Emerald Bay State Park in South Lake Tahoe is a dream for hiking, swimming, and catching that sunrise view.
Located on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake, Emerald Bay is one of the most-loved and most-photographed places in the states.
It’s beautiful in any season, and when I moved to Reno, this was one of the first parts of Lake Tahoe that I saw. I’ve been in love ever since! Here’s some advice from a local on how to best enjoy Emerald Bay:
Striking Features in Emerald Bay:
Lake Tahoe, and by extension Emerald Bay, has some of the clearest water you can hope to find on planet Earth. Think deep, rich blues, aquamarines, and a hint of emerald too! The colors change as the sun moves in the sky and the wind dances on the water‘s surface.
One of the first things you’re likely to notice is a little island in the middle of the bay called Fannette. This is Lake Tahoe’s only island and Emerald Bay is its only inlet! It’s possible to boat and kayak to this island and hang out, provided you Leave No Trace and pack everything out with you that you bring.
There’s also the famous Vikingsholm castle, a 38-room mansion built in 1929 by Lora Knight. There are daily tours in the summer of this incredible feat of Scandinavian architecture.
But if you’re like me, you want to enjoy the great outdoorsy stuff when in Lake Tahoe, and I’ve got you covered for that too!
Hiking Around Emerald Bay:
My favorite trail for taking in Emerald Bay is the Rubicon Trail. There are many different access points (D.L. Bliss State Park is a popular one) as this is quite a long trail, spanning over 16 miles.
The hike takes place all along the shore of Emerald Bay and beyond, through the sugar pines, ponderosa and Jeffrey Pines, and as the snow is melting, look for bright red snow plants!
If you’re looking for something more challenging, the Bayview hiking trail can be turned into an overnight hike (so you’ll need a permit) and takes you up to Maggie’s Peak and several other gorgeous lakes.
Kayaking and Boating in Emerald Bay:
Kayakers, paddle boarders, swimmers, and boaters all share Emerald Bay. It is a no wake zone, so if you’re boating be sure to take it slow and be on the lookout for people in the water. There is no launch area, but the boat in camp is a nice one and if I had a boat, I’d be camping there! It’s peaceful bliss.
That brings me to the next exciting thing to do in Emerald Bay, camping!
Camping in Emerald Bay:
There are several campgrounds around the perimeter of Emerald Bay, including the Eagle Point Campground, Emerald Bay State Park, Emerald Bay Boat Camp, Bayview Campground, and Upper Eagle Point Campground. Nearby, you can also stay in D.L. Bliss State Park.
Be sure to check parks.ca.gov for more information on the current status of openings and closures in the state park system, or pending current COVID-19 regulations.
Catching the Sunrise Over Emerald Bay:
Inspiration Point along Highway 89 to Emerald Bay is one of the famous places to take in Emerald Bay, this time from 600 feet above.
If you continue along 89 you’ll see several other pull-offs as well, giving different views of the bay as you go. This one is my favorite. Can’t make it there for sunrise? No worries, sunset sure is nice there, too.
Parts of Highway 89 can be windy and with steep drop-offs, so if you’re the one driving keep your eyes on the road!
When it comes to beautiful parts of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay is one of many, many gorgeous areas of the lake to explore and appreciate. However its uniqueness as the lake’s only inlet, plus that gorgeous sunrise view, do make for an amazing place to camp, swim, hike, and enjoy.
I hope you love it as much as I do, and please, keep Tahoe blue.