Travel Rankings & Advice

Emerald Bay State Park free

Emerald Bay Road | South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150 | Official website
Emerald Bay State Park Photo info
Howcheng/Wikimedia Commons
  • Type: Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation
  • Time to Spend: Half Day to Full Day
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Overall Rating: 4.5 (4.5)
Value: 5.0 (5.0)
Facilities: 3.5 (3.5)
Atmosphere: 5.0 (5.0)
About these ratings

Carved millions of years ago by passing glaciers, this state park is a must-see for anyone looking to experience Lake Tahoe's beauty. Sheltered by towering trees, this inlet along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe is known for its colorful granite cliffs and stunning panoramas. Follow Highway 89 south from Tahoe City (about 20 miles) or north from South Lake Tahoe (about 10 miles) and you'll come across the Emerald Bay Lookout, the park's crown jewel. And you should make sure you have a camera on hand — the scenery is breathtaking and travelers say there are photo opportunities everywhere you turn.

But staring off into the sunset isn't the only thing to do here. Emerald Bay State Park is also home to several attractions. Budding geologists can hop a boat out to Fannette Island (the only island on Lake Tahoe) where evidence of glacial activity abounds. If you're into history, a stop at Vikingsholm is a must: Built in the 1920s, this former summer home is one of the best examples of Scandinavian architecture in the country. Plus, many of the materials used to construct Vikingsholm came from the Lake Tahoe area, making this mansion an authentic part of the landscape. You can tour the home for a small fee. For a more adventurous outing, don some scuba gear and explore the Underwater Park. This stretch below the surface of Emerald Bay is the final resting place for boats used during the construction of Vikingsholm.  

Entrance to and parking in Emerald Bay State Park is free, and although you'll have to bring your own gear, snorkeling and diving at the Underwater Park is free as well. However, you will have to hand over a few dollars to visit Vikingsholm. The park is open to visitors all day, every day, and you can also spend the night at one of the campgrounds. For more information, visit the park's website.

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