A Beginner’s Guide On How To Enjoy The Lake Tahoe Water Trail

Kayaking Lake Tahoe Water Trail

When visiting the shores of Lake Tahoe, a simple sunrise or sunset becomes a memory so etched in your brain that you’ll want to return. And seeing the landscape from the water is a thing of pure beauty. From stand up paddleboarding to kayaking and every other way to experience the Lake Tahoe Water Trail, it’s something everyone should try once. With that being said, this mountain lake can be dangerous, and very challenging. Does that mean you shouldn’t go? Absolutely not! Just like any adventure into the great outdoors, it’s all about being prepared and knowledgeable. To help, here’s a beginner’s guide on how to enjoy the Lake Tahoe Water Trail.

Ask an Expert: Swing By A Local Paddle Shop

Would you climb Mt. Everest the first time you went for a hike? We hope not. Well, the idea of spending your first sojourn on Big Blue doing something long or technical is not the best option either. The greatest place to start is with one of our local paddle shops. They know every inch of the lake and can help you plan a paddle adventure to fit your skill level and curiosity. They’ll fit you with all the safety gear along with your rental, and local beta on awesome places to see along the trail.

Things To Consider Before Shoving Off Onto Trail

Try A Day Trip

Keep it simple with an out and back day trip. To start, head over to our day trips section. Find the region of the shoreline that you think you’ll be starting from and download the PDF. The PDF version gives you valuable information like where to park, how to get on the water, and where to land.

Plan A Route & Let Your Friends/Family Know!

File a Float PlanNow that you have an idea of what part of the lake you want to paddle, be sure to plan your route. Where are you parking? Where will you start/finish? How many people are in your group? Approximate start/end times? Consider filing a Float Plan to let friends and family know when and where you are going and when you will return. We made this easy by creating a Float Plan tool that’s on our website.

Check The Weather AND Wind

Before you even step out your front door, be sure to check the weather ahead of time. Windfinder.com is a great tool AND app to find out what’s going on when it comes to the winds on the water and what the future forecast is. If it looks a little too windy when you’re planning on paddling, it’s a good idea to re-schedule for another day.

Windfinder.comLeave Early

While you may think “Oh, there are 300 days of sunshine per year in Lake Tahoe”, you may not know that in the afternoon the winds can be quite fierce. Heck, even Mark Twain in his book Roughing It spoke about the winds in the area “…it is by no means a trifling matter. It blows flimsy houses down, lifts shingle roofs occasionally, rolls up tin ones like sheet music.” While he might be talking about the Washoe Zephyr just east of Tahoe, it pretty much sums up that the daily winds in the afternoon can be downright dangerous. Simply put… starting out early is a great option.

Wear A Life Jacket

Kayaking Lake Tahoe Water Trail
Kayak – Zephyr Cove

Mountain weather can change in an instant so being prepared for the worst is always a good idea. One of those ways is to wear a life jacket and review our safety page. Besides keeping you afloat, if you fall in it’ll also help insulate you a bit. As you may have noticed, the waters of Tahoe are fed by snowmelt which means they are ALWAYS chilly and cold-water immersion is normally the leading cause of drowning.

If you follow these simple tips, you can enjoy the waters, be a steward of the lake, and most of all, come home safe. Last but not least, we HIGHLY recommend picking up a copy of the Lake Tahoe Water Trail waterproof map. It provides all the information we’ve talked about above, all the public beaches with launch and landing sites, cool things to see, AND you guessed it – it’s waterproof. As we always like to say, “Live to Paddle Another Day!” Happy Paddling!

The Lake Tahoe Water Trail is a Sierra Business Council sustainable recreation tourism project. Learn more about SBC's innovative social, environmental and economic development projects in the Sierra Nevada at www.sierrabusiness.org.


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Sierra Business Council and the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Committee and their contributors will be in no way responsible for personal injury or damage to personal property arising in conjunction with the use of this website or printed materials. Good judgment and planning are critical to any successful outing. Before heading out on the water, it is recommended that you check with other sources of information for the latest lake conditions.

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