This large rock formation is located on the southeastern shore and is easily visible from almost any point on the lake. Once a part of the neck of a volcanic vent that existed on the site about five million years ago, Cave Rock is now named for the caves high up on its side. When Lake Tahoe was first formed, roughly three million years ago, lake level was initially hundreds of feet higher than it is now. Remarkably, these caves were carved out of the rock by wave action of the lake over tens of thousands of years during that period!
Cave Rock is still considered a sacred site for the Washoe Indians whose ancestors spent their summers at Lake Tahoe and once performed religious ceremonies inside the largest of the caves. Much to the dismay of the Washoe tribe the first tunnel for Highway 50 was blasted through the rock in 1931. Prior to 1931 the original single lane roadway went around the outside of the rock. The stone foundation for the road, laid at great expense in 1865, is still easily visible clinging to the side of the rock. The second, easternmost tunnel was added in 1957. Until recently the largest cave was used as a base for rock climbers to scale the face of the rock, causing great consternation in the Native American community. The Forest Service has now made the rock off-limits to climbers.
One of the reasons the Washoe considered Cave Rock sacred was what they called "The Lady of the Lake". The "Lady" appears in the rock formation as the profile of a woman's face gazing out toward the lake from just below the old highway foundation. She is best viewed by boat from north of the rock, close in to shore and in the morning or early afternoon hours.