Lake Tahoe’s Secret Gem

California’s spectacular Lake Tahoe is certainly most famous as a winter wonderland, the home of ski resorts like Squaw Valley, Heavenly Valley, Northstar and Kirkwood (nearby).  But surprisingly, summer is actually the more popular season at Tahoe, in terms of visitor numbers.  Michon and I like to bask in the clean mountain air, often 30 degrees cooler than nearby Sacramento or our home in the Wine Country, gaze at the peaks and the azure blue lake, and grab some beach time.

Lake Tahoe in the summer.
Lake Tahoe in the summer.

Tahoe has some great state parks along its shoreline, from Sugar Pine Point and DL Bliss on the West Shore, to Sandy Harbor on the Nevada side. But the fact is most of the lakefront is privately owned.  That means great public beaches are pretty crowded throughout the summer, and accessing the water to paddleboard, kayak or swim, can be a bit difficult.

However, hidden near the Stateline casinos, in fact within easy walking distance, is one of the lakes finest beaches, and most unexpected.  Just blocks from the traffic and hustling casino crowds of Stateline, Lakeside Beach has plenty of sand, a pretty good beach restaurant, and reduced crowds since it is mainly open to those staying in the surrounding hotels and timeshares.  In fact, if you stay in that area of Stateline, your lodging generally comes with a pass to the beach.  If you aren’t staying nearby, you can still purchase a day pass at the beach.

While some of us are a bit reluctant to shell out for beach access, this is actually pretty much the norm at Tahoe.  The best beaches tend to be in the state parks, which also impose a fee, and are often more crowded.  And the fee does help to keep the crowds under control.  Better yet, in the off-season, after Labor Day and before the snow when the Lake has some of its finest weather, the fee disappears.

Michon and I recently visited in late September and the sunset was gorgeous.  We were both surprised to find it just a short walk (say four blocks downhill) from our hotel at Stateline.  The beach was uncrowded, the sand was clean, and the views of the West Shore and the peaks beyond were sublime.  Next time you’re at Lake Tahoe, be sure to check it out!

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