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My Absolute Favorite Photo Locations in Lake Tahoe: 10 Spots!

Updated: Nov 10, 2023


best photography locations in lake tahoe

It's no secret that Lake Tahoe is an outdoor photographer's dream, as the scenery here is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Even though I've lived in Tahoe for two and a half years (photographing the heck out of it!), I'm still so inspired by the incredible beauty of this place.


In this post, I'm sharing my absolute favorite spots to take photos in Lake Tahoe. The locations on this list are the ones that I return to time and time again- and where I take most of my Instagram photos.


P.S. Since I'm sharing some of my favorite Instagram spots around Lake Tahoe, all I ask is that you help keep Tahoe beautiful by practicing the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.


Alright, let's get into it...

 


1. FLUME TRAIL / MONKEY ROCK

Flume trail lake tahoe nevada
South facing views from Flume Trail

Flume trail lake tahoe nevada

Flume trail lake tahoe nevada
One of my favorite perches over Tahoe

Monkey Rock along the Flume Trail is one of my go-to spots to take photos in Lake Tahoe. Yes, there's a rock carved to look like a monkey (which is fun to see and snap a few pics with), but I'm there for the spectacular 180-degree views. My favorite things about this spot are the views facing south (see the first pic) and the overhanging rock shaped like a perfect chair (see the third picture).


The trail to Monkey Rock is 2.6 miles out and back and is relatively easy. There is a steep incline for a section of it, but it doesn't last long. Just pace yourself by taking little breaks if you get winded on this part of the trail. The trailhead to Monkey Rock is behind Tunnel Creek Cafe in Incline Village.

 


2. BONSAI ROCK

Bonsai Rock in Lake tahoe

Bonsai rock in lake tahoe

Bonsai rock in lake tahoe
Aerial views of Bonsai Rock

Located on the east shore, Bonsai Rock is another one of my favorite spots to shoot photos in Lake Tahoe, especially during sunset. I also love taking drone shots from this area, particularly during the day because the water is so turquoise. And during the summer, the chances are pretty good of capturing an epic shot of someone jumping off the rock!

 


3. SECRET COVE

Secret Cove in Lake Tahoe nevada

Secret Cove in Lake Tahoe nevada

Secret Cove in Lake Tahoe nevada

Secret Cove is hands down my favorite location to take photos in Lake Tahoe! Many of the images I post on my Instagram are taken from this spot. I am not kidding when I say that the turquoise-colored water at Secret Cove blows my mind every single time I visit. I prefer to photograph Secret Cove during the off-season because summer gets crazy crowded, especially on weekends.


I'm going to put in a reminder here. If you visit Secret Cove or any of the spots on this list, be respectful, pack out your trash, and leave no trace.

 


4. RUBICON TRAIL + D.L. BLISS STATE PARK

Rubicon Trail in Lake Tahoe
Views from the Rubicon Trail

Rubicon trail in lake tahoe

DL Bliss State Park in South lake Tahoe

The Rubicon Trail is one of the most beautiful trails in Lake Tahoe (which makes it great for taking photos!) The trail connects D.L. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay State Park, and the views are just jaw-dropping the entire way. I am not kidding when I say you will be stopping every 5 minutes to take photos along this trail.


You can pick up the trail from Emerald Bay State Park via the Vikingsholm Trail or from D.L. Bliss State Park. If you hike the entire Rubicon Trail and then back, it will take about 10 miles round trip. Alternatively, if you would like to save yourself 5 miles, you can arrange for a friend to pick you up at the end of the hike and drive you back to your car.

 


5. BAYVIEW TRAIL OVERLOOK

bayview trail in lake tahoe

Emerald bay overlook in lake tahoe


Located off HWY 89, the Bayview trail features an alpine lake, sweeping views of Lake Tahoe from the top, a.k.a Maggie's Peak, and a lovely view of Emerald Bay near the start of the trail. The Emerald Bay overlook is one of my go-to spots to take photos because it's a short hike, the views are unobstructed, and there's a perfectly placed rock to stand or sit on and take in the gorgeous views.


You can end the hike at the overlook or continue towards Granite Lake and Maggie's Peak for more amazing photo opportunities.

 


6. EMERALD BAY

Emerald Bay in lake tahoe California

Emerald Bay in lake tahoe California

Emerald Bay in lake tahoe California
Sunset at Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed spots in Lake Tahoe, and for good reason- it has some of the most stunning views of the lake. No matter how many times I visit Emerald Bay, I never get tired of photographing it! My favorite times to photograph Emerald Bay are at sunset/sunrise and on a day with little to no wind.


After you take in the views from the overlook, you can hike down the Vikingsholm Trail to the bottom of Emerald Bay, where you can check out the Vikingsholm Castle, pick up the Rubicon Trail, or hike to Lower Eagle Falls.


Emerald Bay is one of the busiest locations in Lake Tahoe, especially on weekends. I would recommend visiting during the week because parking is pretty rough on weekends.

 

7. CAVE ROCK

Cave Rock in Lake Tahoe nevada

cave rock in lake tahoe nevada

Located off HWY 50 near South Lake Tahoe, the hike to Cave Rock is short, easy, and great to do any time of the year. The top of Cave Rock offers beautiful 180-degree views over South Lake Tahoe, which makes it an excellent photo location. My favorite time to photograph Cave Rock is at sunset, but I've captured great photos from this spot no matter the time of day. Also, if you go in the afternoon rather than sunset, you're likely to have Cave Rock all to yourself, at least for a little bit.

 

8. FALLEN LEAF

Fallen leaf Lake in lake tahoe california

Fallen leaf Lake in lake tahoe california

Fallen leaf Lake in lake tahoe california

There are so many picturesque alpine Lakes around Lake Tahoe, and Fallen Leaf Lake happens to be one of my favorites. Fallen Leaf Lake is particularly photogenic because it has some of the best views of Mt Tallac. In fact, Mt Tallac looks pretty ginormous from here. It's also easy to reach. The flat hike takes about 10 minutes from Fallen Leaf Lake Road off HWY 89.

 

9. VALHALLA PIER

Camp Richardson in Lake Tahoe California

Camp Richardson in Lake Tahoe California

camp richardson in Lake Tahoe California

Located off HWY 89 in South Lake Tahoe, Valhalla is home to one of the only public piers in South Lake Tahoe (that I know of). Most of the piers around Lake Tahoe are private. My favorite time to photograph the Valhalla Pier is at sunrise. If you visit during sunset, be sure to head south towards Camp Richardson, which is within walking distance, and grab dinner and drinks at The Beacon Bar & Grill.

 

10. ZEPHYR COVE

Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe Nevada

Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe Nevada

Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe Nevada

Located off HWY 50 near South Lake Tahoe, Zephyr Cove is one of my go-to spots to photograph the sunset in Lake Tahoe. One of my favorite things about Zephyr Cove is how close the mountains look from here. Also, there is no hike required to enjoy the views at Zephyr. Just park your car along HWY 50 and walk down to the water.

 

I hope you enjoyed my Lake Tahoe photo guide! Let me know which spot is your favorite in the comments! Also, make sure to subscribe to the blog so that you don’t miss the latest blog posts, videos, and announcements!


And of course, you can check out more adventures on Instagram and Youtube!



 

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gabriella viola lake tahoe

Hi, I'm Gabriella, an outdoor photographer living in Lake Tahoe, California. 
 
I'm originally from New York and moved to Los Angeles in 2013 to try out living somewhere new and different.  I found myself loving the adventurous lifestyle and dramatic scenery on the west side of the country.  Eventually, I moved to Lake Tahoe in 2019 after falling in love with its natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle. 
 
On this site, I share adventure tips and destination guides to help you explore the beauty of Lake Tahoe, the Sierras, Northern California, and beyond...

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INTRODUCING THE TAHOE BLUES COLLECTION

Tahoe Blues is a curated collection of  9 pieces that showcase part of what makes Lake Tahoe so incredibly special- that crystal clear, brilliantly turquoise-colored water.  The selected images capture unique conditions and perspectives of Lake Tahoe during the day and represent calmness, joy, and awe.

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