This review comes from Scott Johns, an adventure cinematographer, mountain biker, surfer and snowboarder.
With 72 miles of coastline, stand up paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe ought to be a straightforward endeavor of endless options, right? Well, half of that statement is true. The options are nearly endless. From scenic Emerald Bay to the elusive hot springs of the North Shore to the best beaches, on the East Shore, Tahoe has something for every paddler. But where to launch and how long it will take to reach your destination of choice can get a little messy.
Much of Tahoe’s coastline isn’t ultra accessible by land when you’re carrying a 10-foot-long, 30-pound paddleboard. Going with an inflatable SUP can help solve that problem, but some of it still isn’t accessible by land, regardless. Here’s a guide to the best launches and day trips, with an overnighter and a hike-in option for the more adventurous of our ranks.
Best SUP Launches
This Nevada State Park offers a short carry coupled with a quick paddle to get the goods. The rocky coves and soft sand of Tahoe’s east shore give it many of the best beaches around the lake. Sand Harbor is probably the best known of those and boy, is that water turquoise! An ever-popular snorkeling spot, Sand Harbor is also great on an S.U.P. Just look down.
South Shore Seclusion: Camp Richardson
Okay, Camp Rich isn’t exactly secluded, but the undeveloped coastline between there and Emerald Bay certainly is. So bite off as much of it as you can chew or go for the whole enchilada. Emerald Bay from Camp Rich is about a three to four hour paddle, round trip, depending on your skill level. Pack a lunch and some biodegradable Sol sunscreen (to protect our precious lake!) and start early.
North Shore: Kings Beach State Park
Kings Beach State Park presents a super-easy launch right next to the parking area. There are many options in downtown Kings Beach for renting a board. The Coon Street Boat Launch and nearby Speedboat Beach are also your best access points for the Tahoe hot springs wild goose chase. Good luck with that! Hint: It’s private.
West Shore Wonder: Meeks Bay
With a campground, marina and sandy beaches, Meeks Bay has everything you could ask for. Need I say more? Okay, the scenery doesn’t suck either. Oh, and do yourself a favor and stop by the Tahoma Market PDQ for a fantastic sandwich on your way over.
SUP Trip Ideas
I have a confession to make: I’m not that bright. The first summer I moved to Tahoe, I took my girlfriend to Tahoe City to rent some kayaks for our first anniversary. We thought it would be no big deal to paddle from there to DL Bliss and back. We were wrong. That is not a day trip, unless you’re Superman. Sunnyside is a much more feasible destination, and what we ultimately opted for. Paddle over, take a break and grab some lunch, then paddle back. It’s a good time, and there are many lakefront mansions to drool over. We even snuck onto someone’s property to snap this picture with their pet bear. That is not something I recommend doing. It’s kind of trespassing, you know?
Best Hike-In SUP Trip
By far, my favorite beach on Lake Tahoe is any one of the little coves surrounding Nevada State Parks’ Whale Beach, but it’s a journey. So, if you want to go paddle there, which you definitely should, you’re gonna need an inflatable SUP. They deflate and roll up to fit in the included backpack for easy transport, are relatively lightweight and very durable. Once you’re on the water, a SUP is the best way to explore every single one of these coves. Notice: Beware of naked people. They don’t bite or anything, they’re just naked. Some people think that’s gross, but they obviously don’t. Also, see if you can find the hidden strip of sand just big enough for two people. I might already be there, but bring some beer and we can probably work out a deal.
Best Overnight SUP Trip: Camp Richardson to D.L. Bliss
Let me tell you about a little gem called DL Bliss. This might be my favorite spot on the lake. Start at aforementioned Camp Richardson, cruise through Emerald Bay on your way over and you’ve reached a whole new level of epic. If you don’t want to schlep all your gear, drop a car off there first and you’ll be living in luxury. That may not be the hardcore route, but it’s the best way to ensure a plentiful supply of your favorite beverages after a long paddle. This State Park also has some great hiking and cliff jumping, so spend some time here and please be careful. I’m not sure on total paddling time, because I’ve never actually done this, but I’m guessing it’s about the same as Camp Rich to Emerald Bay and back. However, I am the guy who thought Tahoe City to DL Bliss would only take a couple of hours. So, best of luck!