Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park: The Complete Guide

Sand Harbor State Park, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
www.35mmNegative.com / Getty Images
Map card placeholder graphic

Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park

Address
NV-28, Incline Village, NV 89451, USA
Phone +1 775-831-0494

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, trailing only the Great Lakes for volume. Two-thirds of this massive lake lies within California’s state boundaries and one-third belongs to Nevada. Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park comprises the coastline and backcountry on the northeast shores on the Nevada side, spanning 14,301 acres. Within this section of the coastline and surrounds of Lake Tahoe, you’ll find fishing, boating, beautiful beaches, fantastic hikes, fishing, and cross country skiing in the winter. The terrain itself ranges from the high alpine peaks of Snow Valley and Marlette Peak to meadowland and aspen groves, alpine and sub-alpine lakes, all the way down to transporting sandy beaches.

The climate is typical of the Sierra Nevada, with dry and sunny summers and plenty of snow in the winter. When you’re planning your trip here, you’ll want to be aware of its popularity. It's a popular escape for Las Vegas residents so beaches can get quite crowded despite the 3 miles of shoreline.

Things to Do

Lake Tahoe-Nevada state park has some beloved beaches, but they're just a small part of what the park has to offer visitors. Its backcountry is mountainous and varied—and is also an incredible historical goldmine (almost literally!). There are ample fishing opportunities,

Go to the Beach: When you arrive at Sand Harbor, arguably the best beach at Lake Tahoe, you'll be met with its 2,500 feet of fine, sandy coastline dotted with dozens of umbrellas. Sand Harbor also has picnic tables, a nature trail, boat launch, and visitor center. It has a pavilion for outdoor music and hosts the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival each July and August. Keep in mind that this wildly popular beach opens at 7 a.m. and the parking lot closes when it gets full—so it’s best to arrive early. Although the lake waters are generally quite cool, this part of Lake Tahoe is popular with SCUBA divers, and you’ll find Divers Cove near the visitor center at Sand Harbor. You can rent kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards, among other toys, at Sand Harbor Rentals.

You can reach Hidden Beach via a system of short trails that lead to a sandy shoreline. Memorial Point is an elevated section of shore that has beautiful views of Tahoe’s white granite boulders. Drive five minutes south of Sand Harbor and you’ll reach Chimney Beach (named for the chimney of a former settler’s cabin that is still on the beach). You can take a short hike from the road via Chimney Beach Trail. If you want to escape the crowds, head the 2 miles south of Sand Harbor to Secret Cove, where you can see partially submerged boulders in the lake from the beach.

Wander the Backcountry: The Marlette-Hobart Backcountry is approximately 13,000 acres of forest area with 50 miles of trails and dirt roads to wander. This area was used by the Washoe tribe during their seasonal migration between the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe and then it was the site of the historic Virginia Gold Hill Water System which delivered up to 10 million gallons a day to the nearby Comstock gold and silver mines. Now known as the Marlette Lake Water System, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

All the scenic lakes and reservoir areas in this section of the park were manmade, in service of the pipelines and flumes of the water system to Virginia City. Marlette Lake, Hobart Reservoir, and Spooner Lake are all popular places for boating, fishing, and picnicking. Among the popular backcountry trails is the Flume Trail, which has views of Lake Tahoe and a portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail. You’ll walk among tall pines, and maybe even get glimpses of the local wildlife like mule deer, bears, coyotes, osprey, bald eagles, and woodpeckers.

Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe: Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park has linked up with non-profit group Nevada Nordic to promote a community-supported, cross-country ski area in North Lake Tahoe. The community ski trails are free, supported by donations, and you’ll find groomed trails on the south side of Spooner Lake in Spooner Meadow and up North Canyon to Marlette Lake.

Drive Through it All: Nevada State Route 28 wines along the shore and through the state park, which starts at the Spooner Junction with US 50 (the Lincoln Highway) and heads northwest along the border before crossing right into the state park. The road runs for 16 miles past Hidden Bach, Memorial Point, and Sand Harbor, all the way up to Incline Village. It’s a scenic route that gets a little crowded during the summer but is well worth a drive for the trails and private spots that connect to it.

Fishing

Fishing is one of the most popular activities in Lake Tahoe. The 192 square miles of the lake have been stocked with lake trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, kokanee salmon, and even largemouth bass. The months of July and August are usually best for catching fish (mackinaw and rainbow trout are the most common), and you’ll find some of the best fishing conditions are Cave Rock and Sand Harbor., where the Nevada Division of State Parks has two public boat launching facilities, which include parking, picnic sites, restrooms, and of course the beaches. You will need a Nevada fishing license, which you can buy online at the Nevada Department of Wildlife website. Try your luck at Spooner Lake, Marlette Lake (the season runs from July 15-Sept. 30 and is catch-and-release only), and Hobart Reservoir, where you can fish from May 1 through the end of September.

Sand Harbor at sunset Lake Tahoe State Park, Nevada
David Kiene / Getty Images

Best Hikes and Trails

Within the thousands of acres of the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, there are gorgeous hikes around granite boulders, towering pines, and aspen forests. Most of which have a view of the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada that surround the lake. Here are just a few of the many gems:

  • Marlette Lake Trail from Spooner Lake: The Marlette Lake Trail from Spooner Lake is a 10.2-mile, out and back trail that passes through a dense Jeffery pine and red fir forest. You’ll ascend 1,755 feet in all, heading north on switchbacks, and taking in fabulous views of Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley. The trail is best hiked from March until October, and leashed dogs are allowed on the trail.
  • Sand Harbor Nature Trail: The Sand Harbor Nature Trails is a half-mile loop near Incline Village-Crystal Bay that’s great for walking and bird watching and connects to Memorial Point. It is stroller and mobility equipment-friendly, and its interpretive signage gives you a good sense of what you’re looking at (incredible lake and mountain views) along the way.
  • Marlette Lake and Chimney Beach Loop Trail: You can start the Marlette Lake and Chimney Beach Loop Trail, an 8.6-mile loop, near Incline Village. It’s a fairly steep uphill climb up to Marlette Lake with views of Lake Tahoe from the highest points in the trail. You’ll pass through sugar pine forests and stands of aspen. It’s best in the fall when the aspen changes colors to gold.
  • Daggett Loop Trail: Daggett Loop was one of the first trails that the Tahoe Rim Trail Association volunteers began as a recreational area. The trail itself is 7.5 miles of easy to moderate intensity, which takes in views of Lake Tahoe, Desolation Wilderness, and Castle Rock. It’s a popular trail with trail runners, hikers, and bird watchers, particularly between April and October.
  • Genoa Canyon Waterfalls: This pretty, 6.2-mile trail wanders up a V-shaped canyon, along conifer forests, ascending the north-facing slope of Genoa Canyon, to reach the pretty Genoa Waterfall. There are challenging parts of the hike, but it’s a moderate overall effort, with an elevation gain of 1,410 feet.

Where to Camp

Camping is allowed at three walk-in campgrounds: Marlette Peak, Hobart, and North Canyon. Each campground has a restroom and sites with picnic tables, fire rings, and bear-resistant trash storage.

You can rent cabins through the State Park between May 1 and Oct. 15. The Spooner Lake Cabin, just north of Spooner Lake, fits four people. The park also maintains its small, Scandinavian-style log cabin, Wild Cat Cabin, about 2.5 miles up North Canyon, for two. You’ll need to bring your own sleeping bags, but both cabins have basic amenities like composting beds, cookstoves, and wood-burning stoves. You’ll need to contact the park directly to reserve either cabin.

Where to Stay Nearby

The north shore of Lake Tahoe is laidback and family-friendly, in contrast to the occasionally rowdy spring break atmosphere of its southern shores. People who don't want to camp or rent a cabin will love these beautiful resorts.

  • Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino: This waterfront resort that looks right out to the Sierra Nevadas beyond is a perfect base camp for those who want to feel like they’re in nature during their entire stay. You can even book a private waterfront cottage.
  • Crystal Bay Casino: Locals know it as the CBC and come for the entertainment lineup, which includes live music nearly every weekend, all year long. Stay at its Border House, which is a three-story registered historic landmark with 10 guest rooms, chromatherapy tubs, fireplaces, and big TVs.

How to Get There

Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park is located just off State Highway 28, also called Tahoe Boulevard. The closest airport is the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. If you don't have access to a car, many of the hotels in the area operate free shuttles to the park, so make sure you ask if that’s an option.

Accessibility

Sand Harbor is one of the best places around Lake Tahoe for accessibility. Its visitor center parking lot is paved and there are multiple designated accessible parking spaces. The trail surface is a boardwalk with a very gentle slope. There is a wheelchair-accessible path to the beach, and beach wheelchairs are available for loan at the visitor center.

Tips for Your Visit

  • You may only use the park during the designated hours for Washoe County parks.
  • You can take dogs on most trails, but they must be on a leash. Pets are permitted on leashes at Spooner Lake and Cave Rock, but aren’t permitted on the three beaches at Sand Harbor. You can, however, walk them from your vehicle to a boat at the launching area.
  • At the picnic areas, fires are only allowed in designated areas, and charcoal only in grills.
  • Drones and remote-controlled aircraft and cars aren’t allowed.
  • Don’t feed the animals, don't pick flowers or vegetation, and don't collect firewood in the park.
  • Follow the Department of Wildlife’s fishing regulations—including fishing permits.
  • Fees at Sand Harbor are $12 per vehicle from April 15 to Oct. 15 and $7 per vehicle from Oct. 16 to April 14.
Was this page helpful?
Back to Article

Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park: The Complete Guide