10 Things to Do at Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Planning a trip to Lake Tahoe? Then we suggest you don’t leave until you have spent a little time at Emerald Bay. View our list of the top 10 things to do at Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay – you’ll be surprised at how much this magical part of Tahoe has to offer. 

1. Vikingsholm Castle
At the head of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, sits the Vikingsholm Castle, where nature and architecture blend to create one of the most majestic sites in all of northern California. Built in 1929 by Mrs. Lora Knight, the Vikingsholm Castle has some of the original features indicative of the 11th century stone churches from southern Sweden. Scandinavian influences can be seen throughout the castle, taking any visitor back in time. It’s a one-mile walk to the summit and tours are available daily. Pack a picnic, your swim suit and enjoy the view from Emerald Bay Beach as well.

2. Emerald Bay Beach
Emerald Bay is one of the “most photographed places on earth” and has been able to retain its beauty as a National Natural Landmark, Emerald Bay Beach included.  At Emerald Bay beach there’s always something for everyone, whether it be jumping off the pier, basking in the sun, kayaking, paddleboarding, taking a tour of Vikingsholm Castle or just sitting and reading a book. The view is incredible and worth the effort to get there whether you come by boat or foot. If you can’t make it to Emerald Bay Beach then check out these easier to access South Lake Tahoe beaches.

3. Fannette Island – Tea House Island
Mrs. Knight enjoyed more than Vikingsholm Castle in her summers. She’d frequently have afternoon tea on Tahoe’s only island, Fannette Island, located in the middle of Emerald Bay. Much of the tea house is still standing and offers amazing 360 degree views of the bay. The stone structure that sits on Fannette Island is called the “Tea House” and was constructed the same time as Vikingsholm Castle in the late 1920s. If you are visiting in the summer you can rent kayaks or stand up paddle boards located at Emerald Bay beach and make your way across to the Island to climb to the tea house and take in the view.

4. Inspiration Point (Emerald Bay)
Inspiration Point towers 600 feet above Lake Tahoe and is the perfect spot to overlook all of Emerald Bay, Fannette Island, Vikingsholm and more! Paved walkways make every aspect of Lake Tahoe picture-frame perfect. Parking can be a bit crowded, especially during the summer months around 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Legal parking does NOT include Highway 89. Restrooms available at location.

5. Hiking Trails
There are many great South Lake Tahoe hiking trails, but these are a few of best ones located in the vicinity of Emerald Bay. Each one offers something unique and worth the hike.
Cascade Falls – Take a moderate hike to Cascade Falls and reap the rewards of some beautiful scenery. It’s one of those hikes you can pack a lunch, walk about 40 mins and before you know it, you’re there. Take in the 200-foot falls that surround Cascade Lake and enjoy! Trail head starts at the far end of Bayview Campground, two miles roundtrip.
Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake – Eagle Falls is stunningly dynamic as far as trails are concerned, offering multiple hiking destinations from the get go. Because of its diversity, it may get a bit crowded at times, but the view is unforgettable.
Bay View Hiking Trail – Located at the Bayview Campground, Bay View Hiking Trail has a little something for everyone including stunning views of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe, a challenging trek up Maggie’s Peak, a pit stop for lunch at Granite Lake and more! Permits are required for day and overnight hikers. Horse-friendly trail.

6. Emerald Bay State Park – (D. L. Bliss)
On the west side of Lake Tahoe and just above Emerald Bay sits D.L. Bliss State Park; an expansive area that includes roughly six miles of shoreline and access to popular trails and breathtaking views. D.L. Bliss State Park plays home to Lester Beach, Calawee Cove Beach, as well as more secluded coves for the adventurist. The D.L. Bliss Park Campground is fully equipped with family campsites, tables, cupboard, stove, restrooms and hot showers. Boaters have access to launching facilities within a few miles of the park. Dog-friendly park (except trails/beaches).

7. Scenic Boat Cruises
There’s no better way to experience Lake Tahoe than to be directly on the lake. 360-degree views and some rest and relaxation takes the cake on any vacation. There are many Lake Tahoe boat cruises available, only question is “which cruise is right for you?” The Tahoe Queen is an authentic paddle wheeler with a glass bottom to view the lake’s depths. The Ms. Dixie II was voted “Best Boat Cruise at Tahoe” 10 years in a row. The Party Boat is exactly what the name indicates with spacious decks, fly bridge and fully stocked kitchen. Or try the Woodwind II; a 50-passenger catamaran.

8. Cruise in by Boat
You might prefer to cruise Emerald Bay on your own terms and rent a boat for the day. Drop anchor along the shore and just relax and take in the amazing scenery.  Make a loop around Fannette Island, located in the middle of Emerald Bay or cruise up to the pier at Vikingsholm Castle.  Of course the rest of Lake Tahoe is at your fingertips. Might I suggest cruising up to Lester Beach at DL Bliss State Park or further up you can have lunch on Sunnyside’s outdoor dining and bar.

9. Standup Paddleboard or Kayaking
To really experience being on Lake Tahoe up close consider renting a kayak or standup paddleboard (SUP). You can rent at Baldwin Beach and cruise the south west shoreline over to Emerald Bay or park at the Vikingsholm Castle parking lot and take the one mile trail down to Emerald Bay Beach where there are rentals. Baldwin Beach to Emerald Bay affords a longer, but scenic route. If you don’t mind the hike then access from Emerald Bay Beach is the quickest access as you enter the water right front of Vikingsholm Castle. In peak summer months you will want to get on the water early to avoid traffic both on the roads and water way.

10. Camping
Bayview Campground – Directly across the road from Inspiration Point you will find Bayview Campground. Although it’s one of the smaller campsites (roughly 12 spots), it’s dense canopy provides shade during the summer months and the granite boulder outcroppings invites you to nature’s playground. Picnic tables, standing BBQ’s and food storage containers provided with each campsite. Bayview Campground is on a first come first serve basis.

DL Bliss Campground – This popular location has everything you need to get back in touch with nature including access to Lake Tahoe’s pristine water, multiple hiking trails and breathtaking views of the Sierra’s. Open during the summer, the DL Bliss Campground is located near Lester Beach and just north of Emerald Bay. Dog friendly campgrounds.

Boat-in Camp – The Boat-In Campground is only open during the summer, but offers a great experience in a magical place. Buoys are available for your boat while while you pitch your tent at lakefront campsites. Watch the sun come up over the water in the mornings and set behind Mt Tallac at night – gorgeous!


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