Top Instagram Spots around Lake Tahoe
Top Instagram Spots around Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is known for its stunning beauty, with snow capped mountains and beautiful pine forests framing stunningly clear and deep blue waters. It’s not surprising that Lake Tahoe is the most Instagrammed lake in the US, and the second in the world, based on hashtags. Whether you’re a casual photographer or a rising Instagram star, here are some of the top Instagram Lake Tahoe spots to get that epic photo or video for your post, reel, or story. The toughest part will be deciding on which ones to upload!
What are the best Instagrammable Spots in Lake Tahoe?
Here are the Top 11 Lake Tahoe Instagram spots
Emerald Bay is one of the best spots for sunrise at Lake Tahoe, though sunset is a great time to visit too. There are numerous viewpoints all along the bay, including at Inspiration Point, Emerald Bay Overlook, Lower Eagle Falls, and various pullouts along the road. There are two paid parking lots that fill up quickly. You can also park along the road for free.
Located near Emerald Bay, Eagle Lake is a gorgeous alpine lake with easy access in the Desolation Wilderness. Along the trail to Eagle Lake, you will also pass by Upper Eagle Falls, and enjoy great views of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe and the striking granite landscape of Desolation Wilderness, which all make for great photos and Instagram posts.
Probably the most photographed rock in all of Lake Tahoe, Bonsai Rock got its name from the four small trees growing out of a crack on the top of the square-shaped granite boulder in the water. Though they’re not actually bonsai trees, it’s a testament to their resilience that they can survive at all on the rock. Bonsai Rock is a very popular spot with photographers. It’s also possible to jump off the southeast corner of rock into the surrounding waters (though only attempt this when water levels are high enough), which makes for a fantastic photograph and Instagram post and reel. You may want to get in the water to get some shots. There’s a very small beach nearby and numerous other boulders you can set up on or to frame your shot. Trying getting down low to make the rock appear bigger. Sunsets here are fantastic. It’s also a great spot for Milky Way photos on summer nights. Visit in the summer if you want people on or jumping off the rocks. In the winter, a blanket of snow makes for a nice contrast. You can also hike along the shore to find more hidden coves. A polarizer and ND filter will come in handy here (and other areas on the lake itself). Try a long exposure to smooth out the water. Located around a mile south of Sand Harbor on the East Shore, there are two pullouts on Highway 28 where you can park. It’s easiest to approach from the north, as the pullouts are on the right. If you park in the further south pullout, it’s best to walk towards the other pullout before following the fairly short trails down to the water. The trail is steep, so wear shoes with proper traction rather than flip flops. Another option is to kayak or paddleboard over from Sand Harbor, Hidden Beach, or further away.
Around 1 mile south of Bonsai Rock is Chimney Beach, another popular photo and Instagram location, due to a unique feature on the beach—a still standing stone chimney, the only thing that remains of a former beachfront caretaker’s cabin. The sandy beach here is a good size, with boulders all around, which makes the scenic cove a popular beach destination over the summer. The hike down to Chimney Beach from the parking lot is just over half a mile, with a 200 feet change in elevation. Find the trailhead near the bathroom, past a green gate. Follow the “trail to beach” sign, and at the trail sign for Chimney Beach, take a right, as the beach is north of the trailhead. At the next split, take a right for Chimney Beach (or a left for Secret Cove, another beautiful scenic cove with a clothing optional beach, which you can combine with Chimney Beach in a 2.6-mile loop). There’s a parking lot right next to the trail down to the beach, which has a restroom and trash bins. The parking lot is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During other times, park along the road, but make sure your car doesn’t cross the white line or otherwise impede traffic.
One of the prettiest and most popular beaches around Lake Tahoe, Sand Harbor is known for long stretches of sandy beach and an abundance of giant granite boulders, which make for a striking backdrop to photos and Instagram posts. There are several short, scenic hikes that take you around to great vantage points. There are also plenty of amenities, including a visitor center, food concession, snack bar, boat ramps and watersport rentals. So you could make a whole day of it here. Paddle out to get photos from the water, or bring a waterproof case to get shots underwater while scuba diving! It also hosts the Shakespeare Festival in late summer, with performances on an open stage right on the sand, offering another fantastic photo opportunity. Sand Harbor is also a great spot to catch a sunset. Parking can be an issue as the parking lot fills up early. You can also park in Incline Village and take the East Shore Express bus or park near Tunnel Creek Café and walk or bike the 3 miles along the East Shore Trail (with the last 2 miles following the shoreline) to Sand Harbor. Pro tip: you can get some great photos along the way too, as the trail passes 16 vista points and offers 11 beach access points.
Much as the name suggests, Monkey Rock is a famous rock that resembles a gorilla. It’s not entirely natural, as a local was said to have carved the facial features onto the simian-looking rock to make it look more ape-like. Regardless, it’s a popular photo and Instagram destination, not only for the namesake rock, but for the incredible sweeping views of Lake Tahoe from around the rock. Monkey Rock makes for a great sunset spot.
Located within the Spooner Backcountry – Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, Monkey Rock does require a hike to get to, but one that is quite reasonable. The trailhead starts behind the Tunnel Creek Café just south of Incline Village, and is around 2.5 miles with a little over 400 feet of elevation gain. There is also a shortcut and steeper spur up the mountain that will shave off a bit of distance. Once you’re at the rock, there are a couple of big rocks you can sit on to enjoy the view, including an overhanging one shaped like a chair. There is also a swing that sometimes appears nearby (face the same way the monkey is looking and turn right to see the swing through some brush).
Monkey Rock near sunset with a view of Lake Tahoe. See reel example here.
Also nearby are the Tahoe Flume Trail, the Tahoe Rim Trail, and the Tahoe East Shore Trail. There’s paid parking in front of the Tunnel Creek Café, or you can find free parking further away.
For an elevated 360-degree viewpoint that’s also close to the lake, head to Cave Rock. When you drive along Highway 50, you drive through the tunnels at the bottom of Cave Rock, but it’s also possible to reach the top of the rock via a short and easy hike, which will take you to a saddle near the top of Cave Rock where you can enjoy great views to the south and north. You can hike further up the rocks for an even better vantage point. There’s no set trail up to the very top, but you can find your way up easily, as you can just step up the rocks, with only a little bit of scrambling required. From the very top, you can enjoy 360-degree views. Sunsets are a popular time to visit Cave Rock, but the views are spectacular here at any time. There’s a small parking lot at the trailhead, which is at the end of Cave Rock Drive, south of Cave Rock itself. If the lot is full, you can park along the side of the road below and above the parking lot. The trail is largely flat and it’s less than half a mile to Cave Rock.
Heavenly Mountain Resort
Located right in South Lake Tahoe overlooking the lake, Heavenly Mountain offers lake views that are truly heavenly and worth capturing. In the winter, it’s a top ski resort, and one of the best Lake Tahoe winter social media spots as well as one of the best photo spots in South Lake Tahoe. Skiers and snowboarders can capture epic shots from the Gondola, the Aerial Tram, and Gunbarrel Express chair (like this reel example here), as well as from multiple runs (including California Trail and Ridge Run). In the summer, the mountain turns into an adventure park with ropes courses, tubing, zip lines, rock climbing, an open-air coaster, and scenic hiking trails. You can also take the gondola just for sightseeing in winter and summer. The 2.4-mile ride takes you up to 9,100 feet. Be sure to get off at the first stop (it only stops on the way up) to enjoy sweeping views of the Tahoe Basin and Carson Valley from the spacious observation deck.
From Lake Tahoe (on the lake)
Some of the best photo spots Lake Tahoe are out on the water, which is also one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Tahoe. You can opt for a sightseeing or sunset cruise on the M.S. Dixie II, a historic paddle wheeler or smaller boats like Safari Rose, Sierra Cloud, and the Tahoe Bleu Wave. For more flexibility on where you go, you can also rent a boat or jet skis. For a more peaceful experience, paddle out in a kayak or standup paddleboard. Traveling by water lets you access boulder fields that are out in the lake, as well as the many small and hidden coves all around the lake, or even the lake’s only island, Fannette Island in Emerald Bay. The sightseeing cruises listed above depart from Zephyr Cove, Ski Run Marina, the Hyatt Regency Beach, and Tahoe Keys Marina. You can find rentals at many beaches and marinas around the lake, along with easy launch points.
One of the best spots Instagram spots in the fall for leaf peepers is Hope Valley, where groves of aspen turn to dazzling shades of gold, orange, and red. It’s just a short drive from South Lake Tahoe, near where highways 88 and 89 intersect. The Desolation Hotel (formerly the Wylder Resort) is a popular spot for photos and Instagram posts. You can wander around part of the scenic resort even if you’re not an overnight guest, and capture idyllic photos of cute cabins in the colorful woods. Right by the resort is also a grove of aspens backed against pine trees that make for the perfect fall shot. The resort also offers a bar, restaurant, and live music. There are several other groves of aspen and scenic sights in the area that make for great content to post on Instagram, including small bridges and waterfalls, so spend some time exploring the area. The Carson River also winds through the valley, and makes for some shots framed by the colorful foliage.
Rainbow Bridge & Donner Lake
Located at the top of Donner Summit Road, this iconic bridge is also known as Donner Summit Bridge and offers fantastic views of Donner Lake, Truckee, and the surrounding High Sierra landscape of Donner Summit. Originally built in the 1920s (and restored in the 1990s), the 241-foot concrete bridge was the first of its kind to feature both a compound curve and a gradual grade. The bridge is part of the Historic US Route 40, and similar to the famous Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. The scenic bridge has been in commercials, used as a prop in the movie “True Lies” and countless photos. It’s also a top Instagram spot with easy access, with a parking lot right next to it. There’s a pathway next to the bridge that allows you to safely cross the bridge. You can also scramble down some rocks to view the bridge from below or climb up the rocks at the end of the parking lot for a higher view. The best times to visit for photos are around sunset, and early on cold winter mornings when there’s an inversion layer above Donner Lake, giving you a sense of being above the clouds. The abandoned Donner Pass Tunnels are also nearby, and also offer opportunities for photos.
What are the best Lake Tahoe Instagram Hashtags?
Besides the list above of Lake Tahoe best photos spots, you’ll probably also want to know which hashtags to use on your post, story, or reel. Here are some of the best Lake Tahoe hashtags to use on Instagram.
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