Can You Swim in Lake Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe is a majestic alpine jewel nestled amidst the Sierra Nevada mountains that beckons travelers year-round with its breathtaking scenery and diverse activities, but for those seeking a refreshing dip, you might be wondering can you swim in Lake Tahoe? The good news is that swimming is possible in Lake Tahoe! The crystal-clear waters and scenic lakeside settings can be incredibly inviting on a warm summer day. However, there are a few crucial factors to consider before taking the plunge.


Lake Tahoe is one of the deepest lakes in North America, at its most cavernous it plunges to 1,645 feet. Tahoe is not only deep, it’s also enormous at 12 miles wide and 22 miles long with 72 miles of shoreline. The lake, which spans across the California-Nevada state line and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, is a deep alpine lake, meaning the water temperature remains quite cold year-round. Average summer water temperatures at Tahoe hover around mid-to-upper 60s Fahrenheit (15-18°C). For some, this can be invigorating, but for others, it might be a bit of a shock to the system, so you’ll need to be prepared before diving in.

  • Shallow Areas: Look for beaches with gradually sloping entry points, ideal for gradual acclimation to the cooler water temperatures.
  • Sandy Beaches: Opt for beaches with sandy shores for a more comfortable lounging experience.
  • Sun Exposure: Consider how much sun exposure you desire. Some beaches offer more shade from trees, while others are open and sunny and therefore warmer.

Fed by snowmelt, Lake Tahoe is a cold body of water relative to most lakes, and for those who aren’t acclimated to the water temperature and aren’t mentally prepared to take the cold plunge into the lake, the body’s natural response is often an uncontrollable gasp for air, followed by intense hyperventilation. Gradual entry is key to avoid cold-water shock, and consider wearing a wetsuit if you’re planning to stay in the water for a while.

Due to the cooler water temperatures, the comfortable swimming season in Lake Tahoe is relatively short. Late July to early September offers the most pleasant conditions for swimming, outside this window the water can be quite chilly, even for the most enthusiastic swimmers and water sport enthusiasts. The appeal of Lake Tahoe’s waters is undeniable, but remember hypothermia is a real risk if you’re unprepared. 


With over 70 miles of shoreline, choosing the perfect swimming spot at Lake Tahoe can be a daunting task. Here are some of the best places on the lake to take a dip. Before diving in, remember Lake Tahoe is an alpine lake, and while stunning, its beauty comes with a price: chilly water. 

Top Picks for Family-Friendly Fun:

  • Kings Beach State Recreation Area (North Shore): This lively beach boasts expansive shores with plenty of space for families to spread out. The designated swimming area offers shallow waters ideal for young children, and on-site amenities like restrooms and changing facilities.
  • Sand Harbor State Park (North Shore): This iconic park features crystal-clear waters, a beautiful backdrop of towering pines, and various designated swimming areas. The park also offers kayak rentals, picnic areas, and hiking trails, making it a great spot for a full day of family fun.
  • Zephyr Cove (South Shore): This picturesque cove provides a calm and scenic swimming experience. The shallow shoreline makes it suitable for families with young children, while paddleboard and kayak rentals allow for exploring the cove's hidden coves. Keep in mind that Zephyr Cove also offers boat tours, so be aware of boat traffic when swimming.

Hidden Gems for the Adventurous Soul

  • Sugar Pine Point State Park (South Shore): This park offers a unique swimming experience with a long pier jutting out into the lake. While the water around the pier can be deep, there are also calm shallow areas closer to shore. The park also boasts hiking trails with panoramic views and a campground for those seeking a nature immersion experience.
  • Hidden Beach (North Shore): This aptly named beach requires a short hike to access, but the reward is a secluded and picturesque cove with crystal-clear water. The deeper waters here are ideal for stronger swimmers, and the lack of crowds provides a tranquil escape.
  • Emerald Bay State Park (South Shore): While swimming isn't allowed near Emerald Bay's iconic Vikingsholm mansion, the park offers a beautiful setting for a refreshing dip at Bonsai Rock Beach. The calm, clear waters and stunning scenery make it a worthwhile visit.

Lake Tahoe's allure extends far beyond just swimming. Take in the breathtaking scenery, hike or bike along stunning trails, or simply relax on the shore and soak up the fresh mountain air. Check out our vacation rentals on the North Side of Lake Tahoe. Whether you’re looking for a summer or winter getaway, call us at 888.598.6353 or email for help planning your next trip.