family-friendly lakes donner lake

Family-Friendly Lakes To Visit

As residents of Northern Nevada, we are fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful alpine lakes the world has to offer, and it’s not just me that thinks that.

Family-friendly lakes are just a short drive from your door, and they are totally worth the visit. Admittedly, I have not had the good fortune to visit all of them, so please feel free to let me know where you take your babes for a good lake day!

West-End Beach | Donner Lake 

West-End Beach at Donner Lake is my absolute favorite place to hang with my babes during the summer. It costs $5 per adult and $4 per child to visit.

First and foremost, I love it so much because I think that it is the safest place to bring my young daughters. There are designated swim areas, and there’s even a tiny one for toddlers.  There are lifeguards patrolling the swimmers, and while I do my best to make sure my kids are water-safe, it doesn’t hurt to know that there’s another set of eyes watching out for my little ones.

The beach is also completely gated, and there’s only one entrance/exit.  Since a mother’s mind consistently and constantly contemplates the worst-case scenario, these extra features just put my mind a little more at ease. This makes it a more relaxing lake day for all of us.

family-friendly lakes donner lake overlook

West-End Beach also has plenty of bathrooms, and as a parent, you know how crucial that can be…because poop happens. My girls are well versed in the practice of the “nature potty”, but having a bathroom available means that I don’t have to concern myself with unwelcome messes. The flushing toilets and functioning sinks are a plus.

There is also a SNACK BAR! I always pack and bring more food than we could possibly eat…but c’mon, what kid (or adult for that matter) doesn’t love a snack bar?!  On occasion, I’ll treat my gals to an ice cream (or I would have used it as a bribe…), and I’m pretty much the Best Mom Ever when that happens. And messy ice cream faces at the beach are adorable.

Lastly, we love the playground.  They have two playground structures that are located behind each of the swimming areas on the beach.  There is a smaller play structure for the toddler area and a larger one behind the bigger swim area.

I love having a playground so close to the beach because if my kids get cold/bored of the water and sand, they have the option to go to the playground and I can keep an eye on my other kids that may still be in the lake or on the beach.

And the fact that I can get to West-End Beach approximately 41 minutes from when I leave my garage is a ginormous bonus feature. Family-friendly lake to the max.

Kings Beach | Lake Tahoe

When we head up to Tahoe, this is our favorite beach to hang at.  It costs $10 per car to visit.

Kings Beach holds some sentimental value for our family, so it’s really fun to visit and reflect on those memories each time we are up there. Some of the things we’ve done:

  • My husband did an IRONMAN race
  • Taken family pictures
  • Brought out of town family for a picnic
  • Celebrated anniversaries

It truly is just a beautiful and special beach and we love it. With high lake levels this year, lots of beaches at Lake Tahoe have gotten a lot smaller, with people on top of each other for a spot.  Luckily, Kings Beach still has room for a crowd.

family-friendly lakes kings beach dock

Features of this beach include bathrooms (yes, I think it’s a big deal), and a PLAYGROUND (yes, this is also a big deal).  There’s also a dock that kids can jump off of (obviously under the supervision and discretion of a parent).

The biggest feature of the beach, or really ANY beach at Lake Tahoe, is the view.  I can truly never get over the immense and timeless beauty of Tahoe. It’s really spectacular.

Again, this beach is only about 50 minutes from my house. By keeping our lake day treks relatively short-ish, we get to maximize our beach time when we get there and minimize meltdown/lengthy naptime on the way home.  Win-win.

Sand Harbor | Lake Tahoe

Sand Harbor is another incredibly beautiful beach that Lake Tahoe boasts, and is absolutely family-friendly.  In my opinion, this beach probably has the most parking available. The downside? You’ve got to get there early due to its popularity.  It costs $10 per car to visit.

Sand Harbor may not have a playground, but they do have crawdad-catching areas. These areas are a boatload of fun if you’ve got some older kids (and yes, there’s bathrooms here, too).

I remember visiting Sand Harbor as a kid and swimming out to the buoy and back. Now I can’t for the life of me figure out how I was able to do that in the frigid waters of Lake Tahoe, but I absolutely encourage my babes to splash around for as long as they can (because then I get “Mommy, warm me up” snuggles).

family-friendly lakes sand harbor

Family-Friendly Lake Tips

Basically, my only requirement for a family-friendly lake for me to take my babes to is that I need to be able to schlep around my wagon.

Oftentimes, it will just be me flying solo taking my gals on a lake day adventure, and they’re still not big enough to carry a lot.  When we have a lake day, we’re there for several hours, and I try to prepare and pack for that.

I have learned that in order for me AND my children to have an enjoyable lake day, I need to bring things (read: A LOT OF THINGS).

My list of must-have things to bring includes:

The list is long, which is why I need to make sure that I can pack it all in my wagon. Then, wheel it on over to our spot for the day.  Though this may seem like a TON of stuff, but we do use all of it (and more) during our lake days. Here are some other summer essentials you should consider!

family-friendly lakes beach wagon

Long Live Summer 

Lake days with my loves are one of my absolute favorite parts of summer.  The water is calming and the sun is warm. We smile, laugh, and make memories.  There’s no screen-time involved, just the simple pleasure of each other’s company on the sand of a crystal clear lake.

I know that there are at least a dozen other family-friendly lakes that surround us, and I would love to visit them all.  While I may not be familiar with all of them, I can promise that at least one thing that they all have in common is that they will be insanely beautiful and hopefully the backdrop for summer memories for you and your little loves.

Jenelle S

Jenelle Stathes married her high-school sweetheart and they share their love with their three darling and fierce daughters. She works as the CEO of their small family business and as a group fitness instructor for a local gym. Jenelle was born and raised right here in Reno, Nevada, and is doing her best at living a non-judgy and tribe-loving mom life. She has experience with infertility, weight loss, body positivity, fitness, and most recently, a tummy tuck. You can follow Jenelle to laugh either with her or at her as she traverses through the daily adventures of motherhood.