9 of the Best Lakes in South Lake Tahoe

Nestled amidst the breathtaking Sierra Nevada Mountains, South Lake Tahoe is a natural wonderland celebrated for its stunning lakes that offer an array of recreational opportunities and awe-inspiring vistas. From the iconic Emerald Bay to the tranquil Alpine Lakes, each water body possesses its own charm, inviting visitors to explore and unwind. Join us as we discuss the beauty and wonders of South Lake Tahoe’s most captivating lakes, including the lesser-known gems of Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Baron.

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South Lake Tahoe lakes

1. Lower and Upper Echo Lakes

Echo Lakes, consisting of Lower and Upper Echo Lakes, are a pair of small alpine lakes located southwest of South Lake Tahoe off of Highway 50. Sitting at 7,400 feet elevation, these lakes offer spectacular views, hiking, and fishing opportunities. To access them, take Highway 50 west from South Lake Tahoe and turn left on Johnson Pass Road just past Echo Summit. Follow this winding road for about 2 miles.

The well-paved Johnson Pass Road leads first to the lower and larger Lower Echo Lake. There is a parking area here right off the road along with a small beach for swimming and launching non-motorized boats. Continue just over 1 mile further to reach Upper Echo Lake and its parking lot. The drive from South Lake Tahoe takes around 30 minutes and is very scenic.

Once at Echo Lakes, popular summer activities include kayaking, fishing, picnicking, and hiking around the lakes. Desolation Wilderness trails can be accessed from here as well, including routes to surrounding alpine lakes like Lake Aloha. Be sure to bring your own non-motorized watercraft. Swimming is allowed, though the water stays cold year-round. The exposed granite surroundings make for incredible photo opportunities.

As two of Lake Tahoe’s most accessible alpine lakes, Echo Lakes attract visitors looking to escape the summer crowds. Their proximity to each other makes it easy to experience both lakes in a day. With historic logging sites and serene wilderness surroundings, Echo Lakes has something for everyone.

Be sure to pack sun protection, water, and layers, as the weather at this elevation can change quickly.

2. Spooner Lake

Spooner Lake is a beautiful mountain lake located about 15 miles north of South Lake Tahoe in Nevada. Covering over 1,100 acres, this lake is nestled within the peaks of the Carson Range in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. To access the lake, take Highway 50 north from South Lake Tahoe and turn left onto Highway 28 to follow signs for Spooner Lake. The well-marked entrance leads to parking areas, picnic sites, and the lake’s shoreline.

The drive to Spooner Lake takes around 25 minutes from South Lake Tahoe. Pass by Sand Harbor on the east shore of Lake Tahoe before reaching the turnoff for Spooner Lake. Follow the winding road downhill for about 2 miles to reach different access points around the lake. There is a day-use fee to enter the state park and explore the area. Be sure to stop by the visitor center to get oriented and purchase permits.

Spooner Lake Activities

Once at Spooner Lake, popular activities include kayaking, fishing, hiking the nature trail, picnicking, and bird watching. Rainbow trout are stocked in the lake for fishing. Look for osprey and bald eagles soaring overhead.

The easy 1-mile nature trail loops around the southern part of the lake, providing gorgeous views. There is also backcountry access to more rugged parts of the state park for experienced hikers. Families will enjoy the amenities like flush toilets, picnic tables, and grills.

With its convenient location off Highway 28, Spooner Lake provides the perfect setting for a day trip from South Lake Tahoe. Revel in the peaceful environment surrounded by pine trees, Granite Peak, and the waters of Lake Tahoe.

Be sure to bring sun protection, water, snacks, and your camera to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Spooner Lake and its surroundings.

Address: 775-831-0494; Highway 28, Spooner Lake , NV 89703

3. Eagle Lake

Eagle Lake is a small alpine lake tucked high in the Desolation Wilderness about 14 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe. At an elevation of 8,300 feet, this beautiful 4-acre lake is surrounded by granite peaks and lush forests.

Getting to Eagle Lake

To access Eagle Lake, take Highway 89 south from South Lake Tahoe and turn onto Emerald Bay Road. Drive about 10 miles then turn left onto Eagle Falls Road leading to the Eagle Falls Parking Area and Eagle Lake Trailhead.

From the trailhead, embark on a moderate 5.5 mile hike along Eagle Lake Trail up into the Desolation Wilderness. The well-marked trail gains over 1,600 feet in elevation before reaching the shores of pristine Eagle Lake. Be sure to obtain a wilderness permit for day use or overnight camping at the lake.

The total hike to Eagle Lake from the trailhead takes around 3 hours one way. Bring plenty of water and snacks to fuel the strenuous climb.

Activities at Eagle Lake

Once at Eagle Lake, take in the incredible panoramas and enjoy activities like swimming in the cold clear water, fishing for trout, and picnicking along the granite shoreline. Camping overnight allows more time to relish the solitude and stargaze as the Milky Way reflects on the glassy surface. Look for wildlife like mule deer, yellow-bellied marmots, and bald eagles soaring overhead.

With no designated trails circling the lake, follow regulations to protect the fragile environment by staying on durable surfaces and packing out all trash. Due to the remote location and challenging access, Eagle Lake offers an unforgettable wilderness experience without heavy crowds. With proper preparation and respect for the pristine landscape, the journey to Eagle Lake will create lasting memories and appreciation for the natural beauty near South Lake Tahoe.

Address: 2550 Riverside DriveSusanville, CA 96130

4. Fallen Leaf Lake

Fallen Leaf Lake is a stunning alpine lake located just south of Lake Tahoe in El Dorado National Forest. At an elevation of 6,377 feet, the crystal clear waters are surrounded by pine forests and dramatic granite peaks. To access the lake, take Highway 89 south from South Lake Tahoe and turn onto Fallen Leaf Lake Road near Camp Richardson. The road wraps around the western side of the lake, leading to parking areas, campgrounds, and trailheads.

There are many recreational activities to enjoy at Fallen Leaf Lake. The north shore contains Fallen Leaf Lake Campground where you can pitch a tent and camp under the tall pines.

The campground has a general store, cafe, and marina with kayak rentals for paddling on the calm morning waters. The south shore has excellent hiking trails like Glen Alpine Springs Trail that switchbacks up to panoramic views of the lake and Desolation Wilderness.

The general store hamburgers, chicken nuggets, various boar head lunch meats, and beverages. You can rent boats, kayaks, or swim to a little dock and sunbathe.

Fishermen flock to Fallen Leaf Lake to cast for trophy-sized lake trout and smallmouth bass. Be sure to bring your own boat or rent one from the marina.

Swimming is allowed and best from the sandy beaches along the north shore. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on one of the public beaches. If you visit in fall, witness the vibrant display of fall colors reflecting off the surface of the lake.

Other than outdoor recreation, Fallen Leaf Lake exudes a peaceful, pristine vibe. You may spot wildlife like black-tailed deer, Stellar’s jays, and even black bears.

Be sure to pack sun protection, layers, and plenty of drinking water no matter what activities you partake in.

Entrance to the lake area is free and doesn’t require an Adventure Pass. With its easy access from South Lake Tahoe and a variety of amenities, Fallen Leaf Lake is a spectacular option for families and outdoor enthusiasts.

There is a small Fallen Leaf Market at the marina.  You can buy hamburgers, chicken nuggets, various Boarhead lunch meats, and beverages. You can rent boats, kayaks, or swim to a little dock and sunbathe.  There are campsites. 

Address: 400 Fallen Leaf Road Fallen Leaf, CA 95716

5. Marlette Lake

Marlette Lake is a small reservoir located in the Tahoe National Forest northeast of South Lake Tahoe, California. At an elevation of over 7,800 feet, the 170-acre lake is nestled beneath scenic Marlette Peak and accessed via Marlette Lake Water System Road. A day-use permit is required and can be obtained at the entrance station. The lake features peaceful surroundings, opportunities for non-motorized boating, and hiking trails around its perimeter.

Getting to Marlette Lake

To get to Marlette Lake, take Highway 28 north from South Lake Tahoe and turn left on Marlette Lake Water System Road just past Sand Harbor. Follow the road for about 7 miles, passing through the entrance station to purchase your day-use permit. The well-maintained dirt road leads directly to parking areas and the lake’s shoreline. The drive takes around 30 minutes from South Lake Tahoe.

Activities at Marlette Lake

Once at Marlette Lake, popular activities include kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, hiking, and picnicking. A hiking trail encircles the lake for scenic views of Marlette Peak and crystal-clear waters.

Pack a lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic tables along the shore. Be advised that there are no rentals, so you must bring your own non-motorized watercraft and schedule enough time to hike or paddle around the perimeter of the lake.

As one of Tahoe’s smaller, more hidden gems, Marlette Lake offers a peaceful escape from the crowds. Be sure to closely supervise children and dogs, as the shoreline drops off quickly.

Leave no trace by packing out all trash and food.

With its pristine waters and views, Marlette Lake allows visitors to experience the beauty of Tahoe without the hustle and bustle of the main lake.

6. Angora Lakes

Angora Lakes is a pair of small alpine lakes situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains just south of South Lake Tahoe, California. At over 7,000 feet elevation, these glacially-formed lakes are surrounded by granite boulders and pine forests. To get there, take Highway 89 south from South Lake Tahoe and turn right on Angora Ridge Road across from the Upper Truckee River.

South Lake Tahoe lakes Angora Lakes

Getting to Angora Lakes

Follow the steep and narrow Angora Ridge Road for 2.5 miles until you reach the parking area and trailhead. The road is paved but winding with some steep dropoffs. Drive slowly and cautiously. The total drive from South Lake Tahoe takes around 15 minutes. Leashed dogs are permitted.

Be sure to pack water, snacks, and sun protection for a day exploring the lakes.

At Lower Angora Lake, visitors will find a beach area, kayak and paddleboat rentals, and a small cafe. Popular activities include swimming, paddling, and hiking around the lakes. Upper Angora Lake is a bit smaller and requires a short, steep hike to access.

No motors are allowed on the lakes, and the small shack on site rents kayaks, paddleboards and canoes by the hour. Paddle out to the middle of the lake to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forest

With their easy access from South Lake Tahoe and range of amenities, the Angora Lakes are a popular summer retreat. Arrive early on busy weekends to secure parking. Be prepared for crowds and high prices at the cafe and boat rentals.

While busy, a visit to admire the clear waters backed by scenic peaks makes the Angora Lakes a classic Tahoe experience. Respect trail regulations and pack out trash to preserve natural beauty.

7. Caples Lake

Caples Lake is a scenic reservoir located about 30 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe in the El Dorado National Forest. Sitting at an elevation of 7,800 feet, this roughly 2-mile-long lake is surrounded by pine forests and granite cliffs. To get there from South Lake Tahoe, take Highway 50 west to Highway 89 and turn right. Continue south on 89 for about 10 miles and turn left onto Highway 88, following signs for Caples Lake.

How to Get to Caples Lake

The drive from South Lake Tahoe to Caples Lake takes around an hour. Highway 88 is windy but well-maintained. Pass by Red Lake and Carson Pass before reaching the Caples Lake turnoff. Turn left and drive a final 2 miles on a steep dirt road down to the shoreline parking area and boat launch. Be cautious driving the twisting road and watch for campers and boats entering and exiting the parking lot.

Activities at Caples Lake

Once at Caples Lake, popular summer activities include kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and fishing. The shoreline has gentle slopes for wading, and rainbow trout are stocked regularly in the lake. There is a small marina and store to pick up snacks and rent non-motorized boats. Hiking trails wrap around the lake for gorgeous views.

Overnight visitors can stay at one of the first-come, first-served campgrounds. Be aware that amenities are minimal, so pack plenty of water and supplies.

With its easily accessible location just off Highway 88, Caples Lake is a wonderful option for a day trip or weekend getaway from South Lake Tahoe. Revel in the quiet setting surrounded by pine forests and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Remember to bring sun protection and dress in layers for the changing mountain temperatures. With pristine waters and great fishing, Caples Lake offers a peaceful outdoor experience for families, anglers, and nature lovers.

8. Lake Aloha

Lake Aloha is a beautiful alpine lake located in the Desolation Wilderness area near South Lake Tahoe, California. At an elevation of 8,116 feet, it is one of the higher lakes in the region and is surrounded by granite peaks and forests. The lake can be accessed via the Echo Lakes trailhead by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for 3.5 miles, making it a moderately challenging hike. Permit reservations are required for overnight visits.

Getting to Lake Aloha

To get to the trailhead, take US-50 West from South Lake Tahoe for about 12 miles until you reach Echo Summit. Turn left on Johnson Pass Road and drive 2 miles until you see the parking area and trailhead for Echo Lakes on your left. Be sure to get your wilderness permit ahead of time from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

The hike from Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha is about 7 miles round trip with an elevation gain of around 1,000 feet. Bring plenty of water and snacks.

Once at Lake Aloha, there are several rocky outcroppings perfect for sunbathing and swimming in the refreshing alpine water. Camping is allowed at established sites near the lake, so bring a tent and sleeping bag if spending the night.

Fishing is rumored to be good, so bring a rod and tackle to try your hand at catching trout. Keep an eye out for other wildlife like yellow-bellied marmots and the occasional black bear.

Other than its natural beauty, Lake Aloha is also renowned for the incredible wildflower blooms that surround its shores in July and August. Be sure to bring a camera to capture the scenic vistas of granite cliffs reflected in the sapphire waters of the lake.

With a pair of binoculars, you may even catch a glimpse of climbers on the steep granite walls above the lake. Follow the regulations and leave no trace to preserve the fragile environment.

With some preparation and appreciation for nature, Lake Aloha makes for an incredible high-alpine adventure near South Lake Tahoe.

9. Lake Baron

Nestled away from the tourist crowds, Lake Baron offers a hidden retreat for those seeking quiet. Surrounded by tall pines and verdant foliage, this is one of the most serene South Lake Tahoe lakes that provides a peaceful escape for fishing, paddleboarding, and nature walks.

Getting to Lake Baron

Lake Baron is a small lake located just south of Meyers, California along Highway 89. To get there from South Lake Tahoe, take US-50 west to Highway 89. Turn right heading south on Highway 89. Drive approximately 8 miles along the scenic highway until you reach Country Club Drive on the left.

Turn left onto Country Club Drive and follow it for 0.3 miles until you reach the intersection with Lake Baron Drive. Make a right onto Lake Baron Drive and continue 0.2 miles until you reach the parking area and access point for Lake Baron on the right. The total drive takes around 15 minutes from central South Lake Tahoe.

The turnoff for Country Club Drive is easy to miss so watch carefully for the street sign. Lake Baron is a peaceful neighborhood lake surrounded by homes and private docks. A public pier provides lake access for fishing and views. The lake is stocked with trout and allows electric motors only.

Make sure to respect private property around the lakeshore. You can take a relaxing stroll around the 0.75 mile road surrounding the small lake. With convenient access right off Highway 89, Lake Baron makes for a quick side trip to enjoy beautiful lake views on your drive between South Lake Tahoe and Meyers.

The calm waters and natural beauty of Lake Baron create a welcoming atmosphere. For those that just want to relax, there is a small sandy shoreline to stretch out in. The Lake also has pickleball courts, and a weekly summer farmer’s market, and can host events like weddings and class reunions.

Address: 1011 E San Bernardino Ave South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

The diverse lakes situated around South Lake Tahoe provide abundant opportunities to experience the magnificent beauty of nature. From Angora Lakes, a great hidden gem with crystalline waters and surrounding cliffs, to the relatively obscure havens of Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Baron, each lake offers unique scenery. One can paddle across the tranquil surface of Fallen Leaf, observe indigenous birds gliding over a secluded Lake Baron, or traverse the trails surrounding the larger lakes. Every lake beckons visitors to leave the clamor of daily life behind and rediscover tranquility.

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