Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
Eleven miles from South Lake Tahoe to the south, and twenty-four miles from Tahoe City to the north, Emerald Bay might be the most scenic area on the entire pond. Cut off from the rest of the lake, it’s essentially a peninsula of water that sits below Highway 89, the access road. Visiting the sights here requires some effort, but you’ll be amply rewarded.

First-time visitors should make tracks for Vikingsholm, a summer home built by a wealthy socialite to replicate the art and architecture found in Scandinavia. You’ll either pay a fee to park in the lot or find free parking alongside the highway. From there, you’ll hike a mile down a fire road to the beach area. Go to the Visitor’s Center first, take in the exhibits, and buy your tickets before strolling to Vikingsholm itself. The tour takes around half an hour, and is given by a docent who can answer questions about the building and inhabitants following its completion in the 1920’s.

When you’re finished with the tour, make your way to the beach area. You may choose to rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak to explore the bay, or you may simply want to walk around and check out the magnificent scenery. Stands of lupine often attract the unusual hummingbird moth; you may also see Canada geese, Stellar’s jays, chipmunks, and squirrels. Before taking the trail back up to the parking lot, you may want to walk an extra third of a mile to see the lower part of Eagle Falls, which is breathtaking after a wet winter. Back at the parking lot, it’s worth taking the short walk around the “corner” to view the upper falls as well.

Fannette Island is located a short boat ride away from Vikingsholm, but you’ll need to provide your own transportation – perhaps by using the SUP or kayak you rented after the tour! The island, which offers stunning views of the bay, is the home of a tea house that was erected at the same time as the main house, and was used for entertaining afternoon guests. Those who choose not to visit Fannette Island can view it from the Vikingsholm Beach.

A few miles north lies D.L. Bliss State Park. If you want to spend more than an afternoon exploring Emerald Bay, this campground offers 150 family and 1 group campsite. The park also offers day use areas on the beach, where you can swim, fish, and skin or scuba dive. D.L. Bliss is also home to an incredible trail system -- you can walk to Vikingsholm if you wish, or simply ramble, taking in mountain and lake vistas. Most of the trails here are partially shaded, a bonus when dealing with the high altitude sun. Don’t miss the Lighthouse Trail, which takes you 2.3 miles over moderate inclines and declines, ultimately reaching what once was the highest lighthouse in North America. The building itself is somewhat disappointing, resembling an outhouse more than a traditional light, it’s fun to be able to say that you were there!

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the attractions in Emerald Bay. I paid for parking and for entrance fees with my own money.

Vikingsholm, Highway 89, Lake Tahoe. (530) 583-9911.

D.L. Bliss State Park, Highway 89, Lake Tahoe. (530) 525-7277. Reserve campsites through reserveamerica.com. Note that there is a fee for parking.

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Content copyright © 2022 by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. . All rights reserved.
This content was written by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. . If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. for details.