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15 Gorgeous Recreational Lakes near Lake Tahoe

The Lake Tahoe area boasts many lakes and reservoirs suitable for camping, swimming, kayaking, and fishing. Those looking for an alternative to Lake Tahoe can find quiet and picturesque lakes and avoid crowds.
ItIsWild.com: Best Lakes near Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a world-famous vacation spot that attracts 15 million visitors every year. With crowds come traffic and steep prices, but it’s possible to enjoy the area without breaking a wallet.

The smaller lakes around Lake Tahoe are just as scenic, and their clear water is just as inviting. Many options on this list have campgrounds and offer swimming, fishing, and boating. And some even have cabins and boat rentals.

These smaller lakes are quieter alternatives or delightful additions to Lake Tahoe. Check out what the area has to offer!

Lakes near Lake Tahoe:

  1. Fallen Leaf Lake
  2. Echo Lakes
  3. Caples Lake
  4. Silver Lake
  5. Spooner Lake
  6. Wrights Lake
  7. Ice House Reservoir
  8. Martis Creek Lake
  9. Washoe Lake
  10. Donner Lake
  11. Prosser Creek Reservoir
  12. Boca Reservoir
  13. Independence Lake
  14. Stampede Reservoir
  15. Lahontan Reservoir 
Lakes near Lake Tahoe Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Fallen Leaf Lake

Fallen Leaf Lake
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Fallen Leaf Lake
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 2 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

A few miles west of South Lake Tahoe in California, Fallen Leaf Lake sits at 6,377 feet above sea level. Glen Alpine Creek serves as a source for this alpine lake, one with an average depth of 240 feet and a reputation for clarity. 

Created by glaciers during the last Ice Age, the narrow lake spans nearly three miles from Fallen Leaf Campground near Camp Richardson and Emerald Bay Road southward to the unincorporated community of Fallen Leaf, the Glen Alpine Trailhead, and nearby Glen Alpine Falls. 

The lake is a popular destination for fishing, boating, and camping. Although much of the lakefront remains in private hands, public access points near the campground and at other locations offer places where people can carry down a canoe or kayak, or fish from the embankment. 

This 1,408-acre lake sustains kokanee salmon, brown trout, lake trout, and rainbows. Shore fishing is best near the campground, with lake trout often swimming deep in the lake. 

2. Echo Lakes

Echo Lakes
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Echo Lakes
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 8 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Located eight miles south of Lake Tahoe, the Echo Lakes area is a great four-season destination that allows people to reconnect with nature. The Lower and Upper Echo Lakes trace their origin to glaciers from long ago. 

After winter ice melts, the water levels rise above the narrow channel between these lakes that can briefly accommodate boats. During the summer and fall, the water level drops, so that this channel is not navigable. 

Hiking and fishing are common during the summer months. At 7,414 feet above sea level, warmer temperatures are ideal for hiking to the Lake Aloha reservoir and into the 60,000-acre Desolation Wilderness Area’s unspoiled forests. 

By late summer, an invigorating swim in the lakes offers a refreshing escape. Waterskiing and boating are popular. When lakes freeze over, the nearby Echo Lake Sno-Park swings into operation. Skiing and dog-sledding are popular activities during winter. 

A dam has increased the size of these natural lakes to approximately 338 acres. Bank or boat fishing bring out anglers who enjoy casting a line for brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout.

3. Caples Lake

Caples Lake
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Caples Lake
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 30 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

A drive 30 miles south of South Lake Tahoe, Caples Lake was an important stopping point along the Old Emigrant Trail for those who traveled by horse and wagon during the California Gold Rush. 

The El Dorado Irrigation District includes this now-impounded, 620-acre lake as a unit within its hydroelectric system. Working in partnership with the Eldorado National Forest, the district provides a day-use area and lake access at the Caples Lake Public Boat Launch.

At approximately 7,800 feet in elevation, this lake is open seasonally. Summertime brings boaters to the lake, where afternoon winds often provide a robust boost for the sails. 

The Caples Lake Campground and privately-operated Caples Lake Resort offer places for overnight stays. The Emigrant Lake Trailhead and other access points allow hikers and backpackers to explore nearby mountains and other nearby areas, including Woods Lake and its campground to the east. 

A nearby resort at Kirkwood attracts visitors throughout the year and offers a full slate of winter activities. Recreational fishing brings many anglers to this lake in search of trout.

4. Silver Lake

silver lake california
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Silver Lake
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 35 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking

Silver Lake is five miles beyond Caples Lake on Carson Pass Highway. This 525-acre lake is managed as the Hydroelectric Project 184 by the El Dorado Irrigation (EID) District. 

Similar to the EID facilities at Caples Lake, EID also provides day-use infrastructure along this lake, as well as the Silver Lake West Campground. The US Forest Service offers campers another option at the Silver Lake East Campground

Visitors flock to this area during the summer months. The convenient boat launch along the highway often fills as boaters launch their vessels so they can fish or visit Treasure Island, a beautiful location within the lake with impressive alpine views. Ice and snow blanket this area during the winter. 

This site offers access to a variety of trails and fishing opportunities. The Granite Lake trail passes Kit Carson Lodge, a seasonal venue open from June into early October, while others connect with nearby lakes. 

Anglers casting lines in Silver Lake will find lake, brown, rainbow, and brook trout. 

5. Spooner Lake

Spooner Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Spooner Lake
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 3 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Mountain Biking

A 12-mile drive north of Stateline, Spooner Lake was designed in 1927 as a location adjacent to the North Canyon Creek basin to impound water for irrigation. The Nevada Department of Wildlife transitioned this 78-acre reservoir into a trout fishery in 1973. 

At 6,980 feet, the lake is a prominent feature in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. Nearly 50 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian paths offer remote access near the lake. Three walk-in, primitive campgrounds are available.

Most fishing at Spooner Lake happens during the period from May through October. The area experiences significant ice and snowfall that extends from late fall well into spring, giving the backcountry a reputation as a place for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. 

Trout and tui chub swim in the lake. 

6. Wrights Lake

Wrights Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Wrights Lake
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 32 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

A scenic 32-mile drive southwest of South Lake Tahoe, Wrights Lake sits along the western side of the Desolation Wilderness. 

This remote location offers impressive views, with Wrights Lake Campground sitting close to the lake and available during its relatively brief summer window of operation. 

Fir and pine trees surround the lake, a place where motorboats are prohibited to maintain the 40-acre lake’s tranquil, pristine character. 

Access to Wrights Lake is along a narrow, paved roadway along US Highway 50, the El Dorado Freeway. The Forni Meadows, Lyons Creek, and Twin Lakes trailheads offer scenic diversions. 

Mountain biking is another popular activity in the area near Wrights Lake. Trout are the fish commonly caught in this body of water. 

7. Ice House Reservoir

  • Website: Ice House Reservoir
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 38 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing, Paddleboarding

Thirty-eight-mile drive from South Lake Tahoe offers an escape to the higher elevations of the Eldorado National Forest. 

Ice House Reservoir is a popular alpine destination for those traveling through the oak foothills into the ponderosa pine forests and higher elevations. 

At 5,400 feet above sea level, the reservoir offers year-round fishing opportunities, as road conditions permit. 

Fish commonly found in Ice House Reservoir include trout added during summer months by the California Department of Fish and Game, as well as kokanee salmon and golden shiners. 

A boat ramp offers easy access to this reservoir that was formed after the Ice House Dam opened in the late 1950s. Swimming, kayaking, and waterskiing are popular water activities.

Land activities include hiking and biking along trails that follow slopes and offer great views of the reservoir. 

Forest Service campgrounds stay open during the summer season, though renovations have closed these sites in 2022 for upgrades.

8. Martis Creek Lake

Martis Creek Lake
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Website: Martis Creek Lake
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 12 miles
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, SUP, Canoeing, Hiking, Camping

Martis Creek Lake is a 770-acre lake near Truckee. It’s managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and offers a wide range of recreational opportunities.

Although motorized boats are prohibited, the lake is fantastic for canoeing, kayaking, and SUPs and offers peaceful paddling along its marshy shoreline.

Fishing is popular for ‘catch and release’ at this lake. Anglers catch trophy-sized rainbow, brown, or lahontan cutthroat trout here.

Besides the lake, the surrounding area has many facilities, including picnic sites, campgrounds, restrooms, and the opportunity to spot wildlife, including black bears, bobcats, beavers, porcupines, ospreys, red-tailed hawks, and mule deer, just to name a few.

If you’re planning a lake trip and looking for a quiet and peaceful setting, Martis Creek Lake has to be one of the top options.

Like many reservoirs, the water level fluctuates throughout the season. The best time for water activities is early to mid-summer.

9. Washoe Lake

Washoe Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Washoe Lake
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 31 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Washoe Lake is situated north of Carson City and is extremely popular with water sports enthusiasts. Its most developed part is Washoe Lake State Park that offers plenty of facilities and is an excellent family destination.

The lake itself has two boat launching ramps at Little Washoe and North Ramp, making it the perfect spot for a day out on the water.

Fishing is also popular here, with bullhead, channel catfish, white bass, wipers, and Sacramento Perch waiting to be caught. 

Rare waterfowl can often be seen at Washoe Lake too, and the lake is known for its wetlands, perfect for migratory birds. 

This destination is ideal for varied water activities, including kayaking, SUPs, wakeboarding, and jet skiing. And if you tire of the water’s fun, there are camping, picnic areas, and hiking trails to enjoy.

The only problem with this lake is its popularity; it can get busy pretty quickly. But those who like to explore will easily find peaceful spots for themselves.

10. Donner Lake

Donner Lake
Source: unsplash
  • Website: Donner Lake
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 16 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Donner Lake is a hugely popular destination located in Donner Memorial State Park. It’s one of the most developed lakes on the list, so if you’re looking for a lake surrounded by the hustle and bustle, this is it.

In terms of activities on the water, you can swim, fish, boat, and take part in different water sports, so there’s plenty to do here. And if you ever tire of the water, Donner Memorial State Park has plenty of hiking trails, play areas, and picnic spots to enjoy.

For those who want a more relaxed day, China Cove Beach at Donner Lake is the perfect spot to unwind and sunbathe.

When it comes to fishing, the lake isn’t great, and there are better options nearby. However, it does get stocked and is known for kokanee trout.

And when it comes to accommodation, you are spoiled for choice. There are cabins, lodges, and multiple campgrounds around the lake; your level of comfort is only limited by your budget here.

11. Prosser Creek Reservoir

Prosser Creek Reservoir
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Prosser Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 18 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Like many options on the list, Prosser Creek Reservoir is located near Truckee. It’s easily accessed from I-80 and offers a peaceful alternative to Lake Tahoe.

There is plenty to do on the water, including kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Motorized boating is permitted, but there is a 10-mph speed limit to obey.

Campgrounds can be found on the west shore, and fishing is excellent, with rainbow trout, brown trout, and bass found in abundance.

The problems with Prosser Creek Reservoir are that the water level can drop very low, and the nearby campsites lack amenities. Besides that, it’s a fun and relaxing spot.

12. Boca Reservoir

Boca Reservoir
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Boca Reservoir
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 21 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Boca Reservoir is a popular spot for water sports near Lake Tahoe. It is one of the most versatile destinations on the list, yet it feels wild and primitive.

Waterskiing, motorized boating, and windsurfing (on the east shore, especially) are all possible. And swimming, SUPs, kayaking, and canoeing are popular, too. 

When it comes to multi-day trips, there are a couple of campgrounds around the lake. But, the facilities are limited to just restrooms, with no hookups or running water.

Despite its primitive setting, the Boca Reservoir is easily accessible from I-80, making it an excellent option for all.

13. Independence Lake

Independence Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Independence Lake
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 34 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Picnics, Hiking

A 30-plus mile drive northwest of Lake Tahoe, about 20 miles beyond Truckee, Independence Lake has attracted interest since the indigenous Washoe people lived along the lake thousands of years ago. 

During the 1970s, Disney expressed interest in developing a mountain ski resort at this location. The company abandoned these plans after public outcry. 

The Nature Conservancy later acquired acreage surrounding this lake as Independence Lake Preserve. 

Visitors enjoy hiking, kayaking, bird watching, and fishing in the upper Sierra Nevada. Nearby pine forests offer refuge for bears, wolverines, mountain lions, and mule deer. The lake also serves as a backup regional water source.

The lake’s relatively remote location created a preserve for Lahonton fish species, including the Lahontan cutthroat trout that have largely disappeared. The lake also hosts brown and brook trout and Kokanee salmon. 

14. Stampede Reservoir

Stampede Reservoir
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Stampede Reservoir
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 23 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Stampede Reservoir is a 3,450-acre reservoir and one of the most exciting destinations on the list. Besides the campgrounds nearby, Stampede Reservoir is left undeveloped, making it a wonderful place to reconnect with nature.

Waterskiing, motor boating, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming are just some of the activities available. Considering the sheer size of the reservoir, there is always room to enjoy the water.

The nearby campgrounds are the only developed areas with picnic tables, campsites, and toilets for the amenities, but that’s pretty much it.

Despite the number of fun activities here, there really aren’t as many visitors as you’d expect. In fact, most of the year, the traffic is relatively light around the lake.

Stampede Reservoir is the larger neighbor of Boca Reservoir. Both lakes are accessed from the same direction, which provides an excellent choice of campgrounds and activities.

15. Lahontan Reservoir 

Lahontan Reservoir
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lahontan Reservoir
  • Distance from Lake Tahoe: 55 miles
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Wakeboarding, Waterskiing, Tubing

Lahontan Reservoir is located near Silver Springs and boasts 69 miles of shoreline, making it one of the largest lakes near Lake Tahoe.

Day trips are popular, but there are plenty of camping opportunities around the shoreline, so it’s worth staying a few days to make the most of the area.

Waterskiing, boating, and fishing are all popular, and a canoeing day trip from Fort Churchill back towards the lake via Carson River is the one that paddlers will love.

One of the most developed parts of the lake is the state park on the northern shore, near the dam. The facilities here include showers, restrooms, boat ramps, and campgrounds. Apart from that, the lake is very wild and primitive. 

The lake’s undeveloped setting will be advantageous for some people while others will find it too baren. However, when visiting, one thing to consider is that the water level can drop significantly here, reducing the lake to a puddle.

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