Serenity for the soul · Kayaking on Lake Tahoe

Good friends hold you accountable, and any new experience can be an adventure, if you are open to having one.

Recently, some friends invited me to join them for a morning kayak trip to explore the hidden beaches, coves and rocks of Sand Harbor State Park located on the East Shore of Lake Tahoe.


Chris Talbot | Action Watersports

I’ve lived here for a decade, and the closest thing to kayaking I’ve done was manning the ores of my niece’s inflatable raft resulting a massive sunburn. I accepted their invitation. Here’s to new experiences.

We met at the Hyatt Regency beach in Incline Village. Lake mornings are always colder than you expect. The sun was an hour from rising over the mountains. The air was crisp and quiet with only the faint hum of a far-off boat.


“The High Sierra sky was changing colors almost
without notice as the sun rose through the morning air.
The sound of the water hypnotized me.”


Paddling away from shore I felt at peace, maybe because I left my iPhone at home. Only a few words were spoken during the first 30 minutes. There was no reason to talk. We were enjoying that moment on one of the world’s most pristine alpine lakes during the early hours of the day.

Gentle strokes eased my lake kayak into an easy glide. The trees and mountains reflected off the water. My senses came alive. I noticed swooping birds, water bugs and the light breeze cool on my face. The High Sierra sky was changing colors almost without notice as the sun rose through the morning air. The sound of the water hypnotized me.

Like any good adventure, moments come and go. I’m jolted from my Zen-like state by a splash of cold water flicked from my friend’s paddle as he passed me with a bearded grin. I forgive, but don’t forget.

Sand Harbor State Park offers some of Lake Tahoe’s most spectacular shoreline due to its 55 acres of undeveloped sandy beaches, rock outcroppings and shady, pine forests. I thought about the Washoe Tribe that once fished and hunted here in the summer.

We proceeded 3 miles south of Sand Harbor to Secret Cove, known for its turquoise blue water and granite boulders that rise from the water like some shrine or a fleet of round-backed turtles. It’s a great place to explore by kayak or SUP. The water clarity is breathtaking.

Shoulders sore and energy depleted, we beached for lunch. While the others napped on warm sand, I explored the area looking for crawdads then swam out to larger boulders. The white belly of a large Osprey soared currents above me. It dove head first into water and flew off to a nearby shoreline tree with a fresh catch for a mid-morning feeding.

I was feeling inspired and alive. I leaped from the tallest rock and swam under water for as long as my breath could hold. I thought I saw a fish dart by. Next time, I will bring a mask.

When I returned, my snoozing pals were being approached by two Canadian Geese. Maybe it was their half-eaten sandwiches; I liked watching them as I do most wildlife.

You could spend your weekend exploring these hidden beaches and coves. Alas, we decided to begin our journey back as winds can build in the afternoon making the return wet and tiresome. Going the other direction rewarded us with new views of the lake’s North and West shores. We stayed close together telling silly stories that made us laugh and reflect on days gone by.

Kayaking on Lake Tahoe was a new experience for me and one that I look forward to again. The slower pace of paddling opened my awareness to the unique beauty of this special place that I sometimes take for granted. Best of all, it allowed three friends to reconnect with one unspoken agenda – to enjoy time together in the great outdoors playing like the kids we never outgrew.

Helpful tips

  • Check the weather and wind forecast before you go at
  • Pack light. Bring water, sun block, sun glasses, a hat and quick, dry layers are recommended.
  • Don’t own a kayak? Many local companies offer rentals and guided tours.
  • Visit for more information about Sand Harbor State Park.


Derek Moore works with Action Watersports of Incline Village. |


Story by Derek Moore Photo by Chris Talbot



Double bucket list special · Sand Harbor kayak & Thunderbird Lodge