic and taking a slow and easy walk along the boardwalk and just enjoying all those views. There’s the occasional opportunity to get down to the water too so make sure you take your swimmers!
Parking is a bit tricky as there is no parking along the road. However, there have been some paid car parks developed along the route. One is called Bonanza and there is parking in Incline Village too. However, it’s worth remembering if you arrive after 5pm the parking is free till 7pm.
Lam Watah Nature Trail to Nevada Beach
This little gem definitely offers one of Lake Tahoe’s best views. I don’t think we would have found this little beauty if it wasn’t for our Instagram friends The FUNemployed Family who live in the area! The beauty of local knowledge.
The Lam Watah Nature Trail to Nevada Beach is a beautiful alpine walk. It starts with the opportunity to look for beaver dams in the small pond at the start of the trail and then it winds through a pine forest until you reach a huge stretch of sandy beach with some of the best views of Lake Tahoe.
An amazing addition to this little piece of Tahoe perfection is a campsite that opens in the summer months that sits in amongst the trees at the back of the beach. I could think of nothing better than to rock up with your home away from home and enjoy this area for a week at a time. In fact, sign me up now!
Heavenly Gondola Ride
The ski resort of Heavenly sits right on the Nevada / California state border and is a real mix of the two places.
Huge casinos tower over the state line, but the village itself is a little less built up being on the Californian side.
Heavenly is bustling and very busy with people skiing, drinking, eating, partying and generally just enjoying themselves. The feel is completely different to any of the other areas we experienced.
South Lake and the resort of Heavenly is popular because the mountain offers breathtaking views of the lake. Therefore, taking a gondola ride up to the Heavenly observation deck will certainly deliver some of Lake Tahoe’s best views.
Unlike other places on this list, the Heavenly gondola ride will be one of the pricer things to do. But, if you are looking to treat yourself and for a new experience I can think of worse views to look at!
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IF you’re looking for more adventures across the pond, how about a visit to Disneyland in LA?