It’s no secret that Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world and brings visitors year-round to experience its beauty. Maybe it’s the brisk, fresh air and nearly endless opportunities for outdoor adventure or maybe it’s the crystal-clear water and the thought of laying on the beach all day. With everything that Lake Tahoe has to offer, it is hard to pick just one thing to experience on your visit. Luckily, you don’t have to! A drive around Lake Tahoe will show you all of the top hits.
Here is our comprehensive guide to driving around the lake, including where to stop and what to see.
Driving around Lake Tahoe is a 72-mile drive and will take you about three hours to complete without any stops, but scenic drives are better when you take your time and stop to take in the views, so read up on the most beautiful stops around Lake Tahoe, and don’t forget to snap a few pictures.
From Reno, take U.S. 395 south, take exit 24 to merge onto NV-431 W/Mt. Rose Hwy, and follow Mt. Rose Hwy about 25 miles until you reach Incline Village, home of the beautiful Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort. Take a pit stop and enjoy the shops, grab a burger at Incline Burgers and Brews or a local craft beer at Alibi Brewery. The path from Tunnel Creek to Sand Harbor offers a wide, paved walkway with breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe.
Continue west on NV-28 W about four miles and stop at Crystal Bay, where you can walk along the shoreline and cross from Nevada into California. This is a popular spot for paddleboarding and kayaking among the enormous granite boulders that dot the water’s edge.
If you are feeling lucky while you are there, be sure to check out some of the gaming at one of the Crystal Bay casinos.
Soon after leaving Crystal Bay, you will reach Kings Beach. Stop to dig your toes in the sand or stroll through the cute mountain town, filled with even more shopping and dining options.
The beach at Carnelian Bay was named after the fiery-colored stones that dotted the shoreline when it was first discovered by settlers. If you are ready to get out on the water, Carnelian Bay is a great spot to go fishing or take a trip out on a kayak. Snap a breathtaking photo or dip your toes in the water.
From Carnelian Bay, continue about six miles west on NV-28 to Tahoe City. While you are there, take a stroll across Fanny Bridge where the Truckee River begins its journey from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. Take your time and look for ducks, fish and other wildlife in the teal waters below.
This is one of the larger mountain towns in Tahoe, so be sure to use the restroom, grab some snacks and fill up your gas tank for the remainder of the drive. If you need to stretch your legs, take a stroll or ride your bike along the Truckee River Bike Trail that runs from Tahoe City to Palisades Tahoe.
Continuing around the lake, your next stop is Sugar Pine Point State Park, about nine miles from Tahoe City. Here you can embark on more hiking trails or visit the beach. Don’t forget to look up – the pine trees that give the park its name are gigantic!
Jump back in the car and get ready to head to D.L. Bliss State Park.
A short, 10-minute drive from Sugar Pine Point State Park is D. L. Bliss State Park. Here you can experience more hiking trails with alpine views and Rubicon Point Light, the highest elevation lighthouse in the U.S.
You’ve probably seen photos of your next stop – Emerald Bay State Park – located at the southwestern tip of Lake Tahoe and home to Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe. Parking here is limited but worth it for the great view.
From here, you can also take the short but rewarding hike to reach Eagle Falls where water rushes down granite cliffs.
If you stop in South Lake Tahoe, visit El Dorado Beach or continue to Van Sickle Bi-State Park, where you can enjoy the trails on foot, horseback or mountain bike. South Lake Tahoe straddles the state line so you can find plenty to do here, from shopping and dining to casinos. This is also home to Heavenly Ski Resort which offers year-round activities, including gondola rides, zip-lining and of course, world-class skiing.
Zephyr Cove is a short drive from South Lake Tahoe and offers beaches (including a dog-friendly area) and nearby hiking trails. This is a great spot to hop out and dip your toes in the water or hike the Logan Shoals Vista Trail.
As you leave Zephyr Cove, enjoy the scenic, winding road toward Sand Harbor. Along the way, you will experience a tunnel like no other, Cave Rock, a road through a 300-foot-tall volcanic stone formation jutting out of the water.
The photogenic and always-popular Sand Harbor State Park is the next stop and one of the true gems along Lake Tahoe’s shoreline. Get an up-close view of the iconic boulders in the crystal-clear water set against the Sierra Nevada mountains on a paddleboard or kayak, or cool off with a swim. This park offers family-friendly beach areas and is a must-see stop during your visit to Reno Tahoe. If you plan to spend the day here, make sure to arrive early as the parking lot fills up fast!
Did you enjoy your drive around Lake Tahoe? Now it’s time to head back to Reno to grab dinner and relax in your hotel… or hit the city’s vibrant nightlife scene.
During your stay in Reno, be sure to check out the murals in downtown and Midtown, or stroll through the Reno Riverwalk District in downtown and enjoy the Truckee River, carrying that fresh Tahoe water east towards Pyramid Lake. Don’t forget to check out our maps of Reno Tahoe for even more information on attractions and hotels.
Whether you’re looking for some time outdoors, some fun in the sun at one of the best beaches at Lake Tahoe or simply a beautiful drive around the lake, driving around Lake Tahoe offers plenty of opportunities for adventure and relaxation, all within a short drive of downtown Reno.
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