Stand Up Paddleboards are the best way to experience Lake Tahoe. Even if you have a boat, bring with a stand up paddleboard so you can get up close and personal to the more hidden features of Lake Tahoe. Stand Up Paddleboarding is soothing, fun, and a great workout!
We learned a lot from our SUP experience, from renting opportunities to where to go. I’ll start out with some tips on renting and then jump into the best places to go. If you already have a paddle board, feel free to skip to the “where to go” section. If you have decided to purchase a board, we recently bought one from ISLE Surf & SUP. We have the Explorer and it is top of the line paddling! Use code “handmedown25” to get $25 off a paddle board.
You probably already know this, but in case you don’t, make sure you choose a rental place based on geographical location and mobility. Some rental places only let you launch from whichever beach they are located on. (For example, Sand Harbor Rentals need to launch from Sand Harbor beach.) Others let you transport the boards and you just need to decide if a) you can transport and b) how far you are willing to go out of your way for a paddle board. Lake Tahoe is really big and it can take you in excess of 40 minutes to travel from north to south or east to west. Keep this in mind when you are planning your day.
We were camping near South Lake Tahoe but wanted to take our boards towards Sand Harbor beach. We planned on paying for a full day, and possibly beach-hopping with them, so we found a place that would allow us to have our boards for the maximum amount of time. They opened at 7 am and closed at 7 pm. Most places open between 8 – 10 and close at 6. They were also the cheapest, at only $60 compared to the average $80. I’m not giving their name because two very disappointing things happened when we arrived at 7 am.
The first was that they were not even open. They had a simple sign on the door that read “At the Beach,” which we found out meant they were only opening their beach location that day – which did not open until 10 am. They had also bumped their daily rate up quite a bit.
This left us scrambling for a new SUP rental shop. We stumbled across Sand Harbor Rentals and we are so thankful that we did! For some reason, this rental shop did not show up on our original hunt for a rental location, probably because it is super low-key and is first a kayak rental. It opens at 8:30 and is $80 for a full day rental.
Sand Harbor Rentals was phenomenal. Even though they were busy, they helped us figure out what kind of rig and time frame we needed to fit the needs of our group. We had four people so they gave us two big boards, each one able to fit multiple people, so we could explore the lake together without having to rent extra boards. A storm came up in the late afternoon and they sent a boat out to check on all their renters to make sure everyone got back to shore okay. From beginning to end, they did a great job.
Where to Go
Once you have your paddle board, you can pick where you want to go. Some options that we really enjoyed are:
1. Sand Harbor Beach – This beach has a $10 parking fee. The park opens at 8 am. We arrived at 7:45 am and waited in a line of about 15 cars. We were parked by 8:05 – once the gate opened, the line moved pretty fast. The parking lot also filled very fast. If you plan on going to Sand Harbor, get there early. They do not allow walk-ins, so parking on the side of the road and walking in is NOT an option. For all the hub-bub, and for being a popular spot, the beach is actually not overly crowded. Since parking is limited and the beach is fairly big, there is space for everyone (if you don’t mind being around people). There are also clean bathrooms and a concession stand.
2. Use Sand Harbor as a launch point – This is what we did. We started at Sand Harbor Beach and started paddling southeast along the shore. There are so many coves and swimming spots that it was really easy to get away from the crowds. We would paddle for a bit then pull off and relax on the boulders or the sand, taking time to swim and have a snack.
3. Chimney Beach – This beach requires roadside parking and a short hike. It’s sandy, not too crowded (though there are a lot of people) and there is some low-key cliff jumping. The water is relatively warm here, which is a nice bonus. If you Google “Chimney Beach,” you can find the trail right on Google Maps.
4. Park really anywhere legal and follow local trails down to the coves – This may not get you to a sandy beach, but it will get you away from the crowds. As we paddled around, we saw a lot of people spreading out along the boulder-laden shoreline. The boulders are big enough to set up your towels and snacks while spending a nice day swimming or paddling. We found a lot of this on the northeast side of the lake, south of Sand Harbor. It is pretty easy to spot because there will be a lot of cars already parked on the road.
5. Hang out in a State Park – the state parks are arguably the prettiest parts of Lake Tahoe, albeit some of the busiest. Parking is usually $10 per vehicle and very limited. Get there early if you want a spot. State parks are open from dawn to dusk. State parks are great because they are cheap, gorgeous, and you can take turns paddle-boarding and just chilling on a beach. If you plan far enough in advance (I’m talking months) you can even camp in the state park and spend all of your time there. We spent a day in D.L. Bliss and decided that next time we’ll go there first.
1. If you are going to be on the water for multiple hours, apply LOTS of sunscreen! Also, wear a long-sleeve breathable shirt. We were on the water from 9 am to 4 pm. I applied sunscreen three times and was wearing this shirt and I did not burn at all. The other three members of my group only applied sunscreen and they all ended up sunburned.
2. The name of the game is “Get there early.” Either that, or wait until later in the day when a lot of the early birds are leaving. This is true for just about every beach in Tahoe.