A Guide to the Most Stunning Photo Locations in Lake Tahoe - Gabriella Viola


By Gabriella Viola

October 19, 2018

Want to know where some of the most beautiful spots in Tahoe are?  You’ve come to the right place!  I’ve put together a list of some of the best locations to photograph in Lake Tahoe and how to find them.   Lets get started….

A guide to the most stunning photo locations in lake tahoe


Secret Cove in Lake Tahoe
Secret Cove, Lake Tahoe

I'm not even going to save the best for last.  Secret Cove is hands down one of the most, if not the most photogenic spot in all of Tahoe.  When the sun hits the cove just right it creates a brilliant turquoise color that you have to see to believe.  

Located off Highway 28 on Tahoe’s East Shore, it's easily accessible via a short hike from the main road or from the Secret Harbor Parking Lot.  Secret Cove is a clothing optional beach, and you will more than likely see a few of the local naturalists sunbathing on the granite rocks along the beach.  Side note: Some of the locals are pretty protective of the beach as they've made it their personal mission to keep it looking pristine.  As long as you are respectful of the beach rules as well as their privacy while taking photos you shouldn't have an issue.

Tip: Secret Cove is beautiful year round but it can get crowded during the summer months, especially on weekends.  I find the best time to go is off season, during the week, and in the late morning when the sun hits the cove just right to get that turquoise color.  The water is also calmer durning this time from lack of activity giving it a glass-like effect.


Whale Beach, Lake Tahoe
Whale Beach, Lake Tahoe

Head south a little ways on the same trail that took you to Secret Cove and you will find yourself at another spectacular spot called Whale Beach.  With its hues of turquoise and azure, Whale beach looks like it belongs in the Caribbean.  Like Secret Cove, Whale beach is a clothing optional beach that is mostly used by locals.  It's a bit more remote than Secret Cove and a bit more hiking is involved to get here.


East Shore, Lake Tahoe
East Shore, Lake Tahoe

Along the east shoreline of Lake Tahoe between Chimney Beach and Secret Cove you will find plenty of tranquil and picturesque little coves. The best part: You will most likely have the coves all to yourself.  While most of the tourists are cramming into an over-crowded Sand Harbor during the summer months, you can have a serene and secluded little slice of Tahoe heaven all to yourself.  Not only are these coves a great spot to take beautiful and unique photos, they are also great for swimming.      

Tip:  Wear hiking boots or sneakers.  There are large sharp granite boulders to climb down and around to get to these coves and flip-flops may not cut it. 


Emerald Bay from the Bayview Trail, Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay from the Bayview Trail, Lake Tahoe

The Bayview Hiking Trail is a 5 mile trail through Tahoe's Desolation Wilderness.  However you don't need to hike that far; spectacular views of Emerald Bay can be reached within the first .05 miles of the trail.

The entrance to the trail is located in Bayview Campground which is right across the street from Inspiration Point on Highway 89.  At the trailhead you have the option to go left towards Cascade Falls or right towards Desolation Wilderness/Granite Lake.  Head towards the right.  After about half a mile on the trail you will come to a ridge overlooking Emerald Bay.   Once you've finished taking in the beautiful views you can call it a day or continue on the trail towards Granite Lake and Maggie's Peak for more photo opportunities.

Tip:  Early morning and/or late afternoon are great times to shoot this spot.  Avoid mid-day which can cast harsh shadows over the ridge.     


Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay is probably one of the most well known and photographed spots in Lake Tahoe.  It's located in the southwestern corner of the lake right off Highway 89.  Although the view is similar, this spot is different from the one listed above as there is no hiking involved.  Just pull right off the side of the road at one of the turnouts.

Tip:  Most people stop at Inspiration Point to photograph the bay, but the best view is actually a little past Inspiration Point.  Inspiration point is pretty, but there are too many trees blocking the view of the bay.  Drive a little past Inspiration point and pull off the side of the road for an unobstructed view of Emerald Bay along with a few less tourists.  The best time to shoot is at sunrise.


Monkey Rock, Lake Tahoe
Monkey Rock, Lake Tahoe

The hike to Monkey Rock is a relatively short but steep hike with sweeping views of Incline Village and the surrounding area.  The trailhead is located behind the Tunnel Creek Cafe on Highway 28 in Incline Village.  You’ll notice the views almost immediately and they get better as you continue up the trail.

The trail itself is pretty self explanatory.  It starts out as a paved road, then turns into a well maintained dirt trail.  The trail eventually splits, one route is steeper and faster and the other is slightly less steep, but both end up at the same point.  Once you reach this point head left and you will arrive at Monkey Rock.  Once at Monkey Rock you may encounter some fellow hikers waiting their turn to get a photo with the Monkey.  You can chose to take a photo with the monkey or find a nearby boulder to relax on, eat a snack, and enjoy the spectacular views.


Lake Tahoe Stateline
Cave Tunnel Rock, Lake Tahoe

Who doesn’t love a super short hike with a great view?  Cave Rock hike is a short easy 0.8 mile hike that will take you under 15 minutes to get to the view point.  This hike is right over the rock tunnel on Highway 50.  (I've actually driven through the tunnel many times completely unaware of the hiking trail right above it ). 

The trailhead is located on Cave Rock Drive right off Highway 50.  Drive to the top of the road and the trailhead will be on your left, you can’t miss it.  From here walk about 10-15 minutes and you will arrive at the base of Cave Rock.  Take in the views from the base or make an easy climb to the top of the rock for amazing 360 degree views.

Tip:  Cave rock is a great spot to catch the sunset.   Once the sun goes down stick around for some long exposure shots of the cars driving past down below.   Hiking boots are also a good idea if you want to climb to the top of the rock.


Bonsai Rock, Lake Tahoe
Bonsai Rock, Lake Tahoe

Bonsai rock is a well known spot in Lake Tahoe that attracts photographers and tourists alike.  If you come during sunset you are likely to see a few photographers and their tripods lined up along the rocks.  I'm not sure what makes Bonsai Rock itself so popular; perhaps its the little tree growing out of it.   

Bonsai rock is located off Highway 28 on Tahoe’s East Shore.  There are several short semi steep trails that lead directly to the rock right from the highway. 

Tip: Use a neutral density filter to achieve a smooth glassy effect.


Fall Foliage at Spooner Lake, Lake Tahoe
Autumn at Spooner Lake, Lake Tahoe

There is something special about Lake Tahoe in autumn. The summer crowds are gone, the lake is calm, and bursts of fall color are everywhere.  But if you want to see TONS of fall color all in one place, look no further than Spooner Lake.

The trails around Spooner Lake are known for their spectacular displays of fall color; and the best trail of them all is North Canyon Road.  North Canyon Road is a picturesque trail that is lined on both sides with brilliant yellow and orange aspen trees.  You don't have to walk very far, the fall colors hit you right at the start of the trail.      

Tahoe seems to be aware that this is a special place during the fall as they charge a $10 entrance fee into Spooner Lake; which is well worth it when the leaves are peaking.  

Spooner lake is located off Highway 28 on Tahoe’s East Shore.  

Tip:  Fall color peaks early to mid October 

There you have it!  My list of the most stunning photo locations in Lake Tahoe.  I hope this guide was helpful.  If you know of any great spots that I haven't included please share in comment section!



Powered by SmugMug Log In