Lake Tahoe: Sand Harbor Beach

Vera Smirnova 0 Comments

This post is the part of the list of best places to see while visiting Lake Tahoe in summer. For full list click here: [Lake Tahoe in summer: best 7 places to see]

This is by far our favorite place on the lake. It lies on the Nevada side, about 30 minutes' drive from South Lake Tahoe. We discovered this beach years ago, when it wasn’t yet very popular or crowded. Its beauty hasn't changed, but its popularity has increased very much. So on nice summer days, especially weekends, try to come early to get a parking spot. There is an entrance fee. As of 2019 it was $10. The parking lot is huge for a beach, but sometimes even that is not enough. One can drive a couple miles farther and park near the trail head, and then walk to Sand Harbor. Alternatively, drive another five miles to Incline Village, park there and ride a weekend free shuttle to Sand Harbor.

Now I'll tell you one secret. If you want to enjoy a truly tremendous view on the lake, get up early and head to Sand Harbor! Since it is on the East side, when you face the water, the sun will be rising right behind you. And while it is still low, the light will penetrate the water at a low angle and give it that magic turquoise color you oftentimes see on the photographs sold in galleries. People tend to think it is a photo editing trick, but in fact it is the pure natural color of the water. You'll be able to see it about two-three hours after sunrise. As the sun travels higher in the sky, the color will change, changing hues to the more usual blue shade.

The beach at Sand Harbor is one of the few with relatively warm water. In general, the lake is quite refreshing at an average of 18°C/64°F in July. But some places are more shallow at the shore and the sun warms the water more, making swimming more comfortable.

There is a 0.4 mile nature walk that goes in a loop along the lake shore between the large beach and the small beach. It is a very easy, level path with information tables and beautiful overlooks.

Sand Harbor Beach, photo by Vera Smirnova ©2020


There is a modern restaurant built in recent years right on the beach, called "Sand Harbor Bar and Grill”. We found it quite expensive, plus there is a very limited choice of food on the menu, not to mention the lack of healthy food. So it’s better to bring your own meals to the beach, and only stop by for a cocktail in this restaurant if you so desire.

What to know:


Lake Tahoe is situated 6,200 (almost 2000 meters) above sea level. That means the air blanket is thinner there than on any ocean beach and sunburn is a matter of 10-15 minutes. Use sunscreen!


There aren't any beach umbrellas for rent. Bring your own umbrella or tent!

Water sports

There is kayak and paddle board rental: add to the fun with some paddling along the beautiful shoreline lined with giant rocks and white sand.


The Tahoe East Shore Trail (formerly known as Incline Village to Sand Harbor Bike Path) is a three-mile-long paved path that stretches along the coast parallel to Hwy 28. It is well separated from the highway, making bike riding and hiking very enjoyable, especially before noon, while it is still shady.

Sand Harbor Beach, photo by Vera Smirnova ©2020

After making great photographs, sunbathing and swimming or kayaking on Sand Harbor beach, drive further north to explore Incline Village or Kings Beach, or head south to have a lunch in South Lake Tahoe and continue to Emerald Bay or Rubicon Point Lighthouse trail!

See complete list of best places to see around Lake Tahoe:

[Lake Tahoe in summer: top 7 places to see]