|East Side Beaches
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
“...surely the fairest picture the whole world affords.”
August 15, 2007
This outing was intended as just a swim; but exploration of half a dozen
beaches caused the miles to add up, qualifying it as a
South of Sand Harbor State Park are two official parking facilities, as well
as a number of roadside
wide-spots. Much of this slender highway is
off-limits to parking; but a few unsigned areas are wide enough to hold a
number of cars, and beach-goers make good use of them. Each of these
turnouts has one or more trails leading down toward the lake. Some of the
paths are fairly well-maintained; being comprised of soft sand, all are
easy on the feet.
Perhaps the easiest beach access is from the parking area
south of Sand Harbor, which features restroom facilities.
The fire road doubles as a handy trail
The first beach I encounter is a crowded, family-oriented venue; there must be a better option.
Chimney Beach is too close to the parking lot
Kayaks and small boats are out in force, together with rafters and
snorkelers. It's a calm
75° — a perfect day.
About half a mile from the parking lot I spot what appears to be a suitable stopping place. Scrambling down the spur trail, I hunt for a spot to throw down a towel. There are about twenty souls on the beach, most of whom have left their swim suits at home; this is ideal, for I don't even own such a garment.
Idyllic Secret Cove
It is a shame that many folks' notions about swimming here take them no
further than "cold." They simply don't understand that nowhere
is there a more enjoyable place to swim than Lake Tahoe; apparently, they never
have tried it. Yes, the water is predictably cool; but it doesn't take long
to become acclimated. It is odorless and tasteless; the waves and granite
boulders provide scenic interest; and the white
lake-bottom sand imparts
an exquisite greenish cast to the shallow water. One cannot fully appreciate
this incomparable gift of nature without getting close to it, and that means
A swim to the far side of the cove and back is sufficient to wear me out; it's a good thing that there were foot rests along the way that were less than six feet deep! Then it is time to soak up some rays and bask in the splendor of the surroundings.
On the beach
Perhaps the best feature of clothing-optional settings is that they are so
mellow — no noisy boats, no blaring boom-boxes, and
better-behaved children. This entire stretch of land is under either
state-park or national-forest jurisdiction. The laissez faire
posture of the local rangers is commendable; nobody complains, and nothing bad
happens. This is my kind of place.
The prettiest beach at Tahoe?
After applying some more sunscreen and packing up, I continue southward for further exploration. The trail leads to Secret Harbor, the north end of which is known to locals as Boaters Beach; it is easy to see why.
Boaters Beach at Secret Harbor
A girl sits astride a big rubber thingy; apparently up to six victims can hang onto the attached handles as a boat tows them along. On a prominent rock are a couple of resident sea gulls who also have elected to forgo bathing attire.
The 'training wheels' of water skiing?
On the lookout for fishy behavior
There is another 'mellow' area adjacent to the speedboaters' haven, called Secret Harbor Creek Beach, or simply 'Creek Beach'. On weekends it reputedly hosts frisbee throwing, volleyball games, and barbecues. The fire road ends here, and no readily apparent usage trail runs farther south; a path must exist, however, as there are more beach areas just around the corner in that direction. The namesake creek flows under the fire road into the lake; on its bank is the closest thing to a flower that I would see on this walk.
Secret Harbor Creek Beach
Pinedrops at creekside
It is just over a mile back to the trailhead; but a
route up the hill beckons. I opt for that, wanting to see where it
terminates. A climb of 300 feet accesses the highway approximately
half a mile closer than my starting point. Next time, I will park here.
The foot-friendly return trail
§: You don't have to jump into the lake or even take off your clothes to benefit from this hike. It can be an equally beautiful walk in May or October, although the water temperature is unappealing to most at those times. The best swimming is in late afternoon, when the lake is warmest; it remains so until after sundown.