Lake Tahoe Water Trail Trailhead Spotlight: Cave Rock

cave rock state park lake tahoe water trail trailhead paddling

When it comes to paddling up close & personal to the most rugged Lake Tahoe shoreline, Cave Rock is near the top of the list. From here, you can easily launch onto the lake and immediately see natural wonders. Things like pine trees perched in a field of boulders & even small inlets ringed with willows. Our Lake Tahoe Water Trail Trailhead spotlight delves into Cave Rock along with a few of its day trip options.

cave rock lake tahoe water trail trailhead paddling
Lake Tahoe Water Trail Trailhead at Cave Rock

Paddling Cave Rock

cave rock lake tahoe water trail trailhead day trip map paddlingFormed nearly three million years ago, this volcanic remnant can be seen from nearly every vantage point on the lake. Due to its popularity, the Cave Rock Boat Launch parking area fills up early during peak season. If you do make it there early, be sure to set aside time after paddling & take the short fifteen-minute hike to the top. As you gaze across the cobalt blue waters, you’ll understand quickly why this is the second most photographed spot after Emerald Bay.

Out-And-Back Day Trip Paddles

Since the area is public lands & undeveloped, there are limited opportunities to land safely or legally. With that said, plan an early morning paddle to explore the area and take in the sights nearby, like seeing why the Washoe call Cave Rock “Lady of the Lake.” Hint: It’s due to its profile. The best view of the woman’s face (within the rock itself & gazing out toward the lake) is done from a kayak or SUP on the water just north of Cave Rock.

Zephyr Cove Resort

If you’re up for the paddle, the closest public landing spot is Zephyr Cove, another Lake Tahoe Water Trail trailhead. At almost three miles one-way, this paddle is a longer one. Similar to the excitement-filled casino corridor near Stateline, Zephyr Cove Resort offers up a lively beach experience buzzing with activity. It features all the amenities & activities you can imagine such as on-site year-round parking (paid), camping sites across the highway, a restaurant serving up an enticing selection of American favorites, and kayak & paddleboard rentals. And if that wasn’t enough, you can even hop on a tour boat or boat charter right from here to explore other parts of the lake. Let’s just say the outdoor adventure options are endless.

For a full write-up, head over to our day trips section and download the .pdf for Cave Rock Day Trips. Or better yet, pick up a copy of our waterproof Lake Tahoe Water Trail Map & Access Guide.

Get Out Early

Just like Sand Harbor, the best choice is to leave early and come back early. The eastern shore has a rugged & craggy shoreline with minimal landing spots in an emergency. Nearly every afternoon in the hot summer months, the prevalent south/southwest winds can get downright ferocious. At a minimum, these harsh gales will make for a more arduous paddle back to the car or possibly create a dangerous situation. As always, we recommend stopping by one of the local paddle shops to get the beta on the conditions on the lake.

Want more Cave Rock fun? Check out locally recommended nearby activities on the Sierra Nevada Geotourism website which include fun write-ups such as Cave Rock and the M.S. Dixie II.

Heads UP! Be sure to wear a life jacket!



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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