Emerald Bay State Park – Lake Tahoe


What? : Emerald Bay State Park is a state park of California in the United States, centered on Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay, a National Natural Landmark. Park features include Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion that is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States.


Where? :  Located on Lake Tahoe south east corner, Follow Highway 89 south from Tahoe City (20 miles) or north from South Lake Tahoe (10 miles) and you'll come across the Emerald Bay Lookout and parking lot. The park main parking lot is right on highway 89 road.

Google Map Link


When? : You can enjoy the Emerald Bay view year round, every season is different, winter completely cover the area with snow and summer offer many of lake water activities.

At winter trail covered with snow and ice and access can be limited as well as few parking lots are close.


Due note 1: You can enjoy Emerald Bay view from the road, no need to hike down to the bay. There are several viewing points, and each provide a different view of the bay.


Due note 2: The main park parking lot at is a fee parking, there are paying machines at the left side of the parking lot (you can pay for 1 hour or full day). Vehicles cannot drive down to the lake, however, there are many vistas and hiking trails.


Due note 3: It is not legal to park your car on highway 89 road in many sections, avoid parking outside the designated parking lot.


Due note 4: Due to dry conditions and a finding of extreme fire danger: Charcoal and wood fires are prohibited in all Day Use Areas in the Sierra District CA State Parks.

Due note 4: Dogs are not allowed on any trails or roads into Emerald Bay, nor on the beach. Dog regulations are enforced year-round.

Due note 4: No Fires, No Drones, No bicycles or motors on the trails, No camping except within the designated campgrounds


My thoughts: when you come and visit here this is no surprise why this is probably one of the best picturesque locations in lake Tahoe and north California. You do not need to go down to the bay but rather have short stops at the few viewing points, take pictures and enjoy the view.



The visit:


With its rounded shoreline and blue-green water, Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed places in the world. From the scenic overlook viewpoint on Highway 89, you can see a panorama of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe and the remote Nevada shore.

In 1969, the federal government designated Emerald Bay a National Natural Landmark for its beauty. Emerald Bay looks like Cascade Lake or Fallen Leaf Lake with one major difference, it is connected to Lake Tahoe in it narrow east opening.


The Eagle Creek cascades flowing into the bay over three waterfalls and disappears into the lake.  Hikers can head up into nearby Eagle Lake, keep going into the Desolation Wilderness or walk the rugged lakeshore from D.L. Bliss to the bay along the Rubicon Trail.


You can enjoy Emerald Bay view from the road, no need to hike down to the bay. There are several viewing points, and each provide a different view of the bay.

From the viewing points, look down on the astounding bay and you can see why this place considered to be the best of Lake Tahoe views.

The relatively shallow bay on the lake’s west shore gets beautiful blue-green colors where the small Fannette Island (the only island in Lake Tahoe), right in the middle of the bay dote it like a diamond in a perfect ring.


From the pullouts areas off Highway 89, you can see the bay below, peaking between the trees or as wide-open panorama, you can spot the ruins of a tiny stone tea house perched on the top of the island.


Viewpoints are listed from south to north:


Inspiration Point:

This viewpoint towers 600 feet above Lake Tahoe and is one of the best spots to stop and take in the view of Emerald Bay and Fannette Island. Set in the tall pines the paved path overlooking Emerald Bay. This vista point can be a bit crowded, especially during the summer months.

You can find here restrooms, during winter the entrance is close, and you need to find parking on the other side of the road.


Emerald Bay Overlook:

A small road-side pull-out when you are driving from south to north, try not to miss this even for a short stop on your way, get down and take some pictures and keep with your drive.


Eagle Falls:

Here you can find many parking spots on the left mountain side of the road (when driving south to north). Park your car and cross the road to the lake cliff and waterfall side.

This is the best location to see up close the Eagle Falls, walk to the road edge and find the path to the upper waterfall (be carful during winter months where all is covered with slippery ice.

This location is one of the best places for sunrise or sunset view.

There is a walking path protected from the road that connect this point to the nearby main Emerald Bay State Park Lookout and Parking Lot that is located quarter of a mile north on the road.


Emerald Bay State Park Lookout and main Parking Lot:

This is the park parking lot and probably the most popular viewing point of Emerald Bay.


There is a walking path protected from the road that connect this point to the nearby Eagle Falls located quarter of a mile south on the road.

You can enjoy the view from the nearby viewing point or hike down to the lake shore.


It’s about a one mile of steep walk down from the parking lot to get to the lake level and visit the park, it is steep hike back up but it’s definitely worth it.

The teahouse, and the 38-room stone castle known as Vikingsholm that’s built on the bay shore. When I visit the park shore during June 2022 the area near the house was under renovation and I came late in the afternoon, so I was not able to get into the house.

It is a place where you can hike down to the lakeshore, tour a stone castle, rent a kayak or paddleboard or even swim and snorkel in the cold crystal water of the bay.



At the south park section there is a road entrance that get down to the lake (I never drove it), here you can find the Upper and Lower Eagle Point Park Campgrounds


You can also access Emerald Bay on the popular and easy Rubicon Trail, which follows the edge of the lake from D.L. Bliss State Park.

Another short hike with a big reward is the one-mile trail that starts across the highway from Emerald Bay and leads up to the icy cascades of Eagle Falls and a panoramic view of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe.