Lake Tahoe Vacation Guide
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Lake Tahoe Parks & Forests


Vikingsholm, D.L. Bliss State Park

The Lake Tahoe Basin has some of the most beautiful parks and forests in the nation. And since more than 80% of the Lake Tahoe Basin is under public ownership, the scenic and recreation opportunities are everywhere.

Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of activities that are offered year-round through the Forest Service and the State Parks of California and Nevada. There are hiking trails, naturalist-led activities, historic home tours, museums, beaches, picnic grounds, campgrounds, campfire programs and so much more! 

This page will introduce you to the state parks and wilderness areas, provide a list of information resources and direct you to other pages on this site that offer more detailed information about some of the attractions mentioned.



D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Parks
Covering 1,830 acres in California's Sierra Nevada, D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Parks include six miles of magnificent Lake Tahoe shoreline. The grandeur of the parks and their setting is a product of successive upheavals of the mountain-building processes that raised the Sierra Nevada. From promontories such as Rubicon Point in D.L. Bliss State Park, you can see over one hundred feet into the depths of Lake Tahoe.  From the crest of Eagle Falls in Emerald Bay State Park, you can see a brilliant panorama of Emerald Bay, Fannette Island, Lake Tahoe and the distant Nevada shore.

Summer temperatures range from about 75 degrees during the day to the low 40s at night, and winter temperatures average from a high of 40 to a low of 20 degrees. The campgrounds are closed during the winter. Depending on the weather, the campgrounds are open from late May until the middle of September.

D.L. Bliss State Park is named for a pioneering lumberman, railroad owner and banker of the region. His family donated 744 acres to the State Park system in 1929. The nucleus of Emerald Bay State Park, including Vikingsholm, was given to the State by Placerville lumberman Harvey West in 1953.

Sites to see include Balancing Rock, which is tons of granite resting precariously on a slender stone base, a wide variety of trees and plant life, Vikingsholm Castle, Fannette Island, Emerald Bay Boat Camp and Emerald Bay Underwater Park. Things to do include camping, hiking, swimming, fishing and interpretive activities.

D.L. Bliss & Emerald Bay State Parks
SR 89, West Shore Lake Tahoe


Visit the Points of Interest page in the SIGHTSEEING section of the RECREATION main menu for more information about Vikingsholm Castle and Fannette Island.



Donner Memorial State Park
This park is located amid the pine and fir forest just east of Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada. Surrounded by magnificent Alpine scenery and directly adjacent to a beautiful, three-mile long lake, the park offers a wide range of recreational opportunities.

The forest is made up primarily of lodgepole pine, Jeffrey pine and white fir. Because of the 6,000 feet elevation, there is no poison oak. Deer, squirrels, chipmunks, porcupines, raccoons, beaver and a wide variety of birds are commonly seen. In and near the park there are some fascinating traces of the geologic process that shaped this portion of the Sierra Nevada.

Sites to see include the Emigrant Trail Museum and the Pioneer Monument. Things to do include camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, water skiing, nature hikes, campfire programs and other interpretive programs conducted by park staff members during the summer.

Donner Memorial State Park
12593 Donner Pass Road


Visit the Museums page in the SIGHTSEEING section of the RECREATION main menu for more information about the Emigrant Trail Museum and the Pioneer Monument.


Grover Hot Springs State Park
This park is located on the east side of the Sierra Nevada at the edge of the Great Basin Province, an area characterized by open pine forest and sagebrush. The park is just four miles west of Markleeville at the end of Hot Springs Road. It is in an Alpine meadow at 5,900 feet surrounded by peaks that just top 10,000 feet. U.S. Forest Service land, both wilderness area and multiple use, border the park. Trails beginning in the park extend onto Forest Service land providing hikers many miles of hiking. 

A full range of seasons and weather offer visitors the opportunity to experience a variety of conditions. Things to do include soaking in the two hot mineral springs pools, camping, picnicking and hiking.

Though in the rain shadow of the mighty Sierra Nevada, winter will bring from two to five feet of snow.  Roads are kept open to both the hot springs and the off-season campground. The rest of the park and surrounding area are open to winter exploration using skis or snowshoes and the two hot mineral springs pools are open year-round.

Grover Hot Springs State Park
SR 89, south of South Lake Tahoe

  530-694-2248   General Information
  530-694-2249   Pool Information

Visit the Day Spas page in the LEISURE section of the RECREATION main menu for more information about Grover Hot Springs' natural hot spring waters.



Sugar Pine Point State Park
This beautiful park fronts the west shore of Lake Tahoe for one and three-fourths miles and features the General Creek Campground (operated year-round), the Ehrman Mansion, Sugar Pine Point Nature Center and over 2,000 acres of conifer forest.

Lake Tahoe lay at the heart of the Washoe Indian Territory, and Sugar Pine Point was the summer home for generations of Washoe Indians who came to these peaceful shores to hunt and fish. Evidence of their occupation can still be seen today in the form of bedrock mortars or grinding rocks just offshore from the Ehrman Mansion.  In 1860, the first permanent settler of record on Lake Tahoe's west shore built a cabin at the mouth of General Creek. This was the trapper and fisherman William General Phipps, and his cabin can still be seen today just north of the Sugar Pine Point State Park pier.

When you come to the park, be sure to visit the Nature Center where you can see birds, mammals and the four major game fish of the area. Other exhibits at the Nature Center include Biology, Lake Ecology, Wildflowers, Trees and a touch-feely table for kids of all ages!  Other sights to see include the Ehrman Mansion and Phipps Cabin.

Things to do during the summer include camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, swimming, sunbathing and interpretive programs. During the winter, cross-country skiers can enjoy 20 kilometers of marked ski trails. And, interpretive programs on a variety of winter-related subjects are presented most weekends, from January through March.

Sugar Pine Point State Park
SR 89, West Shore of Lake Tahoe


Visit the Points of Interest page in the SIGHTSEEING section of the RECREATION main menu for more information about Ehrman Mansion.




Cave Rock State Park
This day-use facility is located on U.S. HWY 50, three miles south of Glennbrook, just south of the Cave Rock tunnel. There is a boat launch, a comfort station, six picnic tables and a small beach with a beautiful view.

Cave Rock is one of the few areas on the east shore of Lake Tahoe where easy access is available along the waterfront. The steep shoreline drop-off makes for good lake trout fishing. And the deep waters close to shore make the two boat ramps accessible to watercraft of all sizes.

Parking is limited in the summer. When the lot is full, vehicles and trailers must park outside the park.

Cave Rock State Park
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
U.S. HWY 50
Cave Rock



Sand Harbor State Park
Long sandy beaches, rocky coves and panoramic lake views attract thousands of visitors to Sand Harbor on the east shore of Lake Tahoe. The Visitor Information Station provides free literature and interpretive displays on the natural history of the lake.

Gently sloping beaches, crystal clear waters and interesting rock formations make excellent areas for swimming and scuba diving. There is even a special cove just for scuba diving. The boat launch facility has two double ramps and a fee is charged. Parking is limited in the summer. When the lot is full, vehicles and trailers must park outside of Sand Harbor. The parking lot is usually filled between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. from mid-July to mid-August.

There are family picnic sites at the park and a group-use picnic area for groups of 100 people gathering for weddings and family reunions. The group-use area has covered tables, running water and electricity. Summer weekends are usually completely booked by January. Call the main number to reserve the group-use picnic area. Also, there are picnic areas with tables and barbecue grills that are accessible to persons with disabilities.

Things to do and see include Memorial Point, Hidden Beach and the Tunnel Creek Trailhead. Memorial Point is about one mile north of Sand Harbor and provides a paved pull-out scenic vista and rare free lakeside parking. A short trail leads down to a rocky shoreline. Hidden Beach is just two miles north of Sand Harbor and is popular for sunbathing and swimming. Parking is limited. Tunnel Creek Trailhead is two miles north of Sand Harbor on the east side of the road. This popular fire road provides hiking and mountain biking access to the north end of the Flume Tail and the backcountry. No parking is available. 

Sand Harbor State Park
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
SR 28 on the East Shore




Spooner Lake State Park
This area contains 13,000 forested acres of park land and several Alpine lakes. The blue waters of Spooner Lake adjoin aspen groves and mountain meadows dotted with wildflowers. Swimming is not recommended!

The Spooner Lake Trail winds 2.3 miles (easy) through forest and meadows. Osprey, ducks, geese and other wildlife can be observed. Fishing at Spooner Lake is catch-and-release only in this trout-stocked lake. When picnicking above Spooner Lake, the group size is limited to 25 people on weekends and 100 people on weekdays. Call for reservations.  Reserved parking is not available so carpooling is recommended for large groups. 

Spooner Lake State Park
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
U.S. HWY 50 & SR 28



Marlette / Hobart Backcountry
The Spooner Lake area serves as trailhead for the Marlette/Hobart backcountry, an area of exceptional opportunites for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. The North Canyon road to Marlette Lake is the most popular route and connects to trails that lead to the Tahoe Rim Trail, Snow Valley Peak, Hobart Reservoir and the Flume Trail.

The Flume Trail follows the path of the historic flume line that once provided water to the silver mines of Virginia City, offering spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. Extremely popular with hikers and mountain bikers, the trail is very narrow with steep drop-offs.

Trail maps and information are available at Sand Harbor and the Spooner Lake entrance stations.

Marlette/Hoboart Backcountry
Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park
SR 28 & Marlette Creek





There are a number of wilderness areas in the Lake Tahoe Basin that provide breathtaking vistas and quiet solitude. We suggest five that are popular for hikers and campers. Please note that wilderness areas are special places that require special behavior from everyone. Be sure and contact the two USDA Forest Services listed under Parks & Forests Resources on this page for jurisdiction, permissible activities, permit requirements, fees, regulations and seasonal concerns. Plan in advance and you'll have a hassle-free great time in a wilderness area!

Desolation Wilderness
This is the most heavily used wilderness area per acre in the United States. It contain 63,475 acres of sub-Alpine forests, granite peaks and glacial lakes and valleys. Portions of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail pass through this area. Travel is limited to hikers and pack animals. Mountain bikes are not allowed. All persons entering Desolation Wilderness must obtain a wilderness permit and pay camping fees. Day-hikers may self-register at the trail heads, but overnight users must obtain the permit and pay fees in person. Since Desolation Wilderness is so popular, a wilderness permit quota system is in place for overnight campers from June 15 through Labor Day. Reservations for overnight permits are available only at the El Dorado National Forest Information Center. Campfires are prohibited at all times and you may only use portable stoves.

Granite Chief Wilderness
This wilderness area overlooks the northwest portion of the Lake Tahoe Basin and is adjacent to the Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski resorts. Not as crowded as Desolation Wilderness, hikers are not required to have wilderness permits, but campfire permits are necessary.

Meiss County
This is another spectacular area for exploring. Though not designated wilderness by Congress, this 20-square mile area between Luther Pass (SR 89) and Carson Pass (SR 88) contains six major lakes in a glacial sub-Alpine zone. Hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers are allowed. However, mountain bikers are not allowed on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Campfire permits are required.

Mokelumne Wilderness
Located between SR 88 and SR 4 just south of the Lake Tahoe Basin, this 105,165 acre wilderness is managed by the El Dorado, Stanislaus and Toiyabe National Forests. Wilderness Permits are required for overnight visits between April 1 and November 30.

Wood fires are prohibited in the Carson Pass areas of Frog, Winnemucca, Round Top, Fourth of July and Emigrant Lakes. Even though wood fires are allowed everywhere, lightweight backpacking stoves are recommended as they are less damaging to the environment.

Mount Rose Wilderness
This wilderness area is one of the nation's newest designated wilderness areas and is located in the extreme northeastern portion of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Access to this scenic area can be obtained from the Mt. Rose Highway (SR 431). Wilderness permits are not required.




To receive information about natural and man-made wonders, attractions, activities and special events at parks and forests in the Lake Tahoe Basin, contact the following resources.

Call, write or visit:

California State Parks
Sierra Area Headquarters
P.O. Box 266
7360 West Lake Blvd.
Tahoma, CA 96142
SR 89 on the West Shore

Nevada State Parks
Sand Harbor State Park
P.O. Box 8867
Incline, NV 89452
SR 28 on the East Shore

USDA - Forest Service
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

870 Emerald Bay Road
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
One quarter mile north of the "Y" on SR 89

USDA - Forest Service
El Dorado National Forest

Information Center
3070 Camino Heights Drive
Camino, CA 97509
West on U.S. HWY 50, 10 minutes east of Placerville

Visit the Hiking, Biking and Mountain Biking pages in this OUTDOORS section for more information about things to do in the parks and forests of the Lake Tahoe Basin. And visit the LAKE TAHOE section on the MAIN MENU for information about the geology, lake, flora, fauna, history and heritage of the Lake Tahoe Basin. 



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