Lake Tahoe Water Trail Trailhead Spotlight: Zephyr Cove

Kayakers and SUPers enjoying the east shore of Lake Tahoe

When it comes to an energetic vibe and easy access for every kind of water sport you can imagine Zephyr Cove is it. In fact, it’s one of the liveliest spots for water outings on the lake. From here, you can easily shove off onto Lake Tahoe and paddle up close and personal to the most rugged shoreline on the lake. See pine trees perched in a field of boulders. Head south to miles of sandy beaches. Take in small inlets ringed with willows. Our Lake Tahoe Water Trail Trailhead spotlight delves deep into Zephyr Cove Resort and a few day trips that you can take from here.

Paddling Zephyr Cove Resort

This historic point has housed comfortable lodging that dates back to the ole mining days of yore when the Comstock lode was bustling in Virginia City. This lively lodging spot provides access to good food, amazing views, and endless activities all within a delightful natural setting. For those that embrace Carpe Diem and getting up early, this is a perfect spot for an out-and-back day trip.

Two Out-And-Back Day Trip Paddles

Cave Rock

Cave Rock State Park on the Lake Tahoe Water Trail paddling Zephyr Cove
Big open water just west of Cave Rock State Park – Image appears courtesy: DayGo Adventures

This is NOT a route we recommend for first-time kayakers or paddleboarders. At almost three miles one-way heading north, this paddle is a hefty one. A remnant of an old volcano core, Cave Rock is a must-see when in Lake Tahoe. Considered sacred by the native peoples known as the Washoe, they believe it’s home to the Lady of the Lake – the guardian spirit of the Washoe. From the water, if you look south toward Cave Rock, you can make out the features of the Lady of the Lake. Her chest starts at the water and her facial features are formed by the rocks up to her “eyelashes.”

Round Hill Pines

Overlooking Round Hill Pines beach and the Lake Tahoe Water Trail SignA better option for the first timer is to set sail south to the Round Hill Pines beach which is approximately 1.5 miles one-way. Once there, the Round Hill Pines Beach Resort provides all sorts of fun amenities like grabbing a bite to eat at the Beach Bums Bar and Grill. This is also a great option to start and finish so you can take in a sunset over Mt. Tallac and Rubicon Peak, creating a picturesque backdrop.

Get Out Early

Zephyr Cove’s name is fitting. Named after Zephyrus, the Greek God of the west wind, the eastern shore of the lake is famously known for its strong west winds in the summer due to the big temperature gradient between the foothills and the Tahoe Basin. In fact, both Mark Twain and Dan De Quille wrote about the “Washoe Zephyr” and just how fierce they were. At a minimum, these blowing winds will make for a more arduous paddle back to the car or possibly create a dangerous situation. Since the area is public lands and undeveloped, there are limited opportunities to get off the water in adverse conditions. The best choice is to leave early and come back early. As always, we recommend stopping by a local paddle shop to get the beta for the conditions on the lake.

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

Looking for more about Cave Rock? Be sure to check out the Sierra Nevada Geotourism website which includes such things as a detailed write-up about Cave Rock, museums, and even hiking ideas.

And of course, Heads UP! Be sure to wear a life jacket! And look out for other boaters enjoying Lake Tahoe.

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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