Popular Tahoe beach destination facing overcrowding will soon require reservation

One of Tahoe’s most popular destinations for tourists, known for its pristine, sandy beaches and access to crystal clear waters, will soon be requiring reservations due to massive overcrowding and traffic congestion.

Starting Aug. 17, Sand Harbor State Park on Lake Tahoe's eastern shore will begin implementing a new day-use reservation system that will apply to every vehicle entering the grounds on weekends and holidays. The rule will be enforced from the park's opening at 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

After 10:30 a.m., it will be first come, first served, as long as the park has not reached capacity, state parks officials explained. 

The new policy will initially be under a trial period, which will last through Oct. 13, as a soft launch to help both staff and visitors adjust to the new system, according to Nevada State Parks Education and Information Officer Tyler Kerver. 

Full implementation of the system is set to go into effect next April, when reservations will then be required 7 days a week. 

Reservations will be required every year during the park's busy season from mid-April to mid-October.

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A $5.00 processing fee will be charged on all reservations. That fee will be on top of the park entrance fee of $10 for Nevada-registered vehicles and $15 for out-of-state vehicles. 

The new rule will not apply to visitors entering the park through the pedestrian access on the East Shore Trail. 

Sand Harbor has exploded in popularity in recent years, especially since the COVID pandemic when folks began flocking to outdoor spaces and recreational opportunities.

Kerver said last year, Sand Harbor had 1.2 million visitors coming in on vehicles through the main entrance.

That’s up almost a million more compared to 2012, when parks officials said they saw 300,000 visitors.

Officials said the reservations will not only help with park and beach overcrowding, but with traffic congestion along Highway 28. 

Kerver said Sand Harbor will be the second Nevada state park to begin requiring reservations, after Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area in the southern part of the state.

He said the new policy there has exceeded expectations, leaving both staff and visitors "way more happy" with congestion drastically eased. 

Kerver said Sand Harbor, "located in one of the most beautiful areas," with its mile of beach space, inviting trails and picnic sites, has become a favorite spot for Tahoe visitors, and he expects the new rules will help make the experience even more enjoyable for all.