Exploring Lake Tahoe, California: Secret Cove, Bonsai Rock, Emerald Bay State Park, and Eagle Lake
What is Lake Tahoe? Where is it?
Lake Tahoe is a huge freshwater lake located along the border of California and Nevada. It is only a 3-4 hour drive from San Francisco and is the area is filled with lake activities, views, and hikes. The lake is a beautiful royal blue color. The water is clear, as you will be able to see in the shallow areas, but because it is so deep, it gives it a deep ocean vibe. I spent a weekend in Lake Tahoe was able to go to the Secret Cove and Bonsai Rock the first day and Emerald Bay State Park and Eagle Lake Trail the second day. 3-4 hours driving each way was a little exhausting, but two days was definitely enough time to enjoy the lake for our first trip.
What is Secret Cove? Where is it?
Secret Cove is a nude beach/cove. Clothing is optional. I wore my swimsuit as that’s what I’m more comfortable with, but if you go to this cove, you should feel comfortable seeing others nude. The water was so clear and cold and the waves were rough the day we went. There’s plenty of space in the water and several rocks to sit on. The closest parking lot is around a 20-30 minute walk away. The path to the cove has great views and is a moderate sandy trail. We walked the path with flips flops and slippers, which wasn’t the most comfortable, but wasn’t horrible either. This cove is in North Tahoe, Carson City, Nevada, which is around 25 minutes away from South Lake Tahoe.
Bonsai Rock is not too far from the Secret Cove and is also located in North Tahoe, Carson City, Nevada. The water around the Bonsai Rock is a lot deeper and the path to the rock is very steep and sandy. Be careful! There’s not really a sandy area to lay on, like a beach would have. There are mainly rocks on the side of the lake near Bonsai Rock. The rock looks like there is a bonsai tree coming out of it and people often jump off the rock. Waves were rough again so it was actually quite empty there and harder to get to the rock, but super worth it. We watched part of the sunset and swam during golden hour.
What is Emerald Bay State Park? Where is it?
Emerald Bay State Park is in South Lake Tahoe, California. We found a great vista point of Emerald Bay. Many people were walking down to the bay area, but we decided to eat our lunches at the view point and head off for a hike. Important tip: park on the side of the road and walk to the vista point; the vista point parking lot is $10! Portable bathrooms are available here.
Clear lake among the mountains in South Lake Tahoe. We went on the Eagle Falls trail to Eagle Lake. The hike was moderate, but quite fast as it was only around 2 miles long round trip. It wasn’t too crowded even though we went on a Sunday and we did not wear our hiking boots. The lake itself was filled with a lot of rocks so it can hurt a bit if you decide to walk into the lake (or you can wear flip flops into the water).
How do you get there?
We drove from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe. We rented with Hertz and it was around 80 USD for 2 days not including gas. Gas was around 80 USD for two days. We had rented a Chevy Spark, but got upgraded to a Jeep Wrangler, which made for smoother driving on a California highway where everyone goes faster than speed limit, but it’s considered normal. It was a total of around 8-9 hours of driving for both days.
Where do you stay?
Hotels are quite expensive here, especially during peak seasons (summer and winter) as it’s a great place to hang by the lake during the summer and has amazing mountains to ski on during the winter. Our hotel was around 250 USD for one night in South Lake Tahoe, California. Beach Retreat and Lodge at Tahoe is right by the lake. If you go to the back of the hotel, there’s a small beach to enter the clear lake. This hotel is right next to a Safeway and a gas station, which is quite convenient. There was a parking available and they had a lot of spaces, however, it was nearly full when we got there at night to park!
Mornings and nights are quite cold, so make sure to bring layers and pants; when the sun is out, it gets quite hot and is quite drastic from the temperature in the morning/night. Swimsuits are a must and don’t forget sunblock! There are a good amount of food options and several grocery stores, so there’s no need to do a grocery haul before the trip 🙂 We got sandwich ingredients from Safeway and kept the food budget a little lower this trip.
Yes, yes, yes! 100% – I already want to go back there! All places I went to in the list above were absolutely worth it.