Hike to Cave Rock Lake Tahoe NV (trail + photos)

Cave Rock Trail is one of Lake Tahoe’s most popular hikes. We’re going to show you exactly how to hike the Cave Rock Trail easily and quickly, including where to park, what to expect, and how to get amazing sunset views.

Is Cave Rock worth it?

Yes! Cave Rock is one of the best spots in Lake Tahoe at sunset, but the view is just as great at any other time of day. The hike is a breeze and leads to a fantastic overlook with unobstructed views that stretch 180 degrees across Lake Tahoe.

In this guide we will look at:

  • What is Cave Rock?
  • Where are you staying?
  • Short trail crossing
  • Sunset photos
  • Other hikes in the area

Let’s hike to Cave Rock Overlook in Lake Tahoe, NV.

*Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. If you click on one, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting the free content we provide. Read more in our disclosure policy.*

What is cave rock in Lake Tahoe?

Cave Rock is a tall and wide rock formation located on the edge of the southeastern shores of Lake Tahoe. It’s all that’s left of an old volcanic vent, and it has a very unique look to its surroundings.

Cave Rock Peak is one of the highest points along the immediate coastline, and Lake Tahoe’s main road punches right through the formation as a 2-lane tunnel.

Looking back from the lake, Cave Rock looks a bit like a giant baseball glove raised in the air, ready to catch a nearby home run.

Visitors to Lake Tahoe can walk around the back of Cave Rock and climb to its rocky summit via a short but steep hike.

The views of Lake Tahoe from the top are exceptional, especially at sunset when the clouds in the sky turn pink and purple.

Photographer in thick winter coat, tripod and camera looking at the lake
Mark tries to set up a tripod on a very windy and cold evening at Cave Rock in Lake Tahoe

Our experience

Cave Rock was one of the most anticipated photo spots on our week-long trip to Lake Tahoe.

We hiked to the top of Cave Rock about an hour before sunset so we could find the perfect sunset photo spot and set up for the event.

Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse as we approached late afternoon. It wasn’t the rain or the clouds that caused us problems, it was the wind.

On the exposed cliff top of the cave, the wind was so strong that we were unable to secure our tripod with any level of stability for long exposures. We actually felt a little unsafe as we huddled behind medium-sized rocks to protect ourselves from the storms.

We visited Lake Tahoe in November, which was generally a fantastic time to be in the area, but that meant the weather was very erratic.

However, we still enjoyed the photo spot at Cave Rock and managed to get some fun photos in the dark.

Where is Cave Rock?

The mighty cave rock formation is located at the waters edge of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park on the southeast side of Lake Tahoe.

Cave Rock is one of the distinctive geological formations around the immediate shore of Lake Tahoe.

Drivers on the Lincoln Highway between Stateline and Glenbrook will see Cave Rock from the road before passing right through the formation.

Cave Rock Trailhead

Cave Rock has two parking lots, but only one of them will allow access to the Cave Rock Trail.

Non-hikers or families with young children can park at the Cave Rock Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park picnic area and boat launch area just off the main road.

Hikers must park on a small road near the Cave Rock trailhead to access the summit of Cave Rock.

To get to the parking lot, follow these steps:

  • 1. Drive up or down the Lincoln Highway (Highway 50) to 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 on the hairpin to access the small parking area on the route

Only on this trail can you hike the Cave Rock Trail to reach the lookout.

Here is the exact Google Maps location to access the Cave Rock trailhead.

Cars parked on the side of a rough road on a hairpin bend
Three official parking spaces by the route

Cave Rock Trail Parking Lot

Parking for the Cave Rock Trail hike can be difficult, especially during peak seasons and peak weekdays.

There are only 4 or 5 parking spaces available at the Cave Rock Trailhead in Lake Tahoe. The three-lane spaces are on tarmac, and there’s room for potentially one or two extra spots at the back on dirt.

You cannot park on nearby roads. If you can’t park, try again another time.

How much is Cave Rock entrance?

Sand Harbor, Spooner Lake, and Cave Rock make up the three main attractions of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. Visiting any or all three of these locations will cost you a $10 fee for NV vehicles or $15 for non-NV vehicles.

Nevertheless, There is no fee to park at the Cave Rock trailhead as it is a separate unit for the Cave Rock picnic area and boat launch.

Therefore, it is free to walk the Cave Rock Trail at any time of the year.

Here is a confirmation of which part of Cave Rock is included in the fee area.

A dirt road leading through the trees at a slight incline towards the blue sky
The narrow dirt path gradually climbs

How far is the Cave Rock Trail?

The Cave Rock Trail in Lake Tahoe is an easy 0.9 mile round trip from the trailhead to the summit and back.

The Cave Rock Trail has a total elevation gain of about 150 feet at the exit, which changes to a similar elevation loss on the way back to the trailhead parking lot.

The Cave Rock hike in Lake Tahoe should take about 10 to 15 minutes each way at a normal walking pace.

Hike to Cave Rock Lake Tahoe Viewpoint

Let’s cover a very short step-by-step hike to Cave Rock in Lake Tahoe.

  • 1. After gratefully breaking into one of the very few parking spots at the trailhead, head to the trailhead.
  • 2. Very gradual climb on a sandy dirt road. The trail is narrow but flat and easy to walk underfoot.
  • 3. Pretty soon you’ll reach the back side of Cave Rock. Follow the path until it reaches the base of a steep but relatively easy scree.
  • 4. Be careful when navigating over rocks, especially if it’s windy.
  • 5. Arrive at the Cave Rock summit and enjoy sensational unobstructed views across Lake Tahoe.
Edges of the lake with rocks and trees in the distance
The view looking north from the summit view

Best time to walk the trail

Sunset is the most popular and best time of day to hike the Cave Rock Trail in Lake Tahoe.

We recommend arriving at the parking lot at least one hour before sunset to have a better chance of parking. Plus, the extra time allows you to carefully navigate over the rocks and settle in before sunset.

If you can’t do the sunset, why not try the sunrise?

The golden light of dawn is just as beautiful in the Lake Tahoe area, and you can almost guarantee a parking spot.

Cave Rock Sunset in Lake Tahoe Sunlight filters through the lake moments before disappearing over the distant mountains
Sunset from the top of Cave Rock

Cave Rock sunset

Most visitors to Lake Tahoe are interested in watching the best possible sunsets that light up the sky over the lake.

If this sounds like you, don’t miss Cave Rock at sunset.

We think Cave Rock Summit hosts one of the most beautiful sunset viewing spots in Lake Tahoe, and it’s relatively easy to access.

Don’t forget to charge your smartphones, GoPros and cameras, clean your SD cards and bring your tripods.

The summit is wide and open with some great vantage points to create the perfect photo frame looking out over the lake, the distant mountains and the sun as it sets over the snow capped peaks.

Wait until about 30 minutes after sunset with your camera and tripod. When it’s dusk, shoot some fun 10-20 second exposures with the light trails of the car going in and out of the tunnel below you.

Now all you need is a mod to collaborate.

Light trails of white and red cars enter a tunnel at night with a lake in the background
Light trails of cars going in and out of the tunnel below

What to pack?

Packing for hiking the Cave Rock Trail is basic and simple.

You’ll just need your usual hiking gear, but we recommend wearing shoes with good tread. The trail is soft dirt, so it will mess with your shoes, socks, or pants.

It’s not a long hike, so you won’t need to bring snacks or extra bottles of water. However, if you intend to stay for sunset, you can grab a few bites and even a glass of wine.

The most important thing to remember is a flashlight, which you should use alongside your smartphone flashlight when walking back to your car in the dark.

More hikes in the area

Planning to hit as many trails as possible during your visit to Lake Tahoe?

Here are some of our favorite hikes in the area.

  • Mt Tallac Trail
  • Eagle Rock Trail
  • Monkey Rock Trail
  • Chimney Beach Trail
  • Bonsai Rock Trail
  • Castle Rock Trail
  • Eagle Falls Trail
  • Tahoe Rim Trail
Lake Tahoe in the evening from the cave lookout at the end of Cave Rock Trail
West view from the summit at sunset

Cave Rock Trail Lake Tahoe FAQs

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most frequently asked questions about cave rock climbing in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

What time of day is the best time of day to hike Cave Rock in Lake Tahoe?

Sunset is the most popular and scenic time to hike the Cave Rock Trail in Southeast Lake Tahoe. Parking can be difficult, so we recommend arriving at least an hour before sunset for better parking opportunities.

Is Cave Rock one of the best things about Lake Tahoe?

There are so many fun and interesting 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 prefer more challenging trails instead.

Our Best Lake Tahoe Guides

Want more California content? Head to our California travel guides to explore national parks, popular road trips, and things to do in the Sunshine State’s major cities.

We hope this guide to the Cave Rock Trail helps you plan your trip to Lake Tahoe, NV.

Please let us know if you have any questions about the Cave Rock trek in the comments below.

Happy hiking!,

Mark and Kristen

Enjoying this guide to Cave Rock? Pin it for your visit.

Share this post.

Source link