Skunk Harbor Hike

Skunk Harbor doesn’t live up to its name!  This is one of the finest secluded bays on the east shore of Lake Tahoe, and very limited parking ensures that it doesn’t get too crowded.  But that also means that you have to get there early!

  • top trails tahoeTrailhead: On the lake side of Highway 28, 7.7 miles south of the Lakeshore Blvd/Hwy 28 intersection in Incline Village, or if you’re coming from Highway 50, 2.3 miles from the Hwy 50/28 junction.  Very limited parking.
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  • Length: 3 miles round trip; 1-2 hours.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate…we’ll go with moderate since you’ll be exposed to the sun during the climb to your car.
  • Usage:  Mostly hikers, dogs allowed.  Free.
  • Best Time for Photography: Skunk Harbor is still in the shade until mid-morning, then the sun clears the trees and lights up the water.  The old dock pilings also make an interesting foreground subject for sunsets.
  • Trail Info Current: May 6, 2015
  • Further Reading: Top Trails: Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Hikes for Everyone
  • Go back to Lake Tahoe Hikes map
map

Plots created using digital topographic map data, not actual GPS logs. Distance and elevation profiles are approximate.

Waters of Skunk Harbor

The cold, shallow waters of Skunk Harbor.

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Skunk Harbor Hike Narrative

I wanted to refrain from putting the hike to Skunk Harbor in this guide because I’m selfish and I want it to be a local’s secret, but you know what, I think the secret is out.  This hike is already in a few other books and all over the internets, so here are some pictures of Skunk Harbor.  I feel a little better knowing that the trail is hard to find and parking is also very limited (to about a dozen cars) and shoulder parking is illegal.

Using the trailhead directions above, you’ll be looking for a green gate on the lake side of Highway 28, with a small parking area immediately to the north of that and another small parking area about 100 yards further north.  This is the start.  It’s all downhill and flat for the 1.5 miles down, with occasional views of the lake.  You’ll see some small dirt trails cutting the switchbacks of the main road, but please stay on the main road to control erosion.  Keep Tahoe blue!

Skunk Harbor trail

The wide, graded path down to Skunk Harbor.

In the beginning you’ll see Slaughterhouse Canyon to your left; there is a fairly obvious turn in the road if you want to go down there.  Otherwise stay on the wide, graded dirt road until you get to just about lake level.  At the bottom, in a somewhat lush area, there’s a sharp fork.  You can continue straight down to the beach or turn left and follow the path to go behind the Newhall House (and eventually to the beach).

The Newhall House was built in 1923 as a wedding gift for a wealthy family using the estate as their summer retreat, back in the days when only the rich could visit Tahoe.  It was constructed using materials delivered only by boat, and the dock pilings still remain.  The house is boarded up but you can still peek through the window screens to imagine what it was like inside.

Skunk Harbor Newhall House

The Newhall House at Skunk Harbor, a summer retreat built in 1923, now abandoned.

Hidden cove near Skunk Harbor

The small cove next to Skunk Harbor.

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Tips for the Skunk Harbor Hike

  • The parking area fills up early in the summer.  If you can’t find a spot, you’re pretty much out of luck as there’s no other easy access…
  • Except for by boat.  On hot summer days you’ll also be sharing Skunk Harbor with powerboats anchored in the water.  If you want to avoid them, either go really early or really late in the day, or go during the shoulder seasons.
  • Photographers!  This area has a lot of wildlife.  Many different types of birds (I’m not a bird guy so I can’t name them all), but I do know what bald eagles look like and there’s a significant number of them in this area of the lake.  You may also see deer and, if you’re lucky, black bear.  They don’t bite.
Skunk Harbor Lake Tahoe Sunset

Sunset at Skunk Harbor on a clear evening.

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Skunk Harbor Sunset

The rocks at Skunk Harbor during sunset.

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Lake Tahoe Skunk Harbor Sunset

Sunset at Skunk Harbor on a clear evening.

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Corrections, suggestions, or questions?  Please leave a comment below!

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