Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and I say that as a lake connoisseur. 

The sheer size of it — one of the largest Alpine Lakes in the world — the incredible clarity, and Caribbean blue framed by mountains make it a sight to behold. 

The following are some of my favorite spots to photograph in Lake Tahoe, in logical order from the Mt. Rose entrance on the Nevada side:

Mt. Rose

Effort level: High 

Best time: Golden hour/sunset

best photo spots lake tahoe mount rose

Beginning near me on the Nevada side, Mount Rose is one of the tallest mountains around Tahoe and therefore provides epic views of both Reno and the lake.

It’s a 12 mile out and back hike from the Mount Rose parking lot to the summit, but the view is a gorgeous reward. 

Note that this can be a very difficult trail in the winter due to many intersecting foot prints. There are better marked snowshoe trails elsewhere (Learned that the hard way!)

However even if you hike the first mile of the trail in the winter, you’ll be rewarded with epic lake and sunset views:

mt rose hike winter

Chickadee Ridge

Effort level: Moderate 

Best time: Golden hour

On the other side of the highway from Mount Rose, find chickadee ridge, a great view of Tahoe and a birding spot about 1.5 miles from the road. 

This one is great in the winter, when you’ll see the most birds!

While normally I do not feed wildlife, the birds on Chickadee Ridge are habituated after decades of hand feeding. So while an ethically-dubious animal encounter, we made sure to feed them only birdseed, and my niece loved it!

Spooner Lake

Effort level: Moderate 

Best time: Golden hour

Spooner Lake is fantastic in the fall, when the trees change to a lemonade yellow in an otherwise evergreen area.

While Tahoe might not be famous for leaf peeping like New Eland and Canada, Spooner Lake offers an easy trail through bright yellows that I unfortunately missed by a couple of days in my photo, but I’m paying close attention for next year!

This trail is wonderful in the winter, too. It’s still clearly marked and patted down enough that you might be able to skip snow shoes, and you never know what you might find out there. We spotted a bobcat!

This is part of the Nevada State Park system and entrance is $10.

Flume Trail/TRT Sand Harbor Overlook

Effort level: High

Best time: Early morning/before noon

lake tahoe sand harbor overlook
Lake Tahoe’s so gorgeous

From Chickadee ridge, one can continue hiking along the Tahoe rim Trail to reach the Sand Harbor Overlook. 

This can be a long hike that is often better done as an overnight. My mother and I hiked a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail last summer (Mt. Rose to Spooner Lake) and we hit this on day two.

The flume trail will also take you to a similar, slightly lower, overlook, and can be done in a day if done as a point-to-point hike or mountain bike ride.

Sand Harbor

Effort level: Low

Best time: Early morning/sunset

This is a favorite summertime destination, but I love it in the winter too, when the water is often calmer and there’s nobody around.

Sand harbor gives you that glimpse of the baby blue water that Tahoe is famous for. Bring a paddleboard and paddle around the rocks, or check out different vantage points to catch that gorgeous blue.

lake tahoe paddleboarding

The best time to photograph is 2/ish hours after sunrise when the sun illuminates the water. In the summertime, that means arriving right when the park opens at 8am. The window to get the best light is short, but it can be great at any time of day, including sunset! 

Bonsai Rock

Effort level: Low

Best time: Early morning/sunset

Bonsai rock is another favorite for both of the early morning hours when it’s common to the clarity is most easily seen, and sunset, where you’re in the perfect easterly position to view it setting in the west.

This is probably best photographed in summer if you want people on the rock, as the water is pretty darn cold in the winter and not really swimmable. Since Tahoe is snowmelt-fed, it isn’t until August/September that the water gets bearable to stay in for longer periods of time.

You can still get to the rock from a short hike off of a roadside pull out. You can also hike along the shoreline to find even more hidden coves and photo ops. 

Secret Cove

Effort level: Low

Best time: Early morning/sunset

Secret Cove is the most beautiful cove I have found in Lake Tahoe. I love the way it looks an hour and a half to two hours after the sun rises, with light filling it in perfectly to show those baby blues.

I recommend bringing a longer range lens here, particularly with a polarizer. The photo above was shot at 100 mm.

keep warm outside in winter

There is a small roadside pull off near a trail that allows you to access Secret Cove. Chimney beach is also a good place to park, although the lot fills quickly in the summer months and is closed in the winter. If visiting in the winter, it’s good to bring yak tracks so that you don’t slip on the steep, icy trail. These are a must for me in the winter in Tahoe.

A word to the wise: This is a nude beach so don’t be surprised if people show up in their birthday suits! Get there early to photograph it without people in the summer. 

Cave Rock Overlook

Effort level: Low

Best time: Sunset

Cave rock is an easy, short climb up from a nearby parking area for one of the best sunset vantage points on the lake.

Be careful when climbing around, as a lot of the rocks are sheer cliffs towering over the water.

If checking it out in the winter, definitely bring yak tracks in case it’s icy!

Mt. Tallac

Effort level: High

Best time: Sunrise

Crossing into California, the Mount Tallac hike provides and incredible view of Tahoe as well as views into Desolation Wilderness. This is one of my favorite parts of the lake. 

I really wanted to see the sunrise from Tallac, and added it on to a four day backpacking trip in desolation wilderness. However you need an overnight permit for this, as well as either incredible route finding skills on the rocky and disorienting trail, or accessing Tallac from the other side, via Gilbert lake.

The Tallac hike can be done as a day hike, but if you want that sunrise or sunset view and will be hiking any portion of this in the dark, definitely bring a headlamp and lots of water. Read all you need to know about hiking Tallac here.

Emerald Bay

Effort level: Low

Best time: Sunrise

lake tahoe emerald bay sunset

Emerald day is another favorite place to catch the sunrise. However I like it at sunset as well, pictured above.

This is one of the most photographed locations in Lake Tahoe, and you can get great views of it from the roadside pull off just before Vikingsholm, and the Vikingsholm parking lot. 

There’s a waterfall nearby, several campsites, and more specifics available on our Emerald Bay guide.

Rubicon Trail

Effort level: Low

Best time: Sunrise

rubicon trail lake tahoe

The Rubicon Trail is a 16 miler that one can easily section hike if short on time. It goes around Emerald Bay as well as across to DL Bliss State Park.

There’s plenty of campsites along the way for summer recreation, but it’s also wonderful to just hike as far as you can get and look for the little coves and inlets all along the way. The best time to catch that Caribbean blue water is a couple of hours before sunset. 

It can also be easier to get that glassy water in the winter time, when the lake tends to be a bit calmer. Bring yak tracks in case the trail is icy.

These are some of the most famous, ‘wow’ photography spots along Lake Tahoe, However this lake is so big, there’s an entire third of the coast line that I have yet to explore. But all along the west coast, you have similarly beautiful beaches and coves, as well as plenty of ski resorts and mountains.

So while these are some of the most famous photography spots, there is so much to discover on Lake Tahoe, you can keep searching and coming up with new gems. And I aim to do just that.

Please be sure to keep Tahoe blue when you visit. Take home absolutely everything you bring in, And love and respect the nature! This is a magical lake that deserves loving and protecting. Happy trails. 

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