2005 Nevada HWY 28, Incline Village (Lake Tahoe), NV
Where is Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
Lake Tahoe Nevada US State Park sits on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, a high alpine lake located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The state park sits on the border of California and Nevada, compromising of several management units and public recreation areas.
The state park encompasses Sand Harbor, Spooner Lake, Cave Rock, Marlette/Hobart Backcountry, and the Highway 28 corridor. There are over 14,000 acres of hiking trails, lake shore access, beaches, a paved biking path, mountain biking trails, equestrian trails, and day use areas.
How Big is Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
The state park is 14,301 acres in total combining Sand Harbor State Park, Spooner Lake & Backcountry, and Cave Rock. Spooner lake is located east of the lake in the mountains and is 1,140 acres. Cave Rock is further south along the Lake Tahoe shoreline and encompasses 3 acres. Highway 28 corridor is also a part of the state park and covers 40 acres of Lake Tahoe shoreline.
Marlette/Hobart Backcountry offers over 12,183 acres of backcountry use in the Carson Range Mountains north of Incline Village. The backcountry area includes Marlette Lake and Hobart Reservoir.
The highest point of the state park is Herlan Peak at 8,839 feet. The shoreline elevation on Lake Tahoe is 7,874 feet.
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park Weather
Lake Tahoe is located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range which experiences a dramatic 4 different seasons. Summers are warm and sunny reaching temperatures into the 90’s, and winters are cold and snowy with temperatures down into the single digits.
Incline Village, the closest town to Sand Harbor, receives 138 inches of snow per year. Snow begins to fall as early as October and winter lasts through April. Spring begins in April with temperatures rising up into the 50’s and snow melt cooling the Lake Tahoe water temperature.
May through October is the busiest time in the area with summer crowds enjoying the warmer temperatures and sunny skies. Summers are dry with very little precipitation and temperatures reaching up into the low 80’s. Lake Tahoe’s water temperature is warmest in August reaching 73 degrees.
Thick evergreen forests surround the lake with Jeffrey pines, ponderosa pines, sugar pines, white firs, and aspen trees. Fall colors of aspen tree leaves changing can be viewed around the lake in lake September to early October. Black bears, mountain lions, deer, elk, and other wildlife can be seen around the lake and in the mountains.
When did Lake Tahoe Nevada Become a State Park
The shores of Lake Tahoe have a long history of the wealthy owning and developing the land as their vacation homes. The land around the east shore of Lake Tahoe was owned by one of San Francisco’s wealthiest families, the Whittell’s when they purchased most of the land in the early 1930s.
In the 1950’s, the State of Nevada began negotiating with the Whittell’s to purchase land on the east shore to preserve as state park land. 12 years later, judicial action forced the Whittell’s to sell 5,300 acres to the state, becoming Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park.
The state park opened to the public in 1971.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
The state park offers hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, swimming, camping, fishing, and beautiful views of mountains and lakes. There are 4 different lakes to visit in the state park: Lake Tahoe, Marlette Lake, and Spooner Lake, and Hobart Reservoir. Our State Park Visitors Guide outlines the most popular and unique adventures found within the park below:
Kayak Sand Harbor
This picturesque spot is famous for kayaking in the crystal-clear blue water of Lake Tahoe in the summer. Sand Harbor Rentals rents our kayaks, sailing kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards during the summer. They also offer guided tours.
Hike the Memorial Point Trail
This easy ½ mile trail leads you along the shore of Lake Tahoe to more bays and beaches on the lake.
Hike the Sand Point Nature Trail
A 1/3-mile handicap-accessible trail provides interpretive signs about the geology and history of the area with amazing views of the lake.
Fish at Spooner Lake
Stocked with trout, this lake is a great spot to fish in. There are leeches in the lake so don’t go for a swim.
Hike in the Marlette/Hobart Backcountry
There are over 13,000 acres of backcountry in the state park to explore winding in the Carson Range. Horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking are all very popular in the backcountry here.
Mountain Bike the Flume Trail
This trail has infamous views of Lake Tahoe and is popular for mountain bikers. The trail is 14 miles one way and rated moderately difficult at an elevation of 7,000 to 8,000 feet. Flume Trail Mountain Bikes offers a shuttle for one-way bikers.
Stay at a Cabin One Night
There are two backcountry cabins available for rent, the Spooner Lake Cabin, and the Wildcat Cabin available from May 1 to October 15th.
Bike on the East Shore Trail
This beautiful bike path winds along the shore of Lake Tahoe and is rated easy.
When to go to Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
The park is open year-round, hours varying by the time of the year. The summer is the most popular time to enjoy the lake when the sun is out, and temperatures are warm from May 1 – Memorial Day Weekend.
Parking around Sand Harbor fills up at 8am and is usually full the entire day. Arrive as early as you can to park inside of the Sand Harbor parking area. Alternatively, you can park in Incline Village and walk a mile or so into the parking area.
The highway 28 corridor offers parking to hike down to the park’s shoreline access along Lake Tahoe. The scenic road gets very busy and popular all summer long and especially on the weekends. Venture out as early as possible to find parking to enjoy the lake shoreline.
The Spooner lake and backcountry areas are less popular, but still busy during the summer months. Most of the state park is open year-round but heavy snowfall from November to April limits recreation and lake activities.
Must-Have Things to Bring to Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
At over 7,000 feet elevation in the Sierra Nevada mountains, being prepared for temperature extremes, fast weather changes, wildlife encounters, and the high elevation is necessary to have a fun, safe time in the park.
At high elevation your body needs more water to stay hydrated. List of Parks advises to bring plenty of water to drink throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Headaches are a sign that the altitude is getting to you and you need more water.
There is no food available at the state park itself, so pack plenty of food to have energy to hike in the high elevation environment. Your body will need extra carbs to as it has to burn through food faster.
Park and Area Maps
With over 14,000 acres to explore, you will want park maps and maps of the entire Lake Tahoe, and east Lake Tahoe area toward Carson City. The mountains and forests can be disorientating when you are in them. Plan your route before you go and have a map with you.
Proper Hiking Boots
The trails can be steep, rooted, muddy, and are very rocky throughout the east Lake Tahoe area. Trails down to the east shore of Lake Tahoe can be very steep and slick depending on the weather. Bring waterproof hiking boots with good traction.
Temperatures range greatly from night to daytime in the Sierra Nevada’s. The weather can also be very unpredictable year-round, so bring a couple warm layers and waterproof layers to stay prepared.
Sunglasses and Sunscreen
At over 7,000 feet elevation, the sun is closer to you and can cause sunburns quickly. Bring thin layers to cover your skin, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
Swim Gear and Towel
To enjoy the lake on a hot summer day, you will want your bathing suit! Surface water temperatures can reach up into the 70 degrees during July. Bring a pair of goggles to look at the bottom of the crystal-clear Lake Tahoe. Don’t forget a towel as the water is still very chilly in the summer and you will want to dry off after getting out.
Black bears are very common and frequently are seen in the forests around East Lake Tahoe. Keep your belongings with you at all times and food securely stored in a bag on you at all times. If you camp, food must be placed in a bear storage container. Bring bear spray to protect yourself from over friendly or curious bears.
Where to stay in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
There are several primitive, walk-in campgrounds available in the state park. Marlette Peak, Hobart, and North Canyon. There are 2 backcountry cabins available for rent by reservation, the Spooner Lake Cabin, and the Wildcat Cabin. All camp spots and cabins are available from May 1- October 15th.
Carson City is the closest city located just a 30-minute drive east into Nevada from the park. There are a variety of affordable hotels to stay at in Carson City. Reno, Nevada is about an hour drive away and also offers many affordable hotels.
Incline Village is just north of Sand Harbor and offers a variety of beautiful hotels to stay at near the Lake Tahoe shoreline. The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino is just 2.9 miles away from Sand Harbor.
Food Nearby Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
Incline Village is a 10-minute drive north along Lake Tahoe’s shoreline from Sand Harbor and offers a variety of restaurants, quick eats, and grocery stores to pick up food. Heading south to the southern point of Lake Tahoe, past Cave rock is South Lake Tahoe offering a variety of restaurants and grocery as well.
Airports Near Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
The closest major airport is the Reno Tahoe International Airport, a 50-minute drive away from Sand Harbor. Renting a car and driving over the mountain pass canyon toward Lake Tahoe is a beautiful scenic drive worthy of stopping and taking photos along the way.