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The Best Spots To See A Cloud Inversion In Lake Tahoe (Perfect for Photographers!)

Updated: Sep 30, 2023


Discover the best spots around Lake Tahoe to witness a cloud inversion.

Cloud inversion at Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe

A cloud inversion, also known as a temperature inversion, is when warm and cold air flips around, with the warm air at the bottom and the cold air higher up. This means a cold layer of air is trapped at ground level, overlain by warm air.

This natural phenomenon creates an incredible scene- a thick blanket of clouds with trees and mountains emerging from the mist. Witnessing an inversion is a magical experience for photographers, hikers, or anyone who happens to be at the right place at the right time. FYI, it’s best to be at a higher vantage point, like a hill or peak, early in the day before the inversion disappears.


cloud inversion in lake tahoe

How to be at the right place at the right time?


Sometimes it's just plain luck. But one way to try and predict a cloud inversion is to check the weather the night before. If you see that the following morning is going to be low wind (0 mph-1 mph) combined with a fog symbol (4 gray wavy lines or a cloud with lines under it), there’s a chance you might wake up to an inversion.

Most inversions tend to dissipate by the afternoon, so when you see one happening, whether you are hiking or driving, get to higher ground before it’s gone, and of course, don't forget your camera!


And with that, here are 4 excellent spots in Lake Tahoe to see a cloud inversion.


*When exploring the outdoors, help keep it beautiful by leaving no trace.


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1. Emerald Bay

Cloud inversion at Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe

Cloud inversion at Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe

Located in South Lake Tahoe along HWY 89, Emerald Bay is one of the most visited (and photographed) spots in Lake Tahoe. Situated 600 feet above Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay offers a stunning view of the lake and Fannette Island. When a cloud inversion happens, the already beautiful scene just looks surreal.

 

2. Monkey Rock

Cloud Inversion in lake tahoe

Cloud inversion in lake tahoe

Another one of the best spots to see an inversion in Lake Tahoe is Monkey Rock. Located in Incline Village, Monkey Rock is a 2.4 out-and-back hike that offers a jaw-dropping panorama of Lake Tahoe. The views are truly breathtaking, no matter which way you look. If you've ever wanted to look out to a sea of clouds beneath you, Monkey Rock offers the perfect vantage point during an inversion.

 

3. Donner Lake Overlook

cloud inversion over donner lake in truckee california

cloud inversion over donner lake in truckee california

Located in Truckee, California, about 20 minutes from North Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake Overlook offers lovely views of Donner Pass Road weaving its way through the landscape and Donner Lake in the distance. And on those special days when an inversion occurs, it adds an extra layer of beauty to the scene. This is also a spot you can drive right up to and park in the designated area for easy access to the views.

 

4. Donner Lake

cloud inversion on donner lake in truckee california

cloud inversion over donner lake in truckee california

I know, I know. I recommended heading to a high vantage point for the best views of an inversion, and that is true...but...inversions at lake level are pretty magical too. Donner Lake is a spot where I have witnessed a fair amount of inversions. They happen very early in the morning and tend to evaporate as early as 9 a.m.


Donner Lake is pretty in its own right, but it transforms into an ethereal scene during an inversion. If you arrive early enough, you can catch the inversion down at the lake and then head up to Donner Lake Overlook (or vice versa).

 

I hope you enjoyed my Lake Tahoe cloud inversion guide! Be sure to subscribe to the blog so 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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