10 Best Activities In Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay State Park

10 Best Activities In Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay State Park

One of the most well-liked destinations to visit in Lake Tahoe is Emerald Bay State Park. We will outline the top attractions, well-known treks, and stunning photo locations for your visit to the breathtaking Emerald Bay State Park region close to South Lake Tahoe.

Is it worthwhile to visit Emerald Bay State Park in Lake Tahoe?

Yes! While there are many beautiful areas to explore near Lake Tahoe, we believe Emerald Bay to be the most gorgeous and tourist-friendly region on either side of the lake. Additionally, Emerald Bay is so close to South Lake Tahoe, a popular resort destination, that visiting at any time of day is simple.

This manual will cover:

What makes Emerald Bay so well-liked?
parking costs
the top activities in Emerald Bay State Park
Who else is in the area
Let’s get to work organising your trip to California’s Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay State Park!

Why Is Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay State Park So Popular?
Let’s start with the most common query first-time Lake Tahoe tourists have about Emerald Bay.

What makes Emerald Bay so unique when there are so many enjoyable walks, sand beaches, and great photo locations all surrounding Lake Tahoe?

To begin with, Emerald Bay is simply so unbelievably picturesque.
The surroundings surrounding Emerald Bay Beaches and the lake are accessible, and there are several great walks nearby.
The bay is remote, quiet, and uninhabited.
Excellent for hikers, photographers, and families is Emerald Bay.

Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe is one of my favourite places. We heartily endorse it for first-timers visiting the Lake Tahoe region, and we guarantee you won’t be let down.

Our Experience in Emerald Bay
Our primary priority during our week-long visit to Lake Tahoe was to visit Emerald Bay. When we were doing our research, we noticed how beautiful the bay appeared in pictures, and we decided it would be the main attraction of our vacation.

From top to bottom, we thoroughly investigated the whole seashore, took thousands of images, and hiked as many paths as we could. Emerald Bay was, without a doubt, our favourite area of Lake Tahoe.

The two entirely different sunrises we witnessed over Emerald Bay from two secret locations in the State Park region were our major highlight.

We also explored a few trails, strolled to the lake, visited Vikingsholm, and afterwards watched the moon rise over Fannette Island and reflect in Emerald Bay’s quiet waters.

The area around Emerald Bay State Park will undoubtedly be explored more thoroughly the following time we visit Lake Tahoe.

10 Best Activities In Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay State Park

How Did Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay Form?

The mountains that surround Emerald Bay and its long, horseshoe-shaped lake were formed sometime during the last Ice Age, which ended some 11,700 years ago.

The craggy granite mountains that encircle glacial Emerald Bay today offer some of the region’s most breathtaking vistas.

In what location is Emerald Bay State Park?
The Sierra Nevada Mountains of California’s Emerald Bay State Park are situated 12.3 miles west of South Lake Tahoe on Lake Tahoe’s southwest shore.

The popular resort area of South Lake Tahoe is about a 25-minute drive from Emerald Bay State Park.

Following are driving distances and times from Lake Tahoe’s major neighbourhoods:

12 miles and 25 minutes to South Lake Tahoe, California
Tahoe City, California: 50 minutes and 27 miles
39 miles/1 hour 10 minutes to Incline Village, Nevada
40 miles/one hour, five minutes to Carson City, Nevada
74 miles/1 hour 30 minutes to Reno, Nevada
3 hours 35 minutes / 196 miles to San Francisco, California

The roads around Lake Tahoe are congested, twisty, and narrow, yet the Emerald Bay region is reasonably simple to reach.

We advise allowing more time for your travel to Emerald Bay than what your GPS or mapping software predicts.

Where Can I Park the Best at Emerald Bay?

The roadside parking area on route 89 at Desolation Wilderness close to Eagle Falls Trailhead parking lot is the best location to park at Emerald Bay.

The primary attractions in Emerald Bay State Park are easily reached from this parking lot, which is conveniently located. For the ideal parking area when visiting Emerald Bay, use this precise coordinates on Google Maps.

Cars are parked on both sides of highway 89 along the long, sweeping curve of Emerald Bay if you visit Lake Tahoe during the busiest season or on a weekend.

When appropriate, we’ll show you where to park for each of the attractions listed below.

Does Emerald Bay State Park Charge a Fee to Enter?
The entrance to Emerald Bay State Park is free. However, parking in select lots in the Emerald Bay area comes with a variety of seasonal costs.

Both the official Eagle Falls Trailhead parking lot and the Emerald Bay State Park Lookout have ticket machines.

Normally, parking costs $5 to $10 (depending on the season), however based on recent hiker comments on All Trails for the Eagle Falls Trail in June 2023, it seems that parking is free.

Whether parking costs are in effect when you visit Emerald Bay or not, the absence of an admission fee is a perk given how well-liked the region is.

Other state parks near Lake Tahoe charge admission, and we are aware from personal experience how rapidly these costs may build up in California, particularly when travelling along the PCH from San Francisco to San Diego.

10 Best Activities In Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay State Park

Let’s move on to the top 10 activities you should do when visiting Emerald Bay State Park now that you are aware of the parking situation, entrance prices, and popularity of the park.

  1. Trekking

The most traditional activity in Emerald Bay State Park is hiking. The greatest way to see and explore the area is on foot, and there are many trails to choose from that range in difficulty.

In actuality, there is no other way to get to Emerald Bay’s waters but by hiking from the main parking places along highway 89.

During our trip, we hiked to Eagle Lake and down to Emerald Bay; but, the next time we visit Lake Tahoe, we’ll stay longer so that we can climb more trails that go all the way up into the mountains.

Most Recommended Hikes In Emerald Bay State Park

The most well-liked hikes in Emerald Bay are listed below for you to tick off your list:

Trail to Eagle Falls

(Hike from parking lot to beach) Emerald Bay Trail

Roughneck Trail

Trail to Granite Lake

Trail to Cascade Falls

Mt. Tallac Trail, a well-liked walk near Emerald Bay

How far does the walk to Emerald Bay take?

Emerald Bay State Park Lookout parking lot to Emerald Bay is a mile-long, 400-foot elevation loss trek.

Anyone can walk down to Emerald Bay because the trail is wide and easy to navigate despite the gradient’s relative steepness. Although the ascent is a mile long, it is simply a lung-buster and calf-burner.

To see Vikingsholm up close, swim in Emerald Bay, unwind on the beach or kayak to Fannette Island, it is well worth the effort to walk down.

Although we think Emerald Bay is the most picturesque location and the site you should prioritise as a hobbyist or professional photographer, the entire Lake Tahoe panorama is absolutely stunning.

Two days in a row, we got up early to see two quite different Emerald Bay sunrises. One had a hazy sky with vivid pinks, reds, and oranges, while the other had a clean sky with a deep blue.

When you visit Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay offers a wealth of photo opportunities. On hiking trails around the bay, you can choose from the traditional spots and discover uncommon vistas.

Top Photographic Locations in Emerald Bay State Park
Here are some of our preferred locations for Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe pictures:

Sunrise in this small parking space by highway 89
From here, one can see the bay.
Eagle Falls Waterfall Inspiration Point (great at sunrise)
Tahoe Fannette Island Rim Trail, which has a view of Emerald Bay

Activity in the Water
During the warmer months of the year, getting in the water is one of the nicest things to do at Emerald Bay State Park Lake Tahoe.

Water sports were not even an option for us because we went to Lake Tahoe in November!

On the other hand, you simply cannot pass up the opportunity to cool yourself in Emerald Bay’s glacial waters while the sun is out.

There are numerous beach access points all around the bay, and swimming is permitted at Emerald Bay State Park. Either swim close to Vikingsholm or seek for a small, isolated beach far from the tourists.

Watersports To Do In Emerald Bay State Park
Here are a few activities you may do to enjoy the water around Emerald Bay:

The water is frigid, therefore avoid the shallow sections while swimming.

To Fannette Island by kayak

SUP (stand-up paddleboard) around the bay

Take a rented boat to Emerald Bay.

Scuba diving is another option, which we’ll explore later in the guide.

Island of Fannette
As the lone island in Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island is a granite boulder that rises 150 feet out of Emerald Bay. As the glaciers carved out Emerald Bay, this one obstinate granite rock would not yield.

Fannette Island is actually extremely vast, despite the fact that it appears little from Highway 89, and anyone is welcome to visit it.

In the late 1920s, the proprietors of Vikingsholm would occasionally order tea from a historic tea restaurant that is now open to visitors.

Accessing Fannette Island

Fannette Island may only be reached by boat, kayak, or SUP.

No beach in Emerald Bay allows swimmers to reach Fannette Island via swimming. Given how icy the water is, swimming over such a long distance is quite risky.

Fannette Island prohibits camping and the usage of dogs, although you can kayak there and climb up to the stone ruins of the tea house.

Blue Water Cruises

Taking one of the many sightseeing cruises offered in the area is one of the most well-liked methods to experience the best of Emerald Bay.

It sounds like a much more leisurely approach to explore on a trip to Lake Tahoe to take a narrated tour of the bay while sipping wine, am I right?

You can access the water in a variety of ways, from less expensive tours to renting a private boat.

What Are Lake Tahoe’s Top Emerald Bay Cruises?
The most well-liked Emerald Bay cruise choices are shown below:

M.S. Dixie II: A voyage during the day or at dusk
Lake Tahoe Bleu Wave Cruises – Popular daytime or sunset cruises Tahoe Gal – Lunch cruise to Emerald Bay
2 hour sailing cruise on a rented sailboat
Daytime or evening cruises on the Safari Rose

On the outskirts of Emerald Bay is a castle built in the Scandinavian style known as Vikingsholm. As a vacation residence, the structure was finished in 1929 for Lora Knight, who had bought the area, including Fannette Island.

Today, Vikingsholm tours are available in the summer to guests of Emerald Bay State Park. Although the location is accessible year-round, visitors who come in the off-season cannot enter the building.

Between June and September, you can only purchase tour tickets in person at the Vikingsholm visitor centre. Since we went to Lake Tahoe in November, we were unable to view the castle.

Trail of Maritime Heritage
Did you know that Emerald Bay has a dedicated underwater hiking track for scuba divers?

2018 saw the addition of numerous underwater sites with informative panels on the Maritime Heritage Trail that visitors to Lake Tahoe with the proper training and expertise could scuba dive or snorkel into.

On the bed of Emerald Bay, there are currently boats and barges that divers can find by following a trail. On both sides of the bay, there are dive locations.

If you’re a scuba diver, don’t miss out on this because it’s unquestionably one of the most unusual things to do in Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe.

State Park DL Bliss

To the north, DL Bliss State Park has a border with Emerald Bay State Park.

You can drive from one park to the other if you don’t want to stroll along the shoreline-hugging Rubicon Trail that connects the two parks.

Photographing the Balancing Rock, unwinding on Lester Beach, and trekking to Rubicon Point Light—the second-highest height of any lighthouse in America—are some of the top things to do in DL Bliss.

Dogs are permitted in D.L. Bliss State Park’s constructed parts, such as the campground and paved roads, but are not permitted in Emerald Bay State Park. Dogs cannot, however, travel on the Rubicon Trail or on the beaches.

How much does DL Bliss State Park’s entrance fee cost?

The cost of parking at DL Bliss State Park is $10. In addition to the parking price, there is no additional entrance fee.

For infrastructure improvements, the day use road and campsite at DL Bliss State Park will both be closed in 2023. In the interim, you can still walk from Emerald Bay to D.L. Bliss because they will reopen in 2024.

OHV Rubicon Trail
The 22-mile OHV Rubicon Trail connects Lake Tahoe to Wentworth Springs Campground.

We didn’t know the Rubicon Trail was the most well-known and popular 44 trail in the entire US until someone informed us of it while we were visiting Lake Tahoe.

Then everything became clear. Oh, I see, that’s how the Jeep Rubicon got its name.

This is your chance to drive the best off-road path in America if you have a high clearance 4WD car or wish to hire a Jeep Rubicon.

Despite not technically being in Emerald Bay State Park, the path is located close to the bay, set back in the mountains.

We rented a Jeep Rubicon in 2021 and drove some of the top Jeep trails in Sedona. It was one of the most enjoyable activities we have had in the United States, therefore we strongly advise trying it out.

More details regarding the OHV Rubicon Trail can be found here.


Camping is quite well-liked in Emerald Bay State Park. Unzipping a tent in time for sunrise could not be done in a worse location, I assure you!

The benefits of camping include having easy access to Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe’s top attractions and avoiding having to pay exorbitant rates every night to stay in South Lake Tahoe hotels.

Two campgrounds are located in Emerald Bay State Park:

Campground Eagle Point

Campground Boat

We suggest you to frequently visit this website of the California Department of Parks and Recreation for updates as there is a lot of significant and constantly changing information regarding both Emerald Bay campgrounds.

Does Emerald Bay State Park Have Bears?

It is imperative that you keep all food and beverages in storage lockers day and night because black bears are a common sight near Emerald Bay State Park.

Bears are increasingly breaking into cars at the Bayview Trailhead in search of food. By keeping food and beverages out of your car, you can avoid any problems.

What Season Is Best To Visit Emerald Bay?

Even though Vikingsholm is one of the biggest attractions of Emerald Bay State Park, it is only available during the hotter summer months.

You can hike paths in Emerald Bay year-round, but if you go there in the winter, make sure to bring the right equipment, including footwear with microspikes to deal with dangerously slick rock, ice and snow areas.

We personally would steer clear of visiting Emerald Bay in the summer owing to crowds, exorbitant hotel room rates, and parking troubles, despite the fact that summer is the ideal season for swimming, daylight, and climbing in higher heights.

The two greatest times of year, in our opinion, to visit Emerald Bay State Park are in the spring and the autumn. There won’t be as many people, and hotel rooms will be less expensive and warmer.

We went to Lake Tahoe towards the tail end of November, which offered both benefits and drawbacks. On the plus side, parking was simple and it was quiet and inexpensive. On the other hand, the mornings and evenings were chilly.

FAQs about Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe

The most frequently asked questions regarding visiting Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, California, are listed here.

Is a trip to Emerald Bay State Park worthwhile?
Yes, Emerald Bay is among the most popular tourist destinations in Lake Tahoe due to its abundance of trails and attractions, accessibility from South Lake Tahoe, and great photogenicness. We strongly advise that you spend the entire day in Emerald Bay, beginning at dawn.

What time of year is ideal for visiting Emerald Bay?

We advise arriving at Emerald Bay early in the morning so you may park in a designated spot, enjoy a breathtaking sunrise, and begin exploring the trails before it gets too busy and hot in the summer.

We hope that this Emerald Bay State Park visitation guide will be useful to you as you plan your Lake Tahoe vacation!
If you have any inquiries about Emerald Bay, kindly post them below in the comments section.

Travel safely,