Top Locations for Photography at Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is an incredible place to visit in all seasons and one of my favorite areas to photograph in Northern California. In this story I'm sharing a few of my favorite spots to take photos near Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe has got so many beautiful spots to explore, it's an ideal place for adventurers and photographers alike. After several trips in the area, I have found a few favorite spots for photography. I'm sharing my top 3 below. 

Eagle Lake


This is one of my favorite hikes near Lake Tahoe, and the payoff is a beautiful alpine lake where you can capture some stunning water reflections. This is not a very challenging trek, making it a worthwhile visit for hikers of all skill levels. It's approximately a 3.5 mile hike round trip. You can find the trail head on the California side of Lake Tahoe, near Emerald Bay. Note that you will be entering the Desolation Wilderness and will need a permit. I love a good mountain lake reflection and this is a perfect location for that type of image. I'd recommend going first thing in the morning as you'll likely have the best lighting and wind conditions. Any bit of wind can really impact the reflection so be sure to check conditions before. The lake itself is not very large and there are great vantage points throughout the area to take photos from. My favorite shot is just above the shoreline, where you can really maximize the reflection in frame. 

Secret Cove


There are countless shores and coves in Tahoe that are worth visiting, but one of my personal favorites is Secret Cove. This is on the Nevada side of the Lake, near the northeast corner. It's about a 1.5 mile hike to the cove and back from the parking area, but the trail is very flat and comfortable. As this location takes a little more work to get to, it's a good place to avoid some of the more crowded beaches. The crystal clear blue water and rocks of Lake Tahoe are in full display here. It's a wonderful place to catch a sunset as well, as you'll be looking west from this cove. NOTE: this also is a nude beach, so it is possible to get a full dose of of the human form here, though I've not had any issue with this. If you are willing to brave the possibilities, it's a great spot for photos! 

Emerald Bay


This is one of the most photographed locations at Lake Tahoe and for good reason. It's extremely accessible and has sweeping views of Emerald Bay and the lake beyond. Every time I visit I continue to be amazed by it. Even though it's quite popular, it's absolutely worth seeing for yourself. It's one of the best place to photograph sunrise in Lake Tahoe due to the scenery and its east facing vantage. Getting to the parking area is only about a 20 minute drive from South Lake Tahoe along highway 89. Despite its popularity, I have found that there are usually only a few other people there for sunrise. Bring a tripod if you are photographing sunrise, as you'll want to shoot with a very open aperture to capture the pre-dawn light. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Kyle Reader

A life spent in awe of the outdoors. I am a runner, climate activist and healthcare consultant based outside the San Francisco Bay Area. Photography is my adventure.