Best Scenic Spots on Drive Around Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite vacation destinations in the world. No matter how many times you’ve visited, that first view you get of the lake is one you’ll never forget: it’s simply breathtaking. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, & one of the deepest, second only to Crater Lake in Oregon. On my recent drive from California to Oregon, we stopped at Tahoe after visiting Mammoth ~ & drove around the entire lake, which is a 72-mile circuit. I had my puppy Charlie with me, & we found some of the best scenic spots to stop on a drive around Lake Tahoe ~ to get all the best views of the lake!
Map of Scenic Stops on Tahoe Drive
With no stops, the 72-mile drive around Lake Tahoe takes about 3 hours. With stops, particularly if you stop for a nice meal or a hike: prepare to spend at least 6-7 hours driving around the lake. If you need to get gas, fill up in Tahoe City, Kings Beach (where I did), or in South Lake Tahoe; options are limited on the east & west sides of the lake.
Eagle Rock Hike
Logan Shoals Vista
Best Scenic Viewpoints Around Lake Tahoe
1. Emerald Bay
We’re starting on the south side of the lake, at Tahoe’s most famous viewpoint of all: Emerald Bay. This is arguably the most scenic part of the lake, with famous Vikingsholm Castle on the shores of the beach & Fannette Island striking an iconic shadow in the middle of the bay. Things to do here include: hike one of the many trails above Emerald Bay (such as Eagle Falls or Bayview Trail), take photos along the roadside (there are several turn-outs), park & hike down to the bay, visit Vikingsholm Castle, or swim out to Fannette Island & hike up to the little tea house on top of the island.
2. Eagle Rock
Eagle Rock is one of my favorite quick hikes in Lake Tahoe. It takes less than 15 minutes to climb to the top of the rock & you’ll get sweeping views of the entire lake; anyone can do this hike!! Park in a dirt lot on the side of Hwy 98 in Tahoe Pines; you’ll be able to see Eagle Rock’s stony outcrop looming above the highway.
3. Sunnyside Restaurant
By this point in your drive, you might be getting hungry….so just past Eagle Rock is my favorite restaurant in Lake Tahoe: Sunnyside Resort & Lodge. They’ve got a massive outdoor deck & it’s a favorite spot with locals, many who bring their boats & park on Sunnyside’s main dock, while enjoying lunch views over the lake.
4. Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City
This is our most humorous stop on the list: good old Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City! Right off the main drag (Hwy 89), you’ll cross a bridge when entering the city: look to your right & you’ll see all kinds of people enjoying the view & leaning over the bridge: hence the name. Two great places to stop here are right across the street: the Dam Cafe if you’re looking for good coffee & sandwiches, or the River Grill for something fancier.
Fanny Bridge is perched right over the Truckee River, which is another great place to detour in Tahoe ~ & to go rafting in the summertime!
Best Scenic View Points Around Lake Tahoe
5. Gar Woods Restaurant
Gar Woods in Carnelian Bay is my second favorite lakeside restaurant in Tahoe! And like Sunnyside ~ you can drive your boat right up & park it on their dock if you choose. Gar Woods is known for having a more rambunctious atmosphere, largely due to their legendary Wet Woody rum drinks! Just make sure you have a designated driver if you stop here…
6. Sand Harbor
The main thing you need to know about Sand Harbor is…..GET THERE EARLY!!! This is the most popular beach in Lake Tahoe, & if you’ve seen any Instagram paddle-boarding pics of Tahoe: chances are, they were taken here. The parking lot opens at 8AM & costs $10 cash to enter ~ but if you’re just driving around the lake & only want to take photos, look for a turn-out on the highway or approach via boat or paddle board (which can be rented in nearby Incline Village).
7. Secret Cove
Secret Cove is less well-known than Sand Harbor, but just as gorgeous: & there’s a parking lot here as well. At 3PM on a Wednesday, I was able to sneak into one of the only parking spots ~ & though I could’ve hiked down to the beach, I chose to stay up top & grab a shot of the cove from above. There aren’t many amenities here, but it’s a great spot for hikers & dog-walkers, as the trail is dog-friendly.
8. Logan Shoals View Point
Finally, we come to Logan Shoals Vista Point ~ which is a hidden gem. It’s just south of Glenbrook, & you’ve got a couple options here: stay up top & take photos (there are bathrooms here as well), or do like I did & hike the steep trail down to the shoreline (Charlie & I hiked down!) & enjoy a fantastic mile-long, sandy path along the lake.
There were only a few people on the trail: I think the steep descent prevents more people from using it!
Best Scenic Spots on Drive Around Lake Tahoe
Those are some of my favorite places to stop while driving around Lake Tahoe, & they’ll definitely give you a great feel for the lake & plenty of photo ops! With our drive ending in South Lake Tahoe, if you’re looking for a great place to stay on the lake: try the upscale Landing Resort & Spa ~ which is also pet-friendly.
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