Scuba and cliff jump in the Sierra!

By Jen Peng

Looking to add some excitement to your water adventures in the Sierra? Here are two different ways to play in the water this summer.

Tahoe Dive Center, Angora Lakes (Jen Peng)
Tahoe Dive Center, Angora Lakes (Jen Peng)
Tahoe Dive Center
Tahoe Dive Center

Scuba diving

Few people think of scuba diving when they think of Lake Tahoe, but the pristine waters offer excellent visibility (up to 100 feet!) — all the better to see the fascinating rock formations, vertical cliffs and sunken forests, as well as the crawfish, schools of minnows and trout that typify the diving here.

Sand Harbor is Tahoe’s most popular dive site. Diver’s Cove, a dedicated divers area, is great for beginners and a popular spot for classes. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of room for divers of all abilities. With average bottom depth of 30 feet, expect to see big boulders and crawfish. More experienced divers should swim 300 feet past the buoys to see vertical cliffs and sunken trees. Be careful of boat traffic when surfacing. Note that Nevada law requires all divers to tow a dive flag. There is a $10/$12 entrance fee.

Rubicon Point is famed for Rubicon Wall, a spectacular wall dive along a sheer cliff dropping down 1,000 feet. Located south of Calawee Beach, it’s accessible after a 400-feet surface swim, or by boat and kayak. Strong buoyancy control is required for this dive, known for great visibility, beautiful topography and schools of fingerling trout. Less advanced divers should stay in the shallower area leading up to the wall. Located in D.L. Bliss State Park, just north of Emerald Bay, there is a $10 entrance fee. From the small parking lot, there is a steep trail to the beach.

 Sand Harbor (Jen Peng)
Sand Harbor (Jen Peng)

There are over a dozen sites in the area that you can dive, featuring deep dives, night dives and even wreck dives. Be aware of the cold water and high altitude. It’s best to go with a local guide or take a high altitude diver course. In Carson City, equipment, guides and classes are available from Tahoe Dive Center. In Reno, try Adventure Scuba Center or Sierra Diving Center. tahoedivecenter.com; renoscuba.com; sierradive.com

The exhilarating experience of diving at 6,225 feet in the clear deep waters of Lake Tahoe is one you will not soon forget!

Cliff jumping

Feeling daring and want to get an adrenaline rush even before you hit the cold water? Try jumping off a cliff, or at least some large boulders.

Sand Harbor is famous for its sandy beaches, as well as an abundance of large granite boulders. Take the plunge, then warm up afterward on a boulder or on one of the multiple beaches. Extensive amenities, including a restaurant, bathrooms and watersport rentals, make this one of the most popular beaches in the area. It’s great for families, but expect a lot of people, especially on busy summer weekends.

Bonsai Rock got its name from the small trees, which are not actually bonsai, growing out of the top of the square granite boulder. Check out the resilience of these trees, then take a leap into the blue. Bonsai Rock is about a mile south of Sand Harbor. From the pullouts, you’ll see steep, but short, footpaths heading down. You can also kayak or standup paddleboard over.

Cliff Jumping
Cliff Jumping

Looking to huck off something bigger than a boulder? Angora Lakes will be your best bet, with rocks and cliffs from a few feet up to 60 feet. A great place to take the whole family, there’s also a sandy beach with shallow water for swimming, plus you can rent boats, kayaks and standup paddleboards from Angora Lakes Resort. Don’t forget to try some of their fresh squeezed lemonade. Angora Lakes is just south of Fallen Leaf Lake. It costs $7 to park, and it’s a 1-mile hike in. The cliffs are at the far end of the upper lake, use the trail to the left. Water shoes help with the climb back up from the water. angoralakesresort.com

Cliff jumping is dangerous. Always check for submerged obstacles and water depths before you jump. Also be mindful of the cold water of alpine lakes.

Whether you prefer the heights of cliff jumping or the depths of scuba diving, get your blood pumping and experience the lake in a whole new way this summer!

Leave a comment