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Emerald Bay State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Hiking near Emerald Bay picture in Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Hiking near Emerald Bay picture in Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay State Park picture in Lake Tahoe

Key Info

Price & Hours

  • Free
  • Sunrise-sunset daily

Details

  • Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
  • Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.5
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    5.0
  • Facilities
    3.5
  • Atmosphere
    5.0

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

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. Adults can tour the home for $10 (children ages 7 to 17 and college student pay $8). Getting to the house takes a bit of doing. After parking in the Vikingshom parking lot by Highway 89 at Emerald Bay, visitors must hike via a steep 1-mile trail that drops 500 feet in elevation. Those with medical conditions or mobility issues are advised not to attempt this hike. 

In the winter, snow and ice can make the trail treacherous. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear, clothing and bring food and water. Cell phones may not have reception and there are no services or drinking water from October through May. According to visitors, bathroom facilities can be lacking no matter the time of year, so plan accordingly.

Another activity at the park is to 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. The park is open to visitors all day, every day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and you can also spend the night at one of the campgrounds. For more information, visit the park's website.

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#1 Emerald Bay State Park 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 ... Read more » Howcheng / Wikimedia Commons

#2 Squaw Valley Sprawling across six peaks on Lake Tahoe's western shore (about 10 miles northwest of Tahoe City), Squaw Valley has been dubbed one of the world's finest ski resorts ... Read more » Courtesy Squaw Valley

#3 Kings Beach State Recreation Area Stretching along Lake Tahoe's northern shore, this beach is one of the largest in the area. The nearly 13-acre park – which encompasses a fair amount of shoreline on the ... Read more » Courtesy of the North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureau

#4 Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum The Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum honor one of the darkest moments in American pioneering. Here, you'll find a great stone pedestal commemorating the Donner Party ... Read more » zrfphoto / Getty Images

#5 Homewood Mountain Resort According to skiers, this small resort on Lake Tahoe's west shore (about 7 miles south of Tahoe City) is far more manageable than nearby titans like Squaw Valley and  ... Read more » IJ Venezuela / Homewood Mountain Resort

Courtesy Vail Resorts

#7 D. L. Bliss State Park Named for 19th-century lumber titan Duane Leroy Bliss, this stunning 744-acre park is home to the deepest section of Lake Tahoe and some of the area's most breathtaking sites ... Read more » Susanne Neumann / Getty Images

#8 Heavenly Ski Resort & Gondola With its summit soaring 10,067 feet above sea level (the highest peak in Lake Tahoe), this wildly popular resort truly is heavenly. And it's the only ski area ... Read more » Courtesy of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

#9 Harrah's Casino Sitting just over the border from South Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada, Harrah's Casino offers a lively counterpoint to Lake Tahoe's natural peacefulness. There are plenty of gambling ... Read more » Courtesy of Harrah's Lake Tahoe

#10 Alpine Meadows If you want to avoid the crowds that flock to nearby Squaw Valley, consider visiting the lesser known Alpine Meadows. Often referred to as Lake Tahoe's hidden gem, this ... Read more » Jason Abraham / Alpine Meadows Ski Resort

# Lake Tahoe Balloons Read more » grantmg / Getty Images

# Lake Tahoe Cruises Read more » Michael Marfell / Getty Images

# Tahoe Adventure Company Read more » Gary Pearl / Getty Images

Emerald Bay State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
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D.L. Bliss State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Skiing Heavenly picture in Lake Tahoe
Harrah's Lake Tahoe picture in Lake Tahoe
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Lake Tahoe Balloon picture in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe Cruises picture in Lake Tahoe
Tahoe Adventure Company picture in Lake Tahoe
Emerald Bay State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Olympic Rings picture in Lake Tahoe
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Donner Memorial State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
Homewood Mountain Resort picture in Lake Tahoe
Northstar-at-Tahoe picture in Lake Tahoe
D.L. Bliss State Park picture in Lake Tahoe
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Carved by glacial movement several million years ago, Emerald Bay is known for its colorful granite walls and beautiful vistas. Howcheng / Wikimedia Commons

Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. Courtesy Squaw Valley

Courtesy of the North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureau

Along with a memorial and a museum dedicated to the Donner Party, Donner Memorial State Park also offers plenty in the way of hiking, fishing, camping and boating. zrfphoto / Getty Images

Homewood is a slightly smaller resort comapred to other giants in the area, but skiers love its laid-back feel and less crowded slopes. IJ Venezuela / Homewood Mountain Resort

Northstar is considered one of the top ski resorts in the West. Courtesy Vail Resorts

The stunning, 744-acre D.L. Bliss State Park is home to the deepest section of Lake Tahoe and some of the area's most breathtaking sites Susanne Neumann / Getty Images

The Heavenly Ski Resort is the only resort located on Lake Tahoe's southern shore. It's also within easy reach of the casino district. Courtesy of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

After a long day, relax with some evening entertainment (and maybe a card game or two) at Harrah's Casino. Courtesy of Harrah's Lake Tahoe

Alpine Meadows is one of the premier ski resorts in Lake Tahoe. Jason Abraham / Alpine Meadows Ski Resort

On a clear day, you'll be able to spot the peaks in Yosemite and the coastal foothills more than 150 miles away on a hot air balloon ride. grantmg / Getty Images

Cruise through Emerald Bay on a Lake Tahoe scenic cruise. Michael Marfell / Getty Images

For a wide variety of outdoor adventures, consider booking with Tahoe Adventure Company, which offers land and water-based activities, including paddleboarding. Gary Pearl / Getty Images

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