Paddle Places: Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

This past weekend I raced in one of the beautiful standup paddle races here in Northern California. The Thunderbird Paddle Race takes place at Sand Harbor State Park on Lake Tahoe’s scenic East Shore. While the race is a blog article unto itself, Sand Harbor State Park is without a doubt one of the most stunning paddling places on all of Lake Tahoe. 

Let’s first talk about the location of Sand Harbor. It sits on the East Shore of Lake Tahoe (Nevada side) about three miles south of Incline Village, NV on State Route 28. Coming from Truckee, the drive to the park is around 40 minutes. I arrived at the Sand Harbor State Park entrance around 8:45 a.m. and found a parking spot right up front adjacent to what I believe is one of Tahoe’s largest white sand beaches. This place is a standup paddlers paradise. The water clarity is unbelievable, especially from on top of a paddleboard, and you can see what seems like 50 feet to the lake bottom, just 100 yards from shore. There are a lot of exploration options by paddleboard from secluded beaches to calm, rocky coves. Morning paddling is advised; the East Shore of Lake Tahoe tends to have afternoon onshore winds that are not fun for paddlers. Don’t forget your flip-flops. The beach sand can get scorching hot especially, when transporting gear from the beach to the car.

Sand Harbor is a very popular place to paddle and relax in the summer months. Be sure to arrive early to get a parking spot. As I left the park at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, there was a line out the park gate to the road and all parking lots were full. Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) are required to be worn while paddling on Lake Tahoe, even on standup paddleboards. Side note: there is a Shakespeare Festival each summer at Sand Harbor.

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