Lake Tahoe’s Secret Cove – A Hidden Gem

Quick Accommodation Tips

Our Recommendations:

South Lake Tahoe

Live like the locals! Great starting point for hikes and close to grocery stores.


More touristy; close to casinos, restaurants and beaches without much nature.


Surrounded by nature with great panoramic views of the lake and mountains. Great starting point for hiking trails.

Our Personal Favorites:

High-End > Value > Budget

Who doesn’t love finding a secret spot that other people don’t know about? We know we do. However, it’s getting harder and harder to find and keep spots like these, especially when articles like this one exist. One reason we like to share insider tips is because we want everyone to be able to benefit from all of the amazing experiences that are possible on our beautiful planet. It’s not “tourism” that ruins our favorite places, but rather disrespectful people who spoil the experience for others. The secret cove in Lake Tahoe is one of those wonderful hidden gems, but if you want to go there, then we beg you to please read the next section carefully.

Important Must-Read Information

The Secret Cove is a favorite among locals and we want them to be able to continue enjoying this little haven. After all, the lake is bombarded with tourists all year long and they need some place where they can relax and enjoy themselves. Here are 3 unspoken rules that you must abide by, so read through these before moving on:

  1. Nudity is allowed. If you can’t respect that or are going to make a scene about it, then just don’t go. There are plenty of other places on the lake where you can act like a jerk.
  2. Don’t be a tourist: Take pictures of the crystal clear blue water, but don’t gawk at the nudity and do NOT take pictures of your fellow beachgoers who are just trying to relax.
  3. Keep it clean! This has two meanings: The first is the one you’re thinking of and the second is pick up your GD trash! Beautiful places are only beautiful when we keep them that way.

The ultimate rule that should always apply is be respectful. It sounds simple, but disrespect for local cultures and traditions is the number 1 reason why tourists are disliked in so many places. So now that you understand this and have agreed to those rules, we’ll give you directions to the cove.

How to Get There

It’s much easier to get there then one might think. Here’s how:

  1. Drive to the Secret Harbor parking lot (free parking), located near Chimney Beach.
  2. Walk south down the dirt road next to the public restroom for about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Once you see the cove on your right, take a trail down to the beach.

Bonus tip: Don’t bring food. Wasps will swarm out of nowhere and ruin your plans for a picnic. XD

Alternative Routes

If no parking is available at the public parking lot, then you may be able to find roadside parking right next to the cove. There are also trails from here that wind down to the cove.

If you make the mistake that we did or if you just feel like taking the path less traveled, then you’ll take the “Chimney Beach Trail” instead. This trail is actually really cool because you get some views of the lake that you could otherwise only get from the water. The trailhead is located right next to the main path at the Secret Harbor Parking Lot. Take this trail down the side of the mountain and “choose your own adventure” as you take any number of trails that will weave and wind toward the lake and eventually bring you to the secret cove.

Secret Cove vs. Sand Harbor

What’s the difference between Secret Cove and Sand Harbor? Most of the iconic photos you see of Lake Tahoe that feature people paddle boarding or kayaking through crystal clear water with giant boulders are taken at Sand Harbor. Sand Harbor is probably the most popular tourist beach at the lake for this reason. Here, you pay $10 to park, you can rent paddle boards and other equipment and there’s also a snack bar. At Secret Cove, you can’t rent any equipment and there’s no snack bar, but the parking is free and you will find the same crystal clear water with giant boulders scattered throughout. No matter where you go, the water is cold!


We really hope you found this article helpful. Again, if you plan on going to Secret Cove, then you absolutely must respect the unspoken rules listed above. Enjoy!

Did you know? We have a free Premium Lake Tahoe Travel Guide that is the perfect companion during your trip to Tahoe. Likewise, you can read our budget travel tips for Lake Tahoe in our ultimate Lake Tahoe travel guide.

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About the Authors

Authors Ryne Cook and Denise Braun from He Said or She Said

Ryne and Denise Cook: We spent 2 weeks at Lake Tahoe with the goal of finding the best ways to get from place to place, the funnest things to do and the most affordable ways to have a vacation there. The time spent here led to our articles about the gorgeous lake and the stunning parks surrounding it.

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