Secret Cove

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Rating: A

Known variously as Secret Cove Beach, Paradise Cove, Paradise Rock, and Frankie Loves Dougie Beach, this spot is so great that it's visited by up to 70 people on warm summer weekends -- a large crowd for one of Lake Tahoe's small coves. Steve Williams reports 95 percent of the visitors were naked during one of his visits; Dave Smith, of San Leandro, rated it "90 percent nude."

Expect a mellow scene. Says Williams: "You can be with a group of people or all by yourself, and nobody will hassle you." Some people arrive as early as 9 a.m. Popular activities include sunbathing, hiking, and rock climbing. Says Williams, "there may be as many as 15 people on the rocks."

Another lure: the swimming tends to be good in this part of the lake. "The water temperature is usually a lot warmer at this beach," explains Smith.

Part of Toiyabe National Forest.

How to find it:

From the California-Nevada border, go north on Highway 50 to Highway 28. Head north on 28 about six miles until you see a parking lot on the west (lake) side of the highway. Park there. Walk south on the fire road that starts there until you come to two Porta Potties and some trash cans. Follow the trail that starts here down to the beach. It should take you 10-15 minutes to arrive on the sand. If the lot is full, you can park on the shoulder of 28, south of the last "No Parking" sign (cars on the asphalt itself will be cited). On the west side of the road, follow signs that say "Trail" to the beach path.

The beach:

A rocky shoreline, with some sandy nooks, next to some great water. "It's a beautiful place," says Swanson.

The crowd:

Smith found 30 people on the beach, while Swanson counted about 10.

Problems:

Rocks; limited parking; erosion often caused by visitors trying to make their own trails to the beach; in the past, the water has smelled like algae, according to Smith.

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