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A Winter Trip to Lake Tahoe’s Sand Harbor

A Winter Trip to Lake Tahoe’s Sand Harbor

Spanning two states, Lake Tahoe is a photographer and nature lover’s dream landscape. The mountain lake is world-renown for its clarity and beauty. The surrounding snow-capped mountains attract snow skiers and snow boarders from around the world. Drives around the Lake offer stunning vista landscapes just waiting to be framed in a photograph. And the Lake itself feeds your soul.

Mountain Lake
The roads to and around Lake Tahoe offer a number of scenic overlooks

I grew up in the Tahoe area and spent many summers getting sunburned on its high-altitude beaches, swimming in its frigid waters, and catching crawdads (that’s what locals called the crayfish) near its shoreline. Recently, I took my kids to the area to visit their grandparents, and knew that we needed to take a trip to Lake Tahoe.

Snow-capped Mountains and Lake Tahoe
Stunning scenery and crystal clear water make Lake Tahoe a standout destination.

A Drive Around Lake Tahoe

Tahoe spans California and Nevada. During our drive, we spent all of our time on the Nevada side of the Lake. However, there are great beaches on both sides of the lake and great skiing and sledding too. Small alpine towns line the lake offering entertainment, great food, and casino gambling.

Trees, Mountains, and Lake Tahoe
Sand Harbor, on the Northeast side of Tahoe, is a Nevada State Park

We toured Tahoe in January, a slow time of year for beach tourists. We drove to Sand Harbor, a Nevada State Park, and a regular hangout during my childhood years. The park has a long beach set in an alcove with great views of most of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Sand Harbor State Park

Sand Harbor is a Nevada State Park site. The beach has a large parking lot, visitor’s center, and restrooms near the beach. In winter, you can find horse-drawn sleigh rides (although there was no snow at lake level when we visited, so the sleigh rides were not operating). During the summer, Sand Harbor is home to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. You can see the natural sand amphitheater and stage from the beach.

The kids headed straight for the beach, tramping through the golden sand to the shore. I warned them not to get their shoes in the water because the always cold water temperature is especially frigid in winter.

Kids admire Tahoe
The kids admire Tahoe’s clear waters, but did not dare putting their feet into the cold mountain lake’s waters.

We inspected the translucent waters from which we could see a great distance. Efforts to “Keep Tahoe Blue” by conservationists throughout the decades have allowed Tahoe to remain one of the clearest lakes in the world. The conservation efforts also result in mostly litter-free beaches.

Clear Lake Tahoe
Conservation efforts have helped to “Keep Tahoe Blue”

My kids soon found driftwood, pine cones, and rocks to through into the waters. They waited endlessly for the waves and tide to bring the cones and driftwood back to shore.

Kid playing at Lake Tahoe
Our son waits for the driftwood and pine cones he threw into the lake to wash ashore.

The Boardwalk

Next to the beach is a boardwalk that wraps around the beach to the north side of Sand Harbor. After spending some time at the beach, we traversed the boardwalk to see some stunning views of the California peaks to the west and play among the boulders near the boat dock.

Sierra Nevada range
Boulders frame Lake Tahoe and the western Sierra Nevada Range

Our son, who is interested in Parkour, leaped and danced among the boulders as if it were an endurance training course. However, our daughter more carefully moved from boulder to boulder taking pictures and admiring the tranquility of the winter landscape and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Boulders at Sand Harbor
Our daughter enjoyed admiring the views from Lake Tahoe.

We enjoyed our time at Sand Harbor. The off-season was perfect because we met with few other beach visitors, allowing the kids to have Tahoe to themselves. The beach is quite busy during the summer months, but January was a perfect time to enjoy all that Sand Harbor had to offer in an unhurried fashion. Find out more about Sand Harbor here.

Have you been to Lake Tahoe? Tell us your favorite beach or activity in the comments.

Winter Visit to Lake Tahoe's Sand Harbor

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31 thoughts on “A Winter Trip to Lake Tahoe’s Sand Harbor”

  • It’s an amazing experience to travel with your family 🙂 Lake Tahoe sounds like an amazing place to spend some peaceful time.

  • Such a beautiful blog post! The nature there must be amazing – I really would love visiting this place one day.
    Thanks for sharing this with us – have a nice day and safe travels

  • I love the backdrop of mountain around the lake. I am a big fan of visiting big lakes like this and I will be adding this to my list when I visit the USA (Want to do a huge trip) Lakes like this can really just bring out so much peacefulness in yourself, and I can imagine your SD card was full of amazing pics, not just the gorgeous ones you shared in this post.

  • beautiful photos of Tahoe! I’ve never been to this park but I’ve spent quite a bit of time around the South Shore and skiing at Sierra at Tahoe… this is truly one of the gems of California. I’m also pleasantly surprised that Tahoe is one of the cleanest lakes, I never knew that!

    • We’ve spent a lot of time at South Shore too. North is a little less busy with a lot less vehicle traffic. But you cannot go wrong anywhere in Tahoe.

  • This is one of the best places to go as a family! I went once with my family in the summer and it was one of the most beautiful places in the world to this day. I think it’s honestly the best photo spot in the US besides maybe, Montana. Dying to go back!

    • I know Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed spots. There doesn’t seem to be a bad place to take pictures in Tahoe.

  • Exploring such a wonderful landscape must have been so exciting for the kids: the lake, the woods, the bizarre tree roots – amazing. It seems to be serene and exciting at the same time – I particularly like the view across the lake at the mountains with the snow on top.

  • That looks like a feast for the eyes and the soul. It seems that it would be very tranquil there too, and you could immerse yourself in the beauty of that landscape without distraction. Exactly my sort of place!

  • A winter trip to Lake Tahoe Sand Harbor looks so naturally beautiful. I would love to go here and I am definitely adding this to my list for when I visit my bestfriend in California. You are right I have only really heard about the skiing there but nothing to much about summer. The colour of that water and wow!!

  • This is beautiful . I have never been to that part of the world. Cant agree enough with the idea of litter free beach.Lets hopeits stays blue for ever!

  • You know, the more time we spend our West, the more in love we fall with how absolutely stunning it is. Tahoe is definitely on our list, so this is super travel goals for us. Saving for later!!

  • I’ve only visited Tahoe once and it was GORGEOUS! We spent the majority of the time on the snow; I don’t know if I could brave the beach there in the wintertime! Nonetheless, your photos show how beautiful and diverse the landscapes are. Lucky you for having grown up in the area!

    • Yes, I was fortunate to grow up in the area. Of course, we don’t really appreciate what we have locally until we move away.

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