5 South Lake Tahoe Beaches You Need To Know About

DL Bliss State Park
Image by Expedia/Tourism Media

You might figure that a beach at 6000 feet elevation and a coastal stretch of sand would be entirely different matters. But the South Lake Tahoe, CA beaches are as golden, sun-drenched and simple as the seaside’s best. Sure, there’s no salty air or rolling tides, but!… there’s no sharks or seaweed either.

We honestly dig all of the Tahoe beaches—even our least favorite spots have their merits (re: the view, the forest, the lake). But when it comes to finding the right beach, South Lake Tahoe has five in particular that we’re always extra happy to be on.

Inflatable boat rental lake tahoe

The best beach toy? An inflatable, all-electric boat rental from Tahoe To Go Boat! Light & packable, it’s the ultimate DIY adventure.

Most Dog-Friendly Beach: Kiva Beach

Kiva Beach in Lake Tahoe California
Image by Melissa Halliburton on BringFido.com

Kiva beach is kind of the best and kind of the only dog-friendly beach in South Lake Tahoe. There’s other dog-friendly spots along the lake, but Kiva is the only one that feels more like a beach than an obligatory “here’s where your dogs can be” spot.

Sitting about 3-miles outside of town, Kiva is wedged between Camp Richardson and Emerald Bay, near the Tallac Historic Site and Taylor Creek Visitor Center.

In the summer, there’s tons of parking, nearby restrooms and day use facilities. (Tip: the best parking area for Kiva requires an immediate left after turning onto Heritage Way.) But the whole area is connected via a network of well-maintained trails that wind through the forest and spit you out at the beach.

Need to know:

  • Dog-friendly
  • Free parking
  • Close to trails & picnic area

From the closest parking lot, you’ll be a short walk to dog nirvana—a spacious beach area where your dog can eat sand and sniff butts. Your dog must be leashed while on the sand, but he’s free to swim or play fetch in the lake leash-free. Warning: this rule often gets ahem, forgotten? by other dog owners. And Kiva can get busy in the summer.

Your leashed dog is also welcome in the picnic area, the Taylor Creek Visitor Center and throughout the Tallac Historic Site. He can’t go storming through the Taylor Creek Marsh though. There’s sensitive plants in there, guys.

Regardless, Kiva is pretty much the spot to capture that framable photo of your pup swimming in Lake Tahoe—or to visit if you just really like dogs.

The Local Favorite: Pope Beach

We were about to tell you our actual favorite beach, but then remembered that there is limited parking. So, we’ll offer up a close second with an insider tip.

Pope Beach.

There’s lots to love about Pope. The sand-meets-pines situation. The clean restrooms. The massive parking lot steps from the sand. The proximity to the city limits and easy access via bike path. Yes, Pope is one of the most loved public beaches in Tahoe South for a reason.

Need to know:

  • No pets allowed
  • Kayak rentals & food concession on site
  • Memorial Day weekend – Mid-October
  • Hours: 8 a.m – 4:30 p.m
  • Day use fee: $10 ($20 on July 4th)

Nearly a mile long, Pope Beach is easily one of Lake Tahoe’s largest beaches. Which is great since it’s also one of South Lake Tahoe’s most popular summer spots. There’s tons of room to accommodate all happy beach-goers, plus rows of picnic tables, clean restrooms and plenty of space for recreation. The water is crystal clear with a sandy bottom—ideal for standup paddle boarding or kayaking, both of which you can rent onsite.

Of course, the best thing about Pope Beach is the pine trees. Unlike most of South Lake Tahoe’s beaches, Pope has shade and lots of it. Trust us, that high altitude sun burns like none other. You’ll be grateful for a shady place to sprawl out.

Now for the local secret—head past the round-a-bout, to the far end of the parking lot for more space and the same views. It’s mo’ betta.

Looking for more things to do during a Lake Tahoe summer? We’ve got you covered.

The Closest Beach To The Casinos: Lakeside Beach

Classically beautiful and wildly convenient, Lakeside Beach is simply a must-know destination for visitors staying near Stateline in South Lake Tahoe. I mean, you can go from city streets to sandy shore in ten minutes or less.

Need to know:

  • No pets allowed
  • Kayaking, paddle boats, jet skis & restaurant
  • Year-round (Free in winter)
  • Parking hours: 9 a.m – 5 p.m
  • Daily fee: $25 per adult/$15 per child

A dreamy beachscape with golden sand and Tahoe’s famously blue waters, it’s a wonder that this spot is just minutes from the casinos. Of course, the convenience will cost you. It’s a private beach but public access is available for $25 per adult or $15 per child. It’s not cheap, especially considering that there are plenty of free spots around the lake. But for the easy walkability, it’s well worth it.

Plus, it’s a super nice beach. There’s a safe area for swimming, a small marina to rent paddle boats, jet skis or even a full size boat. There’s picnic tables, restroom facilities and one of our favorite beach bars on-site.

Thanks to our buddy covid 19, you might run into some loose restrictions on the amount of visitors at any one time but hey, that can be nice sometimes.

The One You Party On: Zephyr Cove

If a hidden cove is your version of paradise, Lake Tahoe has plenty of those. But if you’re in the mood to crush it on the sand volleyball court, host an impromptu dance party to someone’s else bluetooth speaker or make friends in the boat rental line, then Zephyr Cove is your spot.

Thanks to the supremely popular Zephyr Cove Resort & Marina, Zephyr Cove beach is a short walk away from tons of accommodation—and thus the crowds that come with them. But like we said, that’s not always a bad thing.

Need to know:

  • No pets allowed
  • Full service marina & restaurant
  • Year-round
  • Parking hours: 9 a.m – 5 p.m
  • Parking: $12+ (depending on the season)

There’s a restaurant & beach bar, kayaking & paddling boarding, a sandy shoreline for swimming and a full-service marina. Or, follow dusty trails away from the main beach to find secluded hangouts and massive boulders to claim as your own little island. Whatever your Tahoe recreation dreams are made of, you’re guaranteed to find it at Zephyr Cove.

If you’re in South Lake Tahoe and wanting to visit the Nevada side of the lake, Zephyr Cove is one of the closest options. It’s also one of the last main public beach options before reaching Sand Harbor near North Lake Tahoe’s Incline Village.

The Can’t Miss State Park: D.L. Bliss & Calawee Cove

Image by Expedia/Tourism Media

Although not technically south, the California state parks on the west edge of Lake Tahoe deserve a spot on any Lake Tahoe beach list. Just on the other side of Emerald Bay is D.L. Bliss State Park. A gem in the crown of California, it’s the place to be to soak up all of that rare Lake Tahoe beauty.

Need to know:

  • No pets allowed
  • California State Park
  • Limited capacity for parking
  • Sunrise to Sunset
  • Parking: $10+ (depending on the season)

Within the park, there’s two main spots for beach goers—Lester Beach and Calawee Cove. Lester Beach offers your more typical beach experience, with soft, sloping sand and clear, gentle waters. Calawee Cove, although a little more difficult to access, promises that magical Lake Tahoe view, with true turquoise waters and boulders along the shore.

From the parking lot, follow the trail to either spot or walk a bit further to find your own little piece of paradise. Without traffic, it’s about a 30-minute drive, but we’ll be damned if it’s not the most worth-it 30 minutes ever.

Call it greed, but South Lake Tahoe seems determined to be more than just your favorite ski town. It may not offer warm turquoise waters, but there’s still turquoise water. And a secret cove shrouded behind boulders and pine trees? I mean, we’ve basically forgot about the California coast already.

Wondering about the beaches in North Lake Tahoe? Stay tuned! From the edges of Tahoe City to Incline Village, there’s a ton of gorgeous, public beaches that we love and will be writing about soon. (Sand Harbor, we’re looking at you.)

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