Guide to Driving Around Lake Tahoe in a Day


Lake Tahoe is absolutely gorgeous, and I highly recommend driving a complete circle around the lake if time allows you during your visit. If you drive straight through around the lake (with no stops), it takes approximately 2.5 hours, but I recommend taking photo breaks and enjoying breakfast or lunch along the way. In my opinion, the drive is much better suited for a half day when you can take your time.



1. South Lake Tahoe Marina or Reagan Beach
(Cross into Nevada!)
2. Zephyr Cove
3. Logan Shoals Vista Point
4. Memorial Point
(Back into California through Incline Village!)
5. Kings Beach
6. Tahoe City
7. Emerald Bay and Inspiration Point Vista
8. Tallac Historic Site and Kiva Beach


This part of Tahoe is flatter and there are lots of water sport activities at the marina when the weather is nice. Reagan Beach is also located in South Tahoe, and features sandy waterfront views.

(Just a note: You can pick up anywhere on this route, we simply started in South Lake Tahoe because we were staying there.)


Not my favorite vantage point, but another great spot for water sports and where the Tahoe Queen Cruise picks up. We didn’t stop here for long, but shortly after the cove you’ll drive through cave rock (pictured below), which is a fun landmark on this road trip.


Hands down my favorite view of Lake Tahoe. It is also super romantic at sunset. In my opinion, the views in this area are the most beautiful! You are definitely up higher so you won’t get the shores of South Tahoe, but rather the mountains and trees. This is a great location for a panoramic lake shot, but note that parking is limited to the side of the ride, so be careful not to drive by and miss it!


The view here is similar to Logan Shoals, just a little further down the road. A plus is they have more than one public restroom if you need a pit stop, and it is hard to argue with the views. You can get a little closer to the water here than at Logan Shoals to shoot some slightly different angles if that interests you.


Tahoe City is where I recommend fueling up with a great brunch. My favorite stop is the Fire Sign Cafe, but there are other delicious places you can also visit. At this point, you are completely on the opposite side of the lake from where you started.


This stop is tied for my favorite view with Logan Shoals. It is definitely the most popular “money shot” of the lake. There is a long walkway behind ample parking where visitors can take photos and enjoy the view of Emerald Bay from the Inspiration Point Vista.


I really like this area of the lake because it is very laid back, less crowded, and incredibly beautiful. There are cabins, picnic areas, and a nice mix of beach and trees. You are down a lot lower than Inspiration Point so you can swim or stick your feet in the water if the weather is nice. There is a very peaceful, natural vibe at this stop.

p.s. I am very partial to the name Kiva, as it was our family dog’s name, which we chose after a trip to New Mexico where we visited the undergrounds Kivas, or Native American homes. She was the most amazing soul ever, and she would have loved this beach.


From Kiva Beach it is a short drive back to South Lake Tahoe to complete your circle. Isn’t it amazing how different the lake looks at various points? I really hope this guide is a helpful starting point to your visit and that you get to enjoy this beautiful Alpine Lake in person someday! I’d also love to know your favorite views if you’ve been before.

This entry was posted in california, lake tahoe, nevada, united states.
  • Emily of Em Busy Living

    Beautiful! I’m so sad we never made it to Lake Tahoe while we were out west. I have so many things to add to a to-do list for next time :)

    • Ashley

      Definitely! Hopefully it will fit into your next visit. :)

  • Jordan Beck Wagner

    This is so absolutely gorgeous!!! I love the colors (all the blues!!!) and am now adding this to my bucket list :)

    • Ashley

      I know, right? So many beautiful colors, it reminds me of alpine lakes in Europe a little bit.

  • Ashley @ Wandering Weekenders

    We visited Lake Tahoe a couple of years ago, and one of our favorite things was just taking the drive around the lake. We absolutely loved Emerald Bay, and the Lake was just beautiful from every direction!

    • Ashley

      Ahhh, isn’t it the best? We also took a cruise to Emerald Lake and I loved the beautiful waters. So pretty!

  • Jenn

    Sounds like a great trip! I always amazed at how blue the water looks!

    • Ashley

      I know! It was almost too good to be true.

  • sonia de macedo

    This is definitely a must do. And the fact that it can be done in 1 day really leaves me no excuse not to hahahaha. I’ll definitely have to pencil this in the next time I’m in the USA


    • Ashley

      Yes definitely! Especially if you’re in Northern California area.

  • Arni

    We had beautiful memories of a summer weekend at Lake Tahoe staying in a log cabin with the entire family. I would love to return again and I would like to follow your recommended sites and explore it. I wish we could have done more nature walks while we were there.

    • Ashley

      Yes! It would be fun with your little one too… such a family friendly area!

  • Kathryn

    I would love to visit Tahoe one day! It looks like you had a great trip, those beautiful photos have me wishing it was summer already :)

    • Ashley

      I know… it is so hot here that I keep forgetting it is winter. (I honestly wish we had seasons sometimes.) These photos are from Spring last year. :)

  • julie @ jewelswandering

    I haven’t been to Tahoe in 9 years, but I was there for snowboarding…! The scenery is just stunning whatever the season!

    • Ashley

      I need to head back in the winter! My parents actually got married in Tahoe in the winter. It is seriously beautiful year round.

  • Janelle

    I’ve never been to Tahoe, but I’ll definitely be saving this post for a time we can make it there in the future!!

    • Ashley

      Yay! It is such a lovely place to visit… great for kids and family too!

  • Stephanie

    I’ve already wanted to visit Tahoe! I’ll have to keep your post in mind if I get to visit. The photos look gorgeous!

    Stephanie ● Sartorial Diner

    • Ashley

      Definitely do! I hope you make it someday!

  • Christine loves to travel

    Lake Tahoe looks gorgeous! Have to go there one day :)

    • Ashley

      It is so relaxing and beautiful. I hope you make it out there!