Lake Tahoe – Drives To Nowhere

With a measured depth of 1,645 feet, Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States and the tenth deepest in the world. It is roughly 22 miles long and l2 miles wide with a shoreline of 72 miles. With an average surface elevation of 6,225 feet above sea level, Lake Tahoe is the highest lake of its size in the United States.
Regardless of the time of year, spring, summer, fall or winter, a drive around the lake always offers outstanding lake and mountain views. Based upon the time of day, and depending upon whether you go up the east side or west side of the lake, every drive seems to be a completely new experience, always offering new views. I often find that the serenity of a winter drive, with many of the more popular spots devoid of tourists, offers a more pristine commune with nature and a feeling of what the early explorers may have experienced hundreds of years ago.

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The pictures presented here take you on the 72 mile drive around the lake starting at Stateline, Nevada in the South Shore area. As you head up the Nevada (east) side of the lake towards the North Shore, the often steep and hilly two lane road offers many outstanding glimpses of the lake and surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, there are not enough places where you can safely stop and take pictures. The first area that provides some nice open views of the lake is Zepher Cove, seen in the first grouping of shots below.
View of Spooner Summit from South Lake Tahoe
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The next main stopping area is a turnoff just before Cave Rock, one the the Lake Tahoe – Nevada State Park management areas. This small day-use area is tucked beneath the rugged volcanic face of Cave Rock along U.S. 50. The entrance is three miles south of Glenbrook, just south of the Cave Rock road tunnels.
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View looking west across the lake from the Castle Rock area
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View looking up towards the Castle Rock road tunnels
View south towards South Lake Tahoe from the Castle Rock Turnoff area
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The next turnoff that provides some great picture taking is a place called Logan Shoals Vista Point, only about a mile past the Cave Rock tunnels. This picturesque stop contains hundreds of huge boulders and several short hiking trails that provide dozens of unique photographic opportunities. This year’s visit was my third stop here and I still haven’t hiked all of its various trails, the longest of which stretches nearly a half mile right along the lakes shoreline.
View south from the Logan Shoals Vista Point with Castle Rock in the distant center of the picture
Looking directly west across the lake toward Middle Mountain, Ducks Peak & Jacks Peak behind Emerald Bay 
Northwest view from Logan Shoals Vista Point
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A few more miles up the road, the next view looks down at what is know as Secret Harbor. Stopping alongside the road to get picture of this can be a little scary, and probably, illegal. However, as you can see from the picture below, the shot of the lake’s pristine, multi-colored waters here are well worth it.
View from the side of the road, looking down at Secret Harbor
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Driving down the hill from here, you reach lake level and the Sand Harbor Park, which overlooks Crystal Bay and Incline Village to the north. Sand Point, with its huge round boulders, sandy beach, and turquoise-blue water, is one of the prettiest spots along Lake Tahoe's shoreline. Within the park are two trails; the Sand Harbor Overlook Trail and another board walked trail that connects the park’s two beaches. Both offer excellent views of the harbor and the lake. I particularly like this area in the winter months, when its beautiful beaches are void of the hundreds of locals and tourists that visit here each day during the summer. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful beach on all of Lake Tahoe.
Sand Harbor beach during winter
View from the Sand Harbor Overlook trail looking toward the lake's North Shore
View looking north towards Incline Village and the lake's North Shore
View from a Sand Harbor cove between the Boardwalk Trail (left) and the Overlook Trail (right)
View from the Boardwalk Trail looking towards the Overlook Point
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After leaving Sand Harbor Park you need to leave the main road (28) and turn onto Lakeshore Blvd. Driving this road runs along the shoreline of Incline Village and provides southern views that look over Crystal Bay. When you reach the town of Crystal Bay on the boarder between Nevada and California. Next is the town of King’s Beach and the King’s Beach State Park. The expansive beach here provides expansive views of Lake Tahoe to the south. Now back on (28) a.k.a North Lake Blvd, you the pass through a series of small coastal towns;  Tahoe Vista, Carnelian Bay, Dollar Point and Tahoe City. This entire stretch offers dozens of small public beaches, some whose access is known only to “locals”, where you can stop, fish, take a boat ride or just enjoy a bottle of wine and a sunset while sitting on the shore. 
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View from a beach at Crystal Bay
Beach view at Tahoe Vista
View from a public beach in Tahoe City near where the Truckee River dumps into the lake
View of fishing pier from Tahoe City
View from a small hidden beach near Tahoe Vista
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At the far end of Tahoe City, you cross over the Truckee River and head south on 89 which takes you all the way down the west side of the lake, crossing over the Truckee River, where if you’re lucky, you might even get to see some Canada Geese. A few miles past the river you come to Fire Sign Café on the right, a great place to eat. Next you come to Hurricane Bay which offers view to the north and east side of the lake. After passing along McKinney Bay you start to climb as you come to views of Meeks Bay and Rubicon Bay. Looking west around the Meeks Bay area you can see Sugar Pine Peak. come to .
Canada Geese floating down the Truckee River towards the lake
Fire Sign Cafe
View looking east across the lake from Hurricane Bay
Trees along the shoreline at Hurricane Bay
View looking west towards Sugar Pine Mountain near Meeks Bay
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As the road climbs even higher, you finally come to Emerald Bay State Park, the Emerald Bay Vikingsholm Trailhead and Eagle Falls, each of which overlook Emerald Bay and Fannette Island, one of the most beautiful and photographed spots in the world. what is the most photographed  below. As you round the southern side of Emerald Bay you can see the beautiful Cascade Lake, once the largest privately owned lake in America.
View of  Emerald Bay 
View of  the "tea house" on Fannette Island, located in the middle of  Emerald Bay
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View looking south across Emerald Bay from the top of Eagle Falls
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Winter shot of the Viking Queen exiting Emerald Bay
View south of Heavenly Peak and frozen over Cascade Lake (bottom right) from the south side of Emerald Bay
View looking towards the lake's north shore taken from the Tahoe Queen
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After leaving Emerald Bay you come down off the mountain elevations and pretty much loose any lake views until you reach South Lake Tahoe. Because this is the narrowest part of the lake, as you look to the north out over the lake, the views encompass the mountains along both its east and west shorelines. Of course, if you want a view of the entire lake, you can always leave the road and opt for a ride on the ski tram to the top of Heavenly Mountain.
View looking west from the dock of the Tahoe Queen in South Lake Tahoe
Winter view from one of South Lake Tahoe's beaches
View looking east toward Stateline from a private property in South Lake Tahoe
View of the lake from one of Heavenly's gondola cars
With breakfast, lunch or dinner stops, this 72-mile drive usually takes us no less than four to five hours. This year we made our fourth trip around the lake and can’t wait to do it again. I hope you have enjoyed this journey around the lake with us as much as we did.