Get Up, Stand Up
Lake Tahoe's blue waters are a magnet for stand-up paddleboarders.
WATER-SPORTS BUFFS HAVE long gazed on Lake Tahoe’s jewel-like blue and longed to conquer all 72 miles of shore. Today, the highly portable, accessible stand-up paddleboard makes this a more than possible dream. At 22 miles long and about 11 miles at its widest, Tahoe has endless spots to launch your paddle craft. Here are 10 departure points, starting at South Lake Tahoe and heading west (clockwise), that over a few weekends can take you all the way around the lake.
SOUTH SHORE: EL DORADO BEACH With its crystal-clear water, El Dorado embodies the true essence of the South Shore. The many westward trips from here include Upper Truckee Marsh, Tahoe Keys and Baldwin Beach; paddle east and you’ll find the dock for the Tahoe Queen, Nevada Stateline and Lakeside Beach.
SOUTH SHORE: BALDWIN BEACH This is the closest jumping-off spot for paddling to Emerald Bay. Plenty of parking and a straightforward launching area make it ideal for a day trip.
SOUTH SHORE: EMERALD BAY Note: Emerald Bay is the only paddle destination on this list that does not have a public launch. You’ll find a paddleboard and kayak rental facility here at Vikingsholm. Emerald Bay can be accessed via many locations, from the south (Baldwin Beach) and north (D. L. Bliss State Park). It’s worth the work to SUP here from nearby; once you do, take the day to explore and circumnavigate Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe.
D. L. BLISS STATE PARK This area has the clearest water on Lake Tahoe, plus a white sand beach. The three-mile trip from here to Emerald Bay is one of the more spectacular paddles on the lake. Entry sells out by 10 a.m. on weekends, so go early to grab your spot on the beach.
MEEKS BAY From D. L. Bliss along the western shore, the next user-friendly paddle destination is Meeks Bay. Shallow water and a semiprotected sandy beach make this an optimal place to hang with the family and feel the beauty of this side of the lake.
WILLIAM KENT BEACH The beach just to the left of Sunnyside Marina isn’t big, but there’s plenty of space to launch your board and take a mellow paddle to the right (south) along the western shore. Splendid views of old lakefront homes await, along with antique boats on moorings near shore. Keep an eye out for water-skiers on this corridor; the shoreline waters are safer and not as rough.
COMMONS BEACH TAHOE CITY Commons Beach is right in the heart of Tahoe City, but the launch is very easy, as the parking lot sits very close to the beach. If the wind is right south/southwest, this place makes a fun start to a seven-mile downwind run to Carnelian Bay.
CARNELIAN BAY Deep, deep blue water makes Carnelian Bay a beautiful paddling spot. Launch at Waterman’s Landing and go up toward Dollar Point, about a five-mile round-trip. Catch the downwind back to the beach if the wind has filled in. A nice cold beer and sandwich are the payoff back at Waterman’s Landing Cafe.
KINGS BEACH STATE RECREATION AREA Kings Beach could be the hub for water sports on the North Shore. A wide and expansive sandy beach allows an easy launch. And the smack-dab midshore location gives excellent access for numerous paddle trips. Kings Beach is the best jumping-off point for a nice mellow eastward ride (turn left) toward Incline Village and Crystal Bay. You’ll pass right over huge boulders under sparkling clear water. Stop at Speedboat Beach (landing only) along the way as you cross into Nevada.
EAST SHORE (NEVADA)–SAND HARBOR If you had only one place to pick as your Tahoe-paddle eureka spot, Sand Harbor would be it: flat, sandy beach for an easy launch, lots of parking, and warm summer waters. The queen jewel of the east shore, it’s a gateway to paddling excursions galore, from a long eight-mile round-trip down the east shore toward Thunderbird Lodge to a shoreline jaunt back to Crystal Bay. Sand Harbor fills up fast on weekends, so arrive in time to stake your claim.
SAFETY TIP Wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) is mandatory for everyone on Tahoe aboard a paddle craft. Stand-up paddlers are also strongly encouraged to wear an ankle leash at all times on the lake.