Lake Tahoe, Eastern Shore Coves, Nevada



Ever since I saw a picture of Secret Cove in Lake Tahoe, I knew I had to visit. The clear blue water interspersed with light granite boulders just spoke to me. We started our trip at 5:20 am for an almost 4-hour trip to east Lake Tahoe.  We parked at a US Forest Service parking lot across the street from Chimney Beach and started our ½ mile gentle downhill walk to the first beach, Chimney Beach. Chimney Beach has its namesake from a chimney standing on its shore, the remains of an old cabin. We arrived at Chimney Beach at 9:30 am, found the company of perhaps 10 other people there. It was much too cold for us to take a dip then at 50F, so we decided to push on further down shore.

Chimney at Chimney Beach, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Chimney at Chimney Beach, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Our goal was to find a trail from Chimney Beach to Skunk Harbor, preferably along Lake Tahoe's shoreline so we can take in the beautiful views of the clear blue water crashing onto the rocky shore. I knew that there was a Fire Road running from Chimney Beach to Secret Cove, but wasn't sure about the views. We found a footpath coming out of Chimney Beach heading south and decided to follow it. Happily, that little footpath led us over and between boulders to the next beach, Secret Cove, all the time passing by amazing views of rocky outcrops surrounded by water so clear you could see the very bottom. As we closed in on Secret Cove, a “Clothing Optional” sign reminded us of what was ahead. Here, unlike at Chimney Beach, most sunbathers took advantage of this option.

Clear blue water along our footpath in the Eastern shore of Lake Tahoe

Clear blue water along our footpath in the Eastern shore of Lake Tahoe

We pressed on to the next beach, Creek Beach. There were many rocky coves along the way, luckily occupied by sun-bathers. We kept on walking, past a large beach with some boats and a fully clothed family with kids. Then we made our way up over some fallen boulders - here the trail faded a little. Eventually we got to a large beach with a boat or two at its shores and some cabins at the end. We tried to go beyond the cabins hoping to connect through to Skunk Harbor, but our trail ended at the cabins. To this point, from our Forest Service parking spot, Strava indicated 3.9 miles (with some exploratory detours).

Bouldering to find our footpath

Squeezing between boulders to find our footpath along the Eastern shores of Lake Tahoe

Views from our footpath along the Eastern Shores of Lake Tahoe

Views from our footpath along the Eastern shores of Lake Tahoe

It was here that we decided to head back towards the coves that we spotted earlier on. Happily the occupants had moved on and we made our way down between some boulders to a quiet blue cove. The large boulders that decorated our cove were a lot sharper than it looked from afar. We were glad we brought flip flops to walk on the rocks and the granite sand. Two of my sons rubbed their legs on the rock and had blood flowing down their leg within a few minutes of our arrival there. The cold water was a nice change from our warm sunny 4 mile walk. We spent 2 hours at that cove by ourselves, having lunch, wading, building sand castles, having water fights and finding our own rocks to soak up the sun on.

Walking towards our secret cove

Enjoying our very own secret cove

 Enjoying our very own secret cove

A couple hours later, we headed out from our cove going towards the Fire Road, but quickly realized that the Fire Road was not as scenic as our foot trail along the shore, nor was it very quiet being within sight of the highway. We soon found out that cars go on this Fire Road as well and had to jump off the road to allow a couple of cars to go pass. We spent an hour enjoying our pre-dinner snack back at Chimney Beach afterwards, then tried to walk north to Sand Harbor Beach along the shore. We were quickly stopped by a cliff of fallen boulders that went on for a distance. By now, it was getting late, and we decided to call it a day.

More views from the Eastern Shores of Lake Tahoe

Views from the Eastern Shores of Lake Tahoe

Even though this hike is technically in Nevada, I have included it in my list of "California Hikes" since it is just across the border from California.  ***For alternative shorter hikes, you can park close to Chimney Beach for about 1/2 mile hike down to Chimney Beach. You can walk south as far (or as close) as you'd like, then return the way you came.  Your hike can be much shorter than our 7 miler if you so wish.  The distance along the Fire Road is also shorter but you would not get the beautiful scenery that you would along the shore.  The Fire Road is also in close proximity of Hwy 28 where you could see and hear traffic as it goes by.  Our hike to Secret Cove from Chimney Beach and back was around 3 miles along the shoreline footpath.The views were just as amazing heading back.*** If you're looking for a clothing-required beach, I believe the State Parks require clothing. 8)


Practical Information (as of August 2016):

Address: About 2.5 miles south of Sand Harbor Beach along Hwy 28 in Nevada. (Approximate GPS 39.165372, -119.932085)

Our hike: 7 mile shoreline footpath, mostly unshaded, minimal elevation change, some climbing over, under and between boulders, for shorter alternatives, see above ***

Features: Discover 5 beaches and coves (clothing-optional) on Lake Tahoe's eastern shores, amazing views of clear blue water with granite boulders interspersed in the water and along the foot trail for some fun bouldering along the way, water play and sunning on boulders afterwards, Beaches are clothing-optional

Parking: USFS Parking Free slightly north and across street from Chimney Beach area, Chimney Beach parking $6, limited parking in both, arrive early

Amenities: Minimal, vault toilet at Chimney Beach parking, no toilets at the beach, porta-potty on fire road trail


Warning:  All listed adventures come with inherent risks. The information provided is based on personal experience which may or may not be typical. The safety of these adventures are dependent on a variety of factors including but not limited to: terrain, weather, wildlife, hiker skill level, human error, preparation and other foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. We do not assume any liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information provided.  As such, we will not be held responsible for any harm, injury, and/or loss that may result. Your personal preparation and judgement on the safety of each adventure is required at all times. Please use your own discretion and always be safe.

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