EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in the Summer 2017 edition of Tahoe Magazine. It was first published on this website in August 2018 and is presented in its original form.
Though snorkelers won’t find coral reefs or shells in Lake Tahoe (at least we hope not — get gone, non-native Asian clams!), what they will find is unparalleled clarity, unique rock formations, Zen garden-like sand patterns and a peaceful underwater world worth exploring.
With dozens of public beaches to choose from, it’s easy to strap on the gear and dive in just about anywhere in Lake Tahoe. But not all shorelines are created equal. For the best underwater experience, opt for one of these locals’ favorites — and don’t forget the GoPro!
Located on the East Shore, Sand Harbor is known for its 2,500-foot beach and an abundance of boulders dotting its teal waters — perfect for snorkelers to jump off of then inspect from below. For another type of underwater entertainment, head over to Divers Cove — a smaller, more protected area located by the Visitor Center — where scuba divers can be found taking their open water skills tests.
Sand Harbor is located off of Highway 28, east of in Incline Village.
Besides its cobalt blue waters, the West Shore’s Emerald Bay has a lot to offer for snorkelers. On the west side of the bay is a sunken forest where a group of pine trees sits upright after plunging into the water during a landslide. Across the bay, located 10 to 30 feet down, are two wooden barges from the 1900s that were towed by steamers across the lake carrying cargo.
Emerald Bay State Park is located off of Highway 89, northwest of in South Lake Tahoe.
Build up a sweat before hitting the water for a snorkel with the hike down to Secret Cove on Lake Tahoe’s East Shore. Park at the Secret Harbor lot, walk down the access road until you reach the public restrooms, then continue for another half mile on the trail to the beach. Snorkel around the rock formations in the teal water while keeping an eye out for schools of minnows or crawdads. Forewarning: Secret Cove is a popular nude beach, so don’t be surprised to see a few “full moons.”
Secret Cove is located off of Highway 28, east of in Incline Village.
D.L. Bliss State Park
Many claim that D.L. Bliss boasts the clearest water in all of Lake Tahoe. On a calm day, you can see up to 75 feet in its deep, azure waters — and with the sun piercing through, snorkelers don’t need to see much more to enjoy a day out on the lake near the park’s Rubicon Point. Snorkelers and scuba divers alike frequent the area around the popular cliff jumping spot, which has an underwater rock wall that goes down over 800 feet.
D.L. Bliss State Park is located off of Highway 89, northwest of in South Lake Tahoe.
Fallen Leaf Lake
For a change of scenery, head over to the South Shore’s Fallen Leaf Lake, another beautiful alpine lake just a few miles from Lake Tahoe. Fallen Leaf Lake is filled with small, colorful granite rocks and submerged trees to take in while snorkeling. For a bigger challenge, hike around the entire lake — roughly 8 miles — while taking snorkeling breaks to cool off.
Fallen Leaf Lake is located on Cathedral Road off of Highway 89, near in South Lake Tahoe.