Sunsets along Lake Tahoe: Eagle Falls, Emerald Bay


For a big lake with a road all the way around it, it sure is difficult to find a nice place to take a nice photo of Lake Tahoe.  At least, that’s the impression I was left with, after spending a couple of evenings on the south side of the lake.  But, I did find a few good places that allowed me to take some pictures, without making me pay for parking or admission.  Emerald Bay is a good place to start.


The good view of Emerald Bay can be found near the Eagle Falls parking lot, on California Highway 89, west of South Lake Tahoe, California.  The view from Cave Rock can be found along US 50, north of Stateline, Nevada.

My Visit

On my first evening at Lake Tahoe, I drove clockwise around the lake, from roughly the six o’clock position to seven o’clock, where I found a nice view of the water.  Lake Tahoe is out there in the distance — in the foreground, you’re seeing Emerald Bay.

Emerald Bay is home to a California State Park, which does charge an admission fee. However, you can park along the road at the Eagle Falls Trailhead to enjoy this view (and of course, see the falls).

Sunset at Eagle Falls at Emerald Bay

Eagle Creek flows underneath highway 89, then tumbles down the hillside.  This is just part of Eagle Falls — and if it had been earlier in the day, I would have hiked the trail that follows the creek up to Eagle Lake.  But for a late-evening stop, this waterfall was just fine.

As the sun set, I scrambled around the brink of the falls, looking for the best view of the lake while trying to capture some of the flowing water.  It’s a tricky area to photograph, with other people getting in the way and a horizon that never had trees in the right place for my taste.

This is as good as I could do, and it’s not a bad shot, but it’s still not exactly the sunset photo I was looking for.

At the time I didn’t know it, but you can hike a short distance up the Eagle Falls Trail to a nice viewpoint overlooking Emerald Bay.  Google Street View has a nice shot of it.

Cave Rock, Nevada

On my second night at Lake Tahoe, I had returned from the Carson City area just in time to catch the post-sunset glow at Cave Rock, on the Nevada side of the lake.  This viewpoint requires a parking fee, however, I was in and out in just a minute, and no one seemed to mind.

I’ve read that the top of Cave Rock is a great place to watch the sunset. There’s a trail (with very limited parking) off Cave Rock Drive that takes you out to the top of Cave Rock.  I didn’t get there on this trip, but I’ll try it next time.

A few years ago, on another visit to Lake Tahoe, I found some beautiful rocks on the northeast side of the lake (probably somewhere around the 2-o’clock position, possibly near Bonsai Rock).  The setting sun cast a beautiful light on the huge boulders along the shore.  On this trip, unfortunately, I didn’t make it back up to this spot.

I know my list of sunset spots along Lake Tahoe isn’t complete, but I’d love to hear about your favorites!  Tell everyone about them in the comments below.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive from South Lake Tahoe to Emerald Bay, and more of the southwest side of the lake…

… and the drive up to Stateline, and over the mountains on the Kingsbury Grade:

The Bottom Line

Much of Lake Tahoe’s waterfront is either private property or part of a state park.  You either can’t access it or you have to pay a big parking fee just to take a sunset photo.  Eagle Falls at Emerald Bay is a good, free spot to catch a sunset, and I’d highly suggest driving up to the northeast side as well.

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