Lake Tahoe is a beautiful treasure and Emerald Bay State Park is so beautiful! Vikingsholm is the name of the Scandinavian Mansion built on the beach at the base of the trail. This trail isn’t that long, but it is all downhill so you’ll need to hike uphill on the way back.
The trail down to Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm is 1.7 miles and is almost entirely paved. It is lined with Jeffrey Pine Trees and other foilage that beautifully offset the turquoise water of Lake Tahoe below.
Near the top of the trail before you have lost much elevation is a lookout point where you can look down on Emerald Bay and Fannette Island, which is the only island on Lake Tahoe.
The trail passes a few tiny waterfalls on the side and switches back until you get to the lower level even with the shore. You can see how cliff-like the mountain side is looking back up. The last picture is looking back up the trail to go back up.
At the base there are nice flush toilets and a ranger cabin.
Soon you come to the beautiful Vikingsholm “castle”. Mrs. Lora Knight purchased the land in 1928 and commissioned Vikingsholm to be built, because the landscape reminded her of visiting Scandinavia. It is one of the most impressive examples of Scandinavian architechture in the United States. There had been multiple smaller cabins, but this 38 room was a much larger summer home! Later on the property was sold to Harvey West, a noted philanthropist, arranged with California to sell the land for half price so it could become a state park. Normally Vikingsholm is open for tours during the summer, but since we were there in 2020, it was closed for Covid regulations.
This photo shows you amazing this is to have the spectacular view and short hop to the beach.
There is a boat pier so the other way to access Emerald Bay is by motor boat, coming from another beach, like nearby Baldwin Beach. The kids had a great time playing on the beach. You can look out at Fannette Island and see the end of the boat pier.
This beach was not too crowded. I think this is probably because it would be a pain to bring sun shades, life jackets, and all the beach gear down and back up the trail, or pack it into a boat to transfer over. We had a great time!
Stats: Distance – 1.7 miles round trip
Approximate hiking time – 30-90 minutes
Elevation gain – 377 feet
Difficulty – Moderate
Trail – mostly paved, with some packed dirt and sand
Bathrooms – Yes
Seasons to hike – April to November
Permits needed – $5/car to park for the day (It is a small lot and parking laws are strictly enforced)
Pets allowed – No
Map of Emerald Bay State Park