Cave Rock Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Lake Tahoe. We are going to show you exactly how to hike the easy and quick Cave Rock Trail, including where to park, what to expect and how to find stunning sunset views from the vista.
Is Cave Rock worth it?
Yes! Cave Rock is among the very best Lake Tahoe sunset spots, but the view is just as immense any other time of day. The hike is a breeze and it leads to a fantastic viewpoint with unobstructed views stretching 180 degrees across Lake Tahoe.
In this guide we will cover:
- What is Cave Rock?
- Where do you park?
- Walkthrough of the short trail
- Sunset photos
- Other hikes in the area
Let’s hike to Cave Rock viewpoint in Lake Tahoe, NV!
What Is Cave Rock In Lake Tahoe?
Cave Rock is a tall and wide rock formation perched on the edge of Lake Tahoe’s southeastern shores. It is all that remains from an old volcanic vent and it has a very unique appearance within its surroundings.
The summit of Cave Rock is one of the tallest points along the immediate shoreline and the main Lake Tahoe loop road punches right through the formation in the form of a 2 lane tunnel.
From the lake looking back, Cave Rock looks a bit like a gigantic baseball glove raised high in the air ready to catch a near home-run.
Visitors to Lake Tahoe can hike around the back side of Cave Rock and climb to its rocky summit via a short but steep scramble.
Views over Lake Tahoe from the summit are exceptional, especially at sunset when clouds in the sky turn pink and purple.
Cave Rock was one of the most highly anticipated photography locations on our week long trip to Lake Tahoe.
We hiked to the summit of Cave Rock around one hour before sunset so we could scout out the perfect sunset photography spot and settle in ready for the event.
Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse as we approached late afternoon. It wasn’t rain or clouds that caused problems for us, it was the wind!
The wind was so strong up there on the exposed summit of Cave Rock that we couldn’t get our tripod set up with any level of stability for long exposures. We actually felt a little unsafe as we crouched down behind medium sized boulders for protection from the gusts.
We visited Lake Tahoe in November, which on the whole was a fantastic time to be in the area but it did mean the weather was highly volatile.
Nonetheless, we still enjoyed the photo spot at Cave Rock and we were able to capture a handful of fun photos in the dark.
Where Is Cave Rock?
The towering Cave Rock formation is situated on the waters edge in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, which is located to the southeastern side of Lake Tahoe.
Cave Rock is one of the standout geological formations around Lake Tahoe’s immediate shoreline.
Drivers on Lincoln Highway between Stateline and Glenbrook will see Cave Rock from the road before passing directly through the formation.
Cave Rock Trailhead
Cave Rock has two parking areas but only one of them will allow you to hike up Cave Rock trail.
Non hikers or families with young kids can park at Cave Rock Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park picnic site and boat launch area right on the side of the main road.
Hikers must park in a small roadside lot at Cave Rock trailhead in order to access the summit viewpoint at Cave Rock.
To reach the parking lot, follow these steps:
- 1. Drive up or down Lincoln Highway (Highway 50) for Cave Rock Lake Tahoe State Park
- 2. Turn off Lincoln Highway onto Cave Rock Drive
- 3. Drive 0.2 miles until you reach a sharp right hairpin turn
- 4. Go straight at the hairpin to enter the small trailhead parking lot
Only from this exact trailhead can you hike Cave Rock trail to reach the viewpoint.
Here is the exact Google Maps location for accessing Cave Rock trailhead.
Cave Rock Trail Parking
Parking to hike Cave Rock Trail can be challenging, especially in peak seasons and at peak times of the week.
There are just 4 or 5 parking spaces available at Cave Rock Trailhead in Lake Tahoe. Three spaces with lines are on tarmac and there is room for potentially one or two extra spots at the back side on dirt.
You cannot park on the roads nearby. If you can’t get parked, try again at another time.
How Much Is Entry To Cave Rock?
Sand Harbor, Spooner Lake and Cave Rock make up the three major attractions in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. Visiting any or all three of these spots will cost you a fee of $10 for NV vehicles or $15 for non-NV vehicles.
However, there is no fee to park at Cave Rock trailhead because it is a separate entity to the Cave Rock picnic area and boat launch.
Therefore, it is free to hike Cave Rock trail any time of year.
Here is confirmation about which part of Cave Rock is included in the fee area.
How Long Is Cave Rock Trail?
Cave Rock Trail in Lake Tahoe is an easy 0.9 miles roundtrip hike from trailhead to summit and back.
Total elevation gain on the Cave Rock trail is around 150 ft on the way out, which changes to the same elevation loss on the way back to the trailhead parking lot.
The Cave Rock hike in Lake Tahoe should take around 10 to 15 minutes each way at a casual walking pace.
Hiking To The Cave Rock Lake Tahoe Viewpoint
Let’s cover a very brief step by step walkthrough of the hike to Cave Rock in Lake Tahoe:
- 1. After gratefully snagging one of the very few parking spots at the trailhead, proceed to the beginning of the trail.
- 2. Very gradually gain elevation on the sandy dirt path. The trail is narrow but level and easy going underfoot.
- 3. Very soon you will arrive at the back side of Cave Rock. Follow the trail until it reaches the base of a steep but relatively simple scramble.
- 4. Take care when navigating the boulders, especially if it is windy.
- 5. Arrive at Cave Rock summit and enjoy sensational unobstructed views across Lake Tahoe.
Best Time To Hike The Trail
Sunset is the most popular and best time of day to hike Cave Rock trail in Lake Tahoe.
We recommend arriving to the parking lot at least one hour before sunset so you have a better chance getting a parking spot. In addition, the extra time allows you to navigate the boulders carefully and get settled before sunset.
If you can’t make sunset, why not try sunrise?
Golden light at dawn is equally as beautiful in the Lake Tahoe area and you can almost guarantee a parking spot.
Cave Rock Sunset
Most visitors to Lake Tahoe are interested in watching the best possible sunsets lighting up the sky over the lake.
If this sounds like you, don’t miss Cave Rock at sunset.
We think Cave Rock is one of the best Lake Tahoe sunset photo spots of all, and it is relatively easy to access.
Don’t forget to charge your smartphones, GoPros and cameras, clear your SD cards and bring your tripods.
The summit is wide and open with several great spots to set up the perfect photo frame overlooking the lake, distant mountains and sun as it sets over the snow capped peaks.
Wait until around 30 minutes after sunset with your camera and tripod. Once it is twilight, capture a couple of fun 10-20 second exposures to get car light trails entering and leaving the tunnel below you.
Now, all you need is the weather to cooperate!
What To Pack
Packing to hike Cave Rock trail is basic and straightforward.
You will just need your usual hiking gear but we do recommend wearing shoes with good tread. The trail is soft dirt so it will make a mess of your shoes and socks or pants.
It isn’t a long hike so you won’t need to carry snacks or extra bottles of water. However, if you are planning to stay for sunset, you might want to pack a few bits to eat and maybe even a glass of wine!
The most important thing to remember is a headlamp, which you should use alongside your smartphone flashlight when hiking back to your car in the dark.
More Hikes In The Area
Are you planning to hike as many trails as possible during your visit to Lake Tahoe?
Here are just some of our favorite hikes in the area:
- Mt Tallac Trail
- Eagle Rock Trail
- Monkey Rock Trail
- Chimney Beach Trail
- Castle Rock Trail
- Bonsai Rock Trail
- Eagle Falls Trail
- Tahoe Rim Trail
Cave Rock Trail Lake Tahoe FAQ’s
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the Cave Rock hike in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Sunset is by far the most popular and most picturesque time of day to hike the Cave Rock trail in southeastern Lake Tahoe. Parking may be challenging, so we recommend arriving at least one hour before sunset to stand a better chance of getting parked.
There are so many fun and exciting things to do around Lake Tahoe. We think Cave Rock is a great option for photographers and those looking for easier hikes in the area. However, serious hikers may want to prioritize more challenging trails instead.
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We hope this guide to hiking Cave Rock Trail helps with planning your trip to Lake Tahoe, NV!
Please let us know if you have any questions about the Cave Rock hike below in the comments.
Mark and Kristen
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Mark and Kristen Morgan are travel, hiking and photography experts. Over the last 6 years traveling full time, they have explored more than 40 countries and 30 US states.
Their work has been featured in USA Today, Gestalten, Get Your Guide, CityPASS and Condé Nast Traveler along with various other publications.