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20 Beautiful Lakes Near Lake Tahoe

Woman swimming in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in North America. The crystal clear waters in summer and incredible ski resorts in the winter make a great year round destination. But did you know that there are several smaller mountain lakes and alpine lakes near Lake Tahoe that are equally beautiful?

It took me several trips to Lake Tahoe before discovering these mountain lakes. I love visiting these smaller lakes during summer and enjoy the nature around. While some of the lakes near Lake Tahoe require hiking, several are accessible by road.

Sunset at Cave Rock Lake Tahoe

From Fallen Leaf Lake, Echo Lakes, Eagle and Cascade Lake in the south to Spooner Lake, Marlette Lake, Donner Lake in the east and north, there are quite a few lakes to choose from. Whether you enjoy hiking, kayaking, fishing or picnicking, I highly recommend you check out one of the best lakes in Lake Tahoe on your next trip.

NOTE: While visiting the Lakes of Lake Tahoe, practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the beauty and cleanliness of the environment. Pack out all trash, stay on designated trails, and respect wildlife to ensure that these pristine lakes are well preserved.

Woman in the backdrop of blue crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe at Sand Harbor beach.

I couldn’t not start with Lake Tahoe in a blogpost about Lakes in Lake Tahoe! Lake Tahoe is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations in California and Nevada. We have visited Lake Tahoe numerous times and still find new things to do every time we visit. 

While people from SF Bay Area flock to South Lake Tahoe and Emerald, I highly recommend visiting the north shore, east shore, nearby lakes and other hiking spots. I have stayed pretty much in all the towns around Lake Tahoe and some of my favorite places to visit are Incline Village, Kings Beach and Tahoe City. We also love floating and biking the Truckee river in the summer and kayaking in the Sand Harbor beach.

HOW TO GET THERE

Lake Tahoe is about a two-hour drive from Sacramento, three and a half hours from San Francisco, and under an hour from Reno.

From the San Francisco Bay Area or Sacramento, take Interstate 80 east to reach the north shore of Lake Tahoe or Highway 50 east for South Lake Tahoe. 

From Reno, Nevada, take Highway 431 (Mt. Rose Highway) to North Lake Tahoe or Highway 50 to the south shore.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • Enjoy a variety of water activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, fishing, swimming and many more in the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe. It is a paradise for water sports in the summer. My personal favorite activities are kayaking, sailing and swimming.
  • Lake Tahoe is an incredible place to watch stunning sunsets. My favorite places are Cave Rock and Zephyr Cove.
  • With numerous trails around, hiking is one of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer.
  • In the winter, enjoy skiing, snowboarding in the ski resorts near Lake Tahoe.
Stunning blue lake with snow capped mountains perfectly mirrored in the still waters of Fallen leaf Lake.

Fallen Leaf Lake, in the Sierra Nevada range, is an alpine lake that is approximately 2.9 mile long and about 1 mile wide. It is a hidden gem of a Lake in the Lake Tahoe area that is often overlooked.

With its stunning natural beauty and plenty of activities, Fallen Leaf Lake is a must visit lake in the Lake Tahoe area. Fallen Leaf Lake is managed by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and is part of the National Forest System lands.

HOW TO GET THERE

Take Highway 89 north from South Lake Tahoe and turn onto Fallen Leaf Road. Continue for about 1.5 miles to reach the lake. Note that this road may be closed in the winter based on weather conditions.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • Take a stroll along the 3.5 mile trail admiring the beautiful reflection of the lake and the surrounding pine trees. This trail is one of my favorite spots for running and jogging with the best views.
  • Hike the many hiking trails that originate from Fallen Leaf Lake like Mt. Tallac trail, Cathedral Peak trail and Tahoe Mountain.
  • Glen Alpine Falls is a short walk/drive from Fall Leaf Lake and is a nice waterfall to visit.
  • Enjoy a myriad of water activities like kayaking, canoeing and fishing.
  • Camp at the Fallen Leaf Lake Campground for convenience and easy access to the activities around the lake.
Echo Lake with golden light and mountains covered with pine trees in the background

Echo Lakes is a set of glacial lakes in the Desolation Wilderness Area of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. If you are looking for lakes near Lake Tahoe that are free of the crowds and plenty of activities to do, the twin lakes of Upper and Lower Echo Lake would be perfect. 

Echo Lake Sno Park is a nice place to visit during the winter but be prepared to have a parking permit. Echo Lake is surrounded by rugged mountain range and lush forests, making them a favorite spot for outdoor enthusiasts and enjoy beautiful sunsets by the lake. If you have time to visit one Lake near Lake Tahoe, make it this one!

HOW TO GET THERE

Echo Lakes are located approximately 10 miles south of Lake Tahoe. To reach Echo Lakes, you would take US Highway 50 to Johnson Pass Road. Follow Johnson Pass Road until you reach the well-signed turnoff for Echo Lakes. 

The road leads directly to the Lower Echo Lake, where you will find a parking area near the Echo Chalet and the boat dock and launch area. 

Echo lake is one of the most easily accessible lakes from South Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. We often stop by the Echo Lakes on the way to South Lake Tahoe or while heading back.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • Echo Lakes serve as a gateway to the Desolation Wilderness area, offering access to a network of trails that cater to all levels of hikers. One of the most popular hikes is the trail to Lake Aloha, a stunningly beautiful alpine lake dotted with small islands. This moderate hike provides breathtaking views and is a great hike to see wildflowers in spring.
  • The network of hiking trails from Echo Lakes in Lake Tahoe gives you access to some of the most pristine and stunning glacial lakes and waterfalls like Suzie Lake, Heather Lake, Horsetail Falls, Grass Lake, Tamarack lake, Triangle Lake and Gilmore Lake.
  • Echo Chalet offers taxi boat service to the far end of the lake and back for easier access to the other side of the lake.
  • Both Lower and Upper Echo Lakes are accessible for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. The clear, cold waters are home to a variety of fish, including trout. 
  • The area around Echo Lakes offers several picturesque spots perfect for a family picnic or a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear mountain waters. Be aware that the water might be quite cold.
  • For those looking to extend their stay, there are designated wilderness campsites in the Desolation Wilderness area accessible via the trail network. Wilderness permits are required for overnight camping and can be obtained at the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit offices or through their website.
Beautiful alpine lake in the midst of pine trees and blue skies in Lake Tahoe

Angora Lakes are a pair of small, pristine alpine lakes located just a short drive from South Lake Tahoe, California. These twin lakes, Upper and Lower Angora Lakes, are a perfect escape into nature for those who love adventure and wilderness.

The best thing about these lakes is the Angora Lakes Resort. The cabins at Angora Lakes Resort can be rented from mid-June through mid-September on a weekly basis. The resort also sells lemonade, sandwiches and ice cream. The resort adds a touch of comfort and convenience to the wilderness setting, making it ideal for families. 

Note that the resort is located on hilly terrain and requires a 0.5mile hike from the parking lot. It may not be an ideal resort to stay for people with mobility issues.

HOW TO GET THERE

To reach Angora Lakes, follow the Angora Ridge Road from Lake Tahoe Boulevard towards the well-marked parking area. From there, a short and scenic hike leads to the lakes.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • Enjoy a day by the lake, with kayaks, paddleboards and rowboats rentals. 
  • The lakes are also perfect for swimming.
  • Angora Lakes offers several hiking opportunities like the shorter Angora Ridge Trail, Angora Lakes Trail to the more longer ones like Tahoe Mountain trail.
Eagle Lake in Lake Tahoe with granite hills in the background perfectly reflected in the water

Eagle Lake is another beautiful Lake in Lake Tahoe and is part of the Desolation Wilderness. Eagle Falls trailhead and Eagle Lake near the Emerald Bay are very popular and the parking lot gets filled up very quickly. I highly recommend visiting as early in the day as possible.

Eagle Lake is one of the most beautiful and stunning lakes near Lake Tahoe and a must visit. The reflection of the granite mountains in the water on a still day is a sight to behold. This Lake is one of the first hikes I did in Lake Tahoe and made me fall in love with Lake Tahoe lakes.

HOW TO GET THERE

To reach Eagle Lake, follow the  Eagle Lake Trailhead, located just a short distance from Emerald Bay on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. 

Eagle lake is accessible via a moderate 2-mile round trip hike. The trail begins at the Eagle Falls Picnic Area off Highway 89, with beautiful vista points and waterfalls on the way.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

Once you are at the lake, you can enjoy the gorgeous views, have a picnic or explore the nearby trails.

Remember that if you plan to venture deeper into the Desolation Wilderness or stay overnight, a wilderness permit is required.

Cascade Lake is another gem of a Lake near South Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay. This small lake is one of the best hikes to do for incredible views of Emerald Bay.

HOW TO GET THERE

To get to Cascade Lake, take Highway 89 from South Lake Tahoe towards Emerald Bay. Just before reaching Emerald Bay, look for the Bayview Campground across from Inspiration Point. 

The nearby trails lead not only to Cascade Lake but also offer access to the Cascade Falls.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy the trails around the lake, including a hike to Cascade Falls. The hike offers breathtaking views of both the waterfall and Lake Tahoe in the distance.
  • The area around Cascade Lake is perfect for picnics, nature photography, and simply relaxing by the lake.

Granite Lake is a hidden gem in Lake Tahoe and is often overlooked. It is a picturesque lake, set against a backdrop of towering granite cliffs and lush conifer forests.

HOW TO GET THERE

Granite Lake can be accessed via the Maggie’s Peaks trail. The trailhead begins at the Bayview Campground, located across from Emerald Bay off Highway 89. This 2-3 mile trail is a moderate to strenuous but extremely rewarding hike with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, and the surrounding Sierra Nevada range.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

Enjoy the beautiful views and take a swim to cool off in the hot summer. It is a great spot for kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and fishing.

If you are staying in North Lake Tahoe or visiting Sand Harbor Beach, Spooner Lake is a great place to stop by. It is a manmade lake surrounded by Aspens and is a great place to visit in the summer or fall. Spooner Lake and Wildcat Cabins are conveniently located near the lake with amenities like toilets, stoves and beds.

HOW TO GET THERE

Take Highway 50 from South Lake Tahoe toward Carson City or Highway 28 from the north shore of Lake Tahoe. You will find Spooner Lake Trailhead on Highway 28 just past Hwy 50.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • A 2 mile flat loop trail that circles the lake is perfect for families with children.
  • The trail provides numerous opportunities for wildlife viewing, bird watching, and enjoying the colorful wildflowers in the spring and summer. 
  • There are over 50 miles in the Spooner Lake area that are great for mountain biking and equestrian trails. Some of the popular trails are Marlette, Flume and Tahoe Rim.
  • During the winter months, the area transforms into a wonderland for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, boasting over 60 miles of marked trails.

Marlette Lake sits elevated above Lake Tahoe’s eastern shore and is located in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. The pristine Marlette Lake is about 8-9 miles from Spooner Lake and is reachable by hiking through the Marlette Lake and Chimney Beach Loop Trail. This trail offers stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the nearby beaches.

HOW TO GET THERE

This lake can be accessed via the Marlette Lake Trail. It is a fairly challenging trail and takes about 5 hours.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

Marlette Lake is a great place to swim and picnic. Fishing is another great activity to do at this lake.

Washoe Lake State Park, although not located in the Lake Tahoe Basin but located between Reno and Carson City, Nevada is an incredible place to visit if you are coming  to Lake Tahoe from Reno or Carson City. Washoe Lake is one of the best places to watch sunsets in the area.

HOW TO GET THERE

Washoe Lake State Park is easily accessible via Highway 395 or Highway 580.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • Washoe Lake Trail is a popular trail in the area that is a must visit. It offers great views of the Sierra Nevadas, the Carson Range, and, on clear days, a distant glimpse of Lake Tahoe. 
  • Hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, and camping are other popular activities along the shores of Washoe Lake and Little Washoe Lakes.
  • It is also a good spot for windsurfing and sailing.
  • In the winter, the area’s gentle slopes offer snowshoeing and cross-country skiing possibilities.

Incline Lake, once a hidden gem in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Lake Tahoe, is unfortunately drained as of 2023 and is not accessible for traditional lake activities due to restoration and safety concerns. The area around the former lake, located near Incline Village on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, was acquired by the U.S. Forest Service with plans to restore the site to its natural state.

Donner Lake is one of the underrated lakes in the Lake Tahoe area. It is easily accessible from I-80 and Truckee and is one of my favorite lakes in Lake Tahoe vicinity. We sort of stumbled over Donner Lake when we took I-80 on our way to Lake Tahoe and loved that it is much more serene and quieter than Lake Tahoe. It is also a great place for holiday homes and cabins.

HOW TO GET THERE

To reach Donner Lake, exit I-80 at Truckee and follow the signs for the lake. You can see the lake from I-80.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • Donner Lake is a hub of recreational activities year-round. 
  • In the summer months, its clear, calm waters invite visitors to swim, fish, kayak, and paddleboard. 
  • The lake is surrounded by public docks and a beautiful beach at the West End Beach Park, making it perfect for picnics, sunbathing, and family gatherings. 
  • Hikers and mountain bikers will find numerous trails in the surrounding area, including the historic Donner Summit area, offering panoramic views of the lake.
  • During the winter, the region transforms into a wonderland for skiing and snowboarding, with several major ski resorts nearby.

Independence Lake is a hidden gem in the Sierra Nevada range. It is unique for its ecological significance and conservation efforts

This Lake is managed with conservation in mind, focusing on preserving its natural beauty and the native species that inhabit its waters, including one of the last self-sustaining populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout.

HOW TO GET THERE

Located north of Truckee, reaching Independence Lake requires a bit of a drive through winding roads. From Truckee, take Highway 89 north towards Sierraville. Before reaching Sierraville, turn onto the dirt road of Independence Lake Road or Henness Pass Road, which is a well-marked, but somewhat rugged, dirt road leading directly to the lake.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

Enjoy a range of activities like excellent fishing, hiking, picnicking and canoeing at Independence Lake.

The area north of Lake Tahoe near Truckee is very beautiful and is home to several lakes. I am surprised by how peaceful this area is yet so beautiful. Stampede Reservoir is another picturesque lake located just north of Truckee. Created by the damming of the Little Truckee River, this reservoir serves both as a critical water storage facility and a recreational site.

HOW TO GET THERE

Exit onto Highway 89 from Interstate 80 towards Sierraville. Follow Highway 89 to Hobart Mills Road, then turn right onto Dog Valley Road. This route leads directly to the reservoir.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • Known for its excellent trout fishing, the reservoir is home to rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout, as well as kokanee salmon. 
  • With a boat launch available, Stampede Reservoir is a great destination for boating enthusiasts. 
  • It is a great place for hiking, mountain biking and camping.

Long Lake, near Donner Lake, is one of the lesser-known lakes in Tahoe National Forest. It is close to the town of Truckee and is perfect for those who prefer peaceful surroundings and less crowded places.

HOW TO GET THERE

Access to Long Lake needs a bit of hiking on a well marked trail. The most common access point is the Mount Judah Loop Trail, which starts from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) parking area off Highway 40, near the summit of Donner Pass. 

The hike offers stunning vistas of the Sierra Nevada, including views of Donner Lake, Mount Judah, and the surrounding peaks.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

Long Lake is a great place to explore nearby trails and enjoy the beautiful views of the Sierra Nevada range.

Serene Lakes is yet another collection of Alpine Lakes near Truckee off I-80 that is quite picturesque and peaceful. Serene Lakes is a name given to two connected lakes – Serena and Dulzara. It is one of the original resorts in the area and is popular place for fishing and winter sports.

HOW TO GET THERE

Serene Lakes area is accessible from Truckee by taking Interstate 80 to Soda Springs exit. From there, follow the signs leading to Soda Springs, and then continue on Donner Pass Road until you reach the Serene Lakes area.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • Fishing for rainbow and lake trout is one of the best things to do in Serene Lakes.
  • Castle peak trail is a popular lake to explore the area around Serene Lakes.
  • Serene Lakes area is a great place for winter activities like skiing.

This picturesque lake is part of the Eldorado National Forest and lies along the Carson Pass Highway (Highway 88), making it an accessible and quiet getaway near Lake Tahoe.

HOW TO GET THERE

Travel south along Highway 89 to its junction with Highway 88, then head west toward Carson Pass. The drive itself is scenic, offering views of the Sierra Nevada’s rugged landscapes. There are several parking areas along the highway near Silver Lake, providing easy access to the lake and its surrounding trails.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • It is a great place for water activities like boating, kayaking and fishing.
  • There are several hiking trails near Silver Lake to explore the surrounding forest.
  • Camping spots are available for those who prefer to stay overnight here.

Caples Lake along Highway 88 near Kirkwood Mountain Resort, is renowned for its stunning alpine scenery, clear waters, and plenty of outdoor activities to do. 

We discovered Caples Lake and Red Lake when we stayed in Hope Valley and absolutely loved the area along Hwy 88. Not many people visit Hope Valley but it is a great place to visit and I suggest exploring this area.

HOW TO GET THERE

To reach Caples Lake from the Lake Tahoe area, head south on Highway 89 towards Meyers, then take Highway 50 West before merging onto Highway 88 West.

Parking is available near the Caples Lake Resort and along various pull outs close to the lake.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

Like the other lakes in Lake Tahoe area, Caples Lake is popular for activities like boating, fishing, hiking, backpacking and camping in the summer.

Just north of Caples Lake is the beautiful Red Lake. It is a high altitude lake offering several outdoor activities and is perfect for those looking to escape the Lake Tahoe crowds.

HOW TO GET THERE

En route to Caples Lake, head south on Highway 89 towards Meyers, then take Highway 50 West to its junction with Highway 89 South. Continue onto Highway 88 West.

Red Lake is located on the south side of Highway 88, just before you reach Carson Pass. There’s a parking area on the side of the highway, from which the lake is immediately accessible.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

  • The area around Red Lake serves as an excellent starting point for numerous hikes.
  • The lake’s pristine natural setting makes it a fantastic spot for photography enthusiasts and wildlife enthusiasts.
  • It is a fantastic spot for snowshoeing in the winter.

The twin lakes of Blue Lakes are close to Red Lake. From Hope Valley, turn left onto Blue Lakes Rd and enjoy the breathtaking Upper Blue Lake, Lower Blue Lake and Twin Lake.

There are several hiking trails here with Mokelumne Wilderness Trail being the most popular one.

Lake Spaulding is a nice side trip if you are driving from Sacramento. It is much less crowded than Lake Spaulding and a great place to relax and enjoy water sports like boating, kayaking and fishing in the summer.

Lake Valley Reservoir is another place near Lake Spaulding that is perfect for relaxation and recreation.

Topaz Lake is between Reno and Mammoth Lakes and makes for a great day trip from Reno or Lake Tahoe. It is a quiet lake with not many visitors and is perfect for those looking for a digital detox. It is a beautiful place with a stunning background and perfect for photography!

HOW TO GET THERE

From Reno, take US-395 South towards Gardnerville. The lake is directly off this highway.

ACTIVITIES TO DO

It is a nice place for fishing, boating, jet skiing and camping. 

While Lake Tahoe is one of the most stunning lakes in North America, it can get super crowded especially in the summer. There are many smaller lakes near Lake Tahoe that are quite beautiful and perfect for those who prefer something different and a change of scenery. These Alpine lakes are great places for hiking, water activities and a quiet escape into nature.

Yes. Choose small beaches around the lake that are optimal for swimming. While you can swim in the lakes of Lake Tahoe, note that the mountain lakes can be quite chilly. Be cautious of the temperature difference.

Some of the roads and hiking trails leading to the lakes around Lake Tahoe can be closed in the winter due to snow. Summer is the ideal time to visit these lakes and enjoy the beautiful reflection and for the best hiking and driving experience.

Lake Tahoe kayaking

Yes, you can swim in Lake Tahoe! Swimming is a popular activity in the summer but note that the water can still be quite chilly.

Best beaches for swimming near Lake Tahoe are:

  • Sand Harbor Beach
  • Kings Beach
  • Zephyr Cove
  • Emerald Bay

Lake Tahoe is one of the most breathtaking lakes in the United States. While Lake Tahoe is a wonder in itself, there are several alpine lakes near Lake Tahoe that are worth visiting. These smaller mountain lakes are equally breathtaking and offer a nice escape from the crowds of Lake Tahoe. These lakes are great spots for water activities like fishing, boating, hiking into the wilderness and camping. I highly recommend visiting one of these Lake Tahoe lakes on your next trip. You will not be disappointed.

Other Lake Tahoe & California itineraries you might be interested in –

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The best sunset spot in Lake Tahoe

Best lavender fields in Northern California

Best sunflower fields in Northern California

Most beautiful wineries in Napa

50 things to do in San Francisco

Best wineries in Paso Robles

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Hi there!

I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.

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