We were in South Lake Tahoe for the week after Christmas, and there was no snow! Well, no snow on the ground at the cabin, and very little snow in shady spots on the mountains. So we decided to go on a hike to Cascade Falls. It was beautiful, and not too difficult, although I wouldn't bring Grandma unless she is in great shape. The hike required a lot of walking on rocks, gave me a great leg and cardiovascular workout, and provided some beautiful photos! The main tip I have is about parking - Don't park on the side of the 89 near Inspiration Point! We came back from our wonderful hike to find my car had disappeared. Luckily I had my phone with me and called OnStar and the CHP to find out it had been ticketed and towed. We called my daughter's boyfriend and asked if he could come pick us up. Thank goodness we had someone to call because I didn't have any way to pay for a cab at this point. He rushed a little too fast to save us from our predicament and got a speeding ticket near Camp Richardson. Not sure how much that's going to cost him, but with the additional $220 for towing and $32 for the ticket, it made for a very expensive hike. What an adventure! Hope you can find a spot to park that is legal because it is a great activity!
You'll appreciate the size of the lake when you begin to travel around its shore, following the road through Tahoe City and around the eastern shore through Nevada. To see the whole lake at once, you'll have to go up high, like up on Mt Tallac, which is accessed just north of South Lake Tahoe on the western shore. The trail is 10 miles round trip, but the view is beyond the scope of my camera's wide angle lens.
As beautiful as these pictures are, they pale in comparison of the real thing. We parked at Eagle Falls trailhead. After a quick hike to Eagle lake we made our way across the street to Emerald Bay. A quick note about parking. There are three parking areas. There is the trailhead for Eagle Falls which is $5. Just past the entrance for Eagle Falls trailhead on the left (mountain side) is very limited parking off the road which is free but fills up fast. Then on the right (Emerald Bay side) is parking for Emerald Bay State Park which is $6. Since we parked at Eagle Falls and then walked across the street and up a few yards to Emerald Bay State Park.
At the main parking lot at Emerald Bay is an area lookout with great views and a good spot for taking pictures. Then you can hike down to the beach and Vikingsholm. The "hike" to the beach is all downhill and basically and old dirt road. There are restrooms at the bottom. The beach is small but nice. You can take a tour of Vikingsholm for $5 or just walk around the outside which is what we did.
Once you get to the bottom and the beach area you can continue on for about a 1/4 mile to Eagle Falls.
Just remember to bring plenty of water and save some energy for the walk back up!
There is a reason why Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed spots. It is an inlet on the west siide of the lake where the crystal water turns emerald, hence the name. In the summer, you can take a boat ride to the tiny island, the only one in the lake. In the winter, you can admire the fabulous views. Just be careful driving as the road may turn icy.
Emerald Bay's Inspiration Point was a big disappointment, but the view from the Vikingsholm trailhead was a pleasant surprise. As it happened, I only had a day to explore the Emerald Bay/Desolation Wilderness area, so I decided not to hike the trail down to Vikingsholm. Still, the view from the parking lot, which encompassed most of Emerald Bay, was one of the best views of Lake Tahoe we had during the trip. Parking here supposedly costs $5, with a self-pay station, but if you don't too spend too much time here you probably won't have to spend anything. In general, parking fees at Lake Tahoe are exorbitant.
There's not much inspiration to be had here; the view is almost completely blocked by trees, and really there isn't very much to see. Inspiration Point, in my opinion, is one of the most over-hyped places I've ever been. The viewpoint is on a short boardwalk where various interpretive signs tell of the history of Lake Tahoe, including how it got its name and the formation of Emerald Bay. From Inspiration Point, you can see Fanette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe; on the top of the island is a small teahouse, which was built around the same time as Vikingsholm, a Nordic style castle on the shore of the lake.
We viewed Emerald Bay from the deck of the Tahoe Queen during our wedding / dinner cruise through Lake Tahoe.
The guided tour began as we entered Emerald Bay in the protected State Park region of the lake. The bay and the grounds used to be private property, but through time and kindness, they were donated to the state to create a protected recreation area. Emerald Bay State park was formed in 1969. In 1996 the area became and underwater preserve due to the sunken ships in the bay. The bay is shallow in comparison to the rest of Lake Tahoe, and in the 'old days' reckless ships struck ground. During heavy winters, the bay freezes while the rest of the lake does not.
The only way to the campground there is by foot or boat as there are no roads to the area. The path to the park begins behind Harvey's West, and is about a mile long. There is a large granite island in the bay, where in the past a previous owner built a tea room for her and her guests. Over time, vandalism has damaged the little structure, but except during geese mating and brooding season, if you can reach it you can visit it!
There is another structure in the bay, a mansion actually, named Vikingsolm Castle. Built in the 1920's in a Scandinavian style, this home has some portions with sod roofing and some of the original furnishings ... THAT is some placeI wanna see next time I come out here!
The hike looks memorable .... sigh .... I barely spied the falls through the trees from the bay. But research on my return home shows the hiking trail access that takes you to the falls, Vikingsholm, and the bay itself ... so enjoy the parts I couldn't and let me know how you felt about it!
Vikingsholm and Eagle Creek falls can be reached by parking in the Harvey West parking lot by Highway 89 at Emerald Bay. Take the trail, which is one mile in length and drops 500 feet in elevation to the house.
Not much to do but what a view! It has the only island in the lake. Some lady built a "teahouse" on the island that her and friends would row out to in the summer. Part of the drive around the lake. lots of hiking trails around the area as well.
Here is one of the most scenic , and popular, spots along Lake Tahoe. You can hike it or see it by boat. I did both. It has excellent trails, a lovely beach, and Vikingsholm
Vikingsholm is a home built by Lora Josephine Knight. She hired an architect to visit Scandanavia and construct a home in the authentic Scandanavian style. He also had to avoid damaging any of the trees. It's a remarkable piece of work, one of the best examples of Scandanavian architecture in the US.
Near Vikingsholm is Eagle Falls, a beautiful waterfall overlooking the lake. The trail up to it is short but steep.
Also, keep a lookout for ospreys. These birds of prey, also called fisheagles, are very common along the lakeshore. As the name implies, they eat fish out of the lake.
Lake Tahoe looks like a rounded square in satellite photos, except for one bay that protrudes three miles into the mountains. The bay is called Emerald bay and it has also the only island in the lake, Fannette Island.
The ring road around the lake goes very near the bay and there are a couple of good spots to park your car and enjoy the breathtaking views high above the waterlevel. One of the areas has informative posters about the history of the lake and the bay.
There is a beach at the end of the bay, and it is accessible from one of the parking slots. The water is cold even during summertime, but a dip may refreshen you after you have walked down in California heat. Unfortunately, you may get sweaty when climbing back up.
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