Take a Hike: The downhill route to Skunk Harbor leads to a day at the beach on Tahoe’s East Shore
Getting to the trail
From South Lake Tahoe: Take Highway 50 east toward Nevada, turn onto Highway 28 toward Incline Village. Green gate at start of trail is approximately 2 miles north on the left. Parking available on side of road beyond gate or further up road on the left.
Skunk Harbor sits tucked away on the East Shore, a picturesque alcove that strongly captures the scenery of Lake Tahoe. Accessible via a short hike from the highway, the harbor provides stunning views throughout the year — and offers an ideal spot to have a day at the beach during summer.
IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE
Starting from the green gate along Highway 28, the paved-turned-dirt road takes hikers in a favorable direction — downhill. The trail is wide from start to bottom, just watch out for loose rocks while on the move.
HEAD TOWARD THE BEACH
A little more than a quarter-mile into the hike, the road forks in two directions — stay straight toward the water to stay on track. A steeper descent begins to Skunk Harbor about a half-mile in, with the lake fully in view. The trail winds slightly away from the water before running parallel to the shore — and eventually turns back to the beach.
SAND IN SIGHT
As the shore nears, break from the road for the first time to access the beach. A left turn following a green post leads to a path marked with a brown U.S. Forest Service trail marker — from there, cross the wooden bridge and take a few more steps down to the sand.
TAKE A PICTURE, TAKE A DIP, TAKE A SNACK
Skunk Harbor offers beautiful scenery from seemingly every angle. On a sunny summer day, the water shimmers clear in Tahoe’s famous blue and green hues — take at a least a few seconds to listen to the water wash ashore and splash against the rocks that dot the shallow areas. Bring a picnic or snack to enjoy on the beach, something to fuel the eventual hike back.
KEEPING UP WITH THE GEORGES
Forest Service-owned property overlooks Skunk Harbor, largely preserved from its original form in the early 1900s. Though closed to entry, the former residences offer a glimpse at what life was like for Lake Tahoe’s wealthiest and most prominent of lore — including past owners George Newhall and George Whittell.
AT LEAST IT ISN’T UPHILL BOTH WAYS
After swimming in the cold, but refreshing water and catching some rays, leaving will likely not be a priority. But eventually, head back on the uphill hike with steady elevation gain throughout the mile-and-a-half return.
Wide service road easily hikeable from start to finish, mix of shade and sun makes it comfortable during warmer conditions. Bring sunscreen, bug spray and a swimsuit if planning to jump in the lake. Each way takes 30-45 minutes. Arrive early for parking and to avoid lots of company — boats frequent the harbor during summer.