3 Beautiful State Parks In South Lake Tahoe You Need To Explore

Best Recreation Areas In South Lake Tahoe

The Jewel of the Sierra will find no trouble taking your breath away all on its own with its shimmering blue water amidst a vast green pine forest. The sights and scenes present at South Lake Tahoe are truly special, and they practically beg to be further explored.


Fortunately, there are plenty of well-established California and Nevada state parks in South Lake Tahoe that make getting out to explore the scenery a breeze. Each South Lake Tahoe state park features great trails that lead to some of the best views in all of Tahoe. Plus, the ease of access to each park along with great area amenities go a long way in crafting the perfect day of adventure.


With all that said, let's lace up our boots, fill up our water bottles, and get set to check out the 3 most beautiful state parks in South Lake Tahoe!

1. Van Sickle Bi-State Park - CA and NV

First up to bat is the nations first ever state park to cover two states, Van Sickle Bi-State Park. This park is one of the most accessible in all of the Tahoe Basin, and it offers abundant adventure opportunities within its 725 acres. At Van Sickle, hiking and mountain biking are the star activities with miles of easy to moderate trails that anyone can enjoy. Along those trails, you'll discover plenty of rock outcrops and stops at scenic overlooks that are picture-perfect for taking... well, pictures!


In addition to this park's own trails, Van Sickle Bi-State Park provides access to the famed Tahoe Rim Trail that circumnavigates the entire lake. Although we aren't suggesting you tackle the entire 170-mile trail, it is a staple of visiting Lake Tahoe to at least sample a section of this revered rim trail.


Other Van Sickle Bi-State Park Information:

  • No fees to enter park.
  • Open year-round from sunrise to sunset for pedestrians. Open May 1 - October 31 from sunrise to sunset for vehicles.
  • Pets are welcome, but must be kept on a leash less than or equal to six feet in length.

2. Emerald Bay State Park - CA

We live here and we still can't believe just how drop-dead gorgeous Emerald Bay State Park is. As you can see, the golden hour time at sunrise is where the truly magical views come in, but really any time of day this spot still stands as one of the most scenic areas in South Lake Tahoe. Better still, there's much more to do at Emerald Bay that just gawk at the view. The Lake Tahoe staple activities of hiking, mountain biking and water sports are all available to partake in at this state park.


On the trails front, the Vikingsholm and Emerald Point trails are great to check out for their manageable distance and splendid views. However, there are a fantastic amount of other great Emerald Bay trails to trek on besides those fan-favorites which might offer smaller crowds. Of course, a must-do activity at Emerald bay is to grab a boat, kayak, or SUP to get to the bay's beautiful Fannette Island. It goes without saying that, no matter what you do, always bring a camera to this state park.


Other Emerald Bay State Park Information:

  • There is a vehicle parking fee of $5-10 depending on the season.
  • The park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset.
  • No pets are allowed at the park.

3. Sugar Pine Point State Park

Encompassing an area of 2,500 acres is Lake Tahoe's largest state park, the Sugar Pine Point State Park. This immense space provides plenty of room to explore the excellent trails that weave through Sugar and Jeffrey Pines as well as aspen, fir, and juniper trees. In addition to the hiking trails, this state park features approximately 2 miles of lakeshore access, making it the perfect spot to just into Tahoe's refreshing cool waters.


The other attribute that sets the Sugar Pine Point State Park apart is the stunning Hellman-Ehrman Mansion (AKA the Pine Lodge). Designed by Walther Danforth Bliss and completed in 1903, this incredible work of early 20th century architecture provides a unique view into how the ultra-wealthy once lived at Lake Tahoe. During the summers, the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion opens to the public for guided tours.


Other Sugar Pine Point State Park Information:

  • There is a vehicle parking fee of $5-10 depending on the season.
  • Call the park for day use hours at (530) 525-9528.
  • Dogs are allowed in developed areas only, and must be kept on a leash less than or equal to six feet in length.

And that's it for our picks on the 3 most beautiful state parks in South Lake Tahoe! Be sure to check out our South Lake Tahoe area guide for more things to do, and keep an eye on our blog for more great local tips!


Last but not least, be sure to complete your South Lake Tahoe trip with an RnR vacation home. We take pride in offering some of the most comfortable and luxurious homes in all of the Lake Tahoe Basin, and we cannot wait to give you the perfect vacation stay!