Chimney Beach Lake Tahoe: Parking, Hike + Photos



Hiker in maroon sweater sat on a log in front of a stone chimney on Chimney Beach in Lake Tahoe in late afternoon

Chimney Beach is reached by hiking an easy 1-mile roundtrip trail with 200 feet elevation change from a small parking lot on the northeastern shores of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. After walking along the golden sandy beach ourselves, we think it’s one of the best beaches in Lake Tahoe because it’s free, picturesque and faces directly at the sunset each evening.

In this guide we walk you step-by-step through visiting Chimney Beach in Lake Tahoe, based on our own experiences.

Our Chimney Beach Experience

Hiker standing on top of large boulders on a beach with some trees to either side
Mark standing on boulders at the very end of Chimney Beach

We hiked down to Chimney Beach around two hours before sunset during our 6 day trip to Lake Tahoe in November 2021. It was a beautiful, sunny and clear afternoon, and we had the beach completely to ourselves for an hour.

After taking our first steps on the sand, we walked the full length of the beach until reaching a fireplace built into a tall brick chimney standing all alone and sandwiched between small boulders. It’s the only time we’ve ever seen a chimney on a beach, and we’re not sure we’ll ever see one again! Read more about us.

Trail Information

  • Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Chimney Beach is accessed by hiking a short but steep trail through a forest with packed dirt and soft sand underfoot. It’s an easy hike down but you’ll feel it in your thighs and calves on the way back up.

Once you reach the sand, you still have 5 minutes of walking on the beach to reach the chimney. Flip-flops work great once you’re on the beach but they’re not great for the forest trail section, so it’s worth considering shoes instead, especially if you’ll be carrying a cooler or heavy backpack.

Chimney Beach Trailhead Parking

Parking lot for Chimney Beach in Lake Tahoe circular shaped with around 25 spaces
Our blue SUV at the closer parking lot

You can park in two different off-road lots along NV-28 to visit Chimney Beach. The official parking area and trailhead are located northeast of the beach, but there’s a closer parking area located south of the beach with a shorter hike that we recommend you try first.

The closer lot is a small loop with around 25-30 spaces and the official lot is in a wooded area and has around 20 spaces. Both parking areas are completely off the highway, but we think there are only vault toilets in the closer lot.

We parked in the closer lot because Lake Tahoe was quiet when we visited in November. Our advice is to try the closer lot first, then try the official lot if you can’t find a free space.

Route Options

Map showing the different parking and hiking trail options to reach Chimney Beach in Lake Tahoe
Map to show you the different parking and hiking trail options for reaching Chimney Beach in Lake Tahoe

Use the topographic map we created above to orientate yourself with the two different parking lots and trails you can can use to access Chimney Beach.

Map key:

  • Red – Closer parking lot
  • Blue – Shorter hiking trail
  • Green – Official parking lot
  • Orange – Official hiking trail

Note: For the rest of this guide (including our full walkthrough below) we’ll refer only to the closer parking and short trail because it’s the best route to use.

Chimney Beach Trail Walkthrough

Next, we’re going to walk you through the hike from start to finish so you know what to expect. You’ll see our own photos from the hike and we’ll describe the trail exactly as it was for us.

1. Starting The Hike

Sign marker for a hike leading into forest in Nevada
Follow the trail for Chimney Beach at the split

We parked in the closer loop lot and walked south, passing beyond a green metal barrier and the words “no parking” painted on the ground.

Almost immediately after the barrier we reached a split in the path and a sign stating to turn right for Chimney Beach. Continuing straight at this point instead would’ve led to Secret Cove, which is a clothing optional beach.

2. Hiking Down To The Beach

Hiker on a dirt path leading into forest on the Chimney Beach Trail at Lake Tahoe in late afternoon
Kristen hiking down the forest trail to access the beach

The trail started out with small stones, sticks and vegetation underfoot, but it soon became packed dirt. And we love hiking bouncy springy packed dirt trails because it absorbs the impact.

It was quite a steep descent and it passed through some really picturesque views so we kept our eyes peeled for any photo opportunities.

3. Arriving At The Beach

Lake Tahoe on a cloudy afternoon with rocks and trees in the foreground
View over Lake Tahoe from the bottom of the descent

Near the bottom of the descent we found the trail became narrow, sandy and had more rough vegetation. So we were glad we had hiking shoes on instead of open-toed sandals or flip-flops.

Then all of a sudden we were standing on the edge of Lake Tahoe, with wide open views, golden sand and smooth boulders. We found the easiest route to the sand and took our shoes off.

3. Walking To The End

Sandy beach and boulders on the shores of a lake in Nevada
Golden sands leading to an old brick chimney

After stepping onto the sand, we proceeded to walk the entire length of the beach until we reached the next cluster of boulders sticking out into the lake.

There wasn’t a soul on the sand with us, so we really had a chance to soak up the tranquility. It was around 2 hours from sunset and we had a lovely soft light with warm temperatures.

4. Reaching The Chimney

Hiker in thick sweater and hiking pants on a sunny but cool day sat on a wooden log with rocks and trees behind
Kristen sat in front of the brick chimney

A few minutes later we finally arrived at the unique fireplace and brick chimney. We sat around on the logs and walked on the nearby boulders to see what else was around.

It turned out the beach ended at the brick chimney and beyond the cluster of boulders was just a rocky shoreline. So we turned around and climbed back up the steep dirt trail through the forest to our car.

Leave No Trace

Please take great care not to disturb formations, vegetation or wildlife when you visit Chimney Beach. It’s a beautiful place to visit and we all have to keep it that way for future generations to enjoy.

Remember and follow these 7 principles of leave no trace when hiking in Lake Tahoe:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of others

READ: The best hiking apps

Best Time To Visit Chimney Beach

Hiker walking along a sandy beach on the shores of a lake in november
Mark walking along the beach alone in November

The best time to visit Chimney Beach in Lake Tahoe during the summer is early in the morning on a weekday so you have a better chance of getting parked and beating the crowds. But in spring or fall, we think sunset is a great time to relax on the sand with a beer in one hand and a camera in the other.

Because we visited Lake Tahoe in November, we couldn’t sunbathe on the beach or do any water activities. Remember, it’s one of the best free golden sandy beaches around the lake, so we know it gets very busy in the warmer months.

Note: It’s worth checking recent comments from other visitors to see how busy the parking and beach are around the days you’ll be visiting.

What To Pack

Packing to visit Chimney Beach in Lake Tahoe raises two questions:

  • What do you need to wear for the hike?
  • What do you want to take to the beach?

The relatively steep forested trail has tree roots, stones and prickly vegetation so we recommend wearing covered shoes with good tread for this section. Once you’re on the beach you can switch into flip-flops.

And here are some things you might want to pack if you’re visiting in summer:

  • Beach towel
  • Sunscreen, sunhat and sunglasses
  • Bat and ball, SUP, football or frisbee
  • A good book to read
  • Portable grill for cooking food*
  • Beer, wine or cocktail ingredients
  • Cooler filled with assorted goodies!

*Important: Wood and charcoal fires are not permitted on Chimney Beach, but you can take a portable grill to cook food. There are no picnic tables or benches on the beach so you’ll need a fold up table or blankets.

Dogs are allowed on Chimney Beach but they must be leashed, controlled and picked up after. There are no doggie bags on the beach so you must carry your own.

READ: Day hike packing essentials

More Hikes In The Area

Are you planning to hike as many trails as possible during your visit to Lake Tahoe? Here are some of our favorite hikes for you to try in the area:

The Morgan Conclusion

Photographer stood on boulders taking a photo of a rocky shoreline
Mark taking photos of the shoreline beyond the chimney

We think Chimney Beach is one of the best free public beaches in Lake Tahoe, and it should be on every first time visitors itinerary. It’s incredibly picturesque and we think it’s the perfect place for families or couples to sunbathe, play games and swim in the lake during the warm summer months.

The closer parking lot and shorter trail are better to use for accessing the beach, so we recommend arriving early if you visit Lake Tahoe in peak season. And you should consider wearing shoes for the hike if you’ll be carrying heavy gear down to the beach.

More From Lake Tahoe

More From California + Nevada

Want more California content? Head over to our California Travel Guides to explore national parks, popular road trips and things to do in major cities of the sunshine state.

We hope this guide to hiking Monkey Rock Trail helps with planning your trip to Lake Tahoe!

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

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