On a recent adventure shoot, I had to photograph hiking, climbing, underwater shots, and paddleboarding all on the same trip. I was conflicted between shooting at the beach somewhere or in the mountains. Around that time though, I saw an amazing top down view of crystal clear, turquoise water with huge granite boulders that reminded me of the Seychelles Islands.

As it turns out, the location was only an 8 hour drive from me: Lake Tahoe. I had never been, but being in the middle of summer I knew I’d be dealing with crowds and partiers. Here is what I discovered in my journey that led to a successful adventure, and to not having my trip ruined by crowds.

1. Bonsai Rock

The coastline around Sand Harbor is some of my favorite in Lake Tahoe. Giant round boulders line the beaches and offer secluded spots to hang out. Sand Harbor itself is super crowded, but half a mile south is Bonsai Rock. I carried a paddle board down and used it to wander the shoreline while I waited for sunset. Being on the east side of the lake, it’s a very popular vantage point for photographers, and for good reason.

2. Cave Rock

One of the best viewpoints of Lake Tahoe is actually really easy to access. The walk to the rock itself is probably less than 1/4 mile along an easy trail that only gets steep at the very end. To get there go up Cave Rock Drive and park in a pullout at the first 180 degree turn. The trail leads off to the north straight from the pullout.

3. Pyramid Creek

Pyramid creek leads up to a number of beautiful waterfalls, the most spectacular being Horsetail Falls. 5 minutes up the trail though is a beautiful series of pools and small waterfalls that are a great spot to spend the afternoon and wash off the campfire smoke from the night before.

4. Lovers Leap

Lovers Leap is the premier climbing spot in Tahoe, routes here go for 3-4 pitches and the hike in is minimal. A really great 5.10b route is Surrealistic Pillar, and if that’s a bit over your head you can do the 5.7 next to it that shares anchors and top rope it. That is, only if people aren’t lining up to lead it.

5. Meeks Bay

Meeks bay has some of the friendliest access to the clear blue water around Tahoe. When other spots are crowded, it’s still possible to find a spot to yourself here. I recommend paddling north across the bay, to a long empty coastline where you can find some solitude.

6. Twin Bridges

Twin Bridges is my favorite area in the Tahoe region. It’s got a small town vibe, and is short on amenities, but if you’re looking for a place to get away from the resort mentality of the nearby towns and get into the woods this is the place to go.  

Editor’s note: Ben’s trip was sponsored by KNEKTSurftech, Eagle Creek, Enerplex and Danner Boots.

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