Emerald Bay State Park: Kayaking, Hiking & A Castle

Much like Eagle Lake which is right across the road from it, Emerald Bay is one of the best places to visit in Lake Tahoe. I would even go so far as to say that if you can only visit one place, this should be it. From the view that you see in the parking lot to the kayak trip and the historic Vikingsholm, Emerald Bay has it all.

Emerald Bay State Park 16


  • $10 to park
  • 1 mile hike down to the bay
  • $20 for kayaks or SUP for an hour

Emerald Bay State Park 14

I would definitely suggest getting here early, especially on the weekends, as this small parking lot really fills up fast. There is not a lot of great parking other than in the lot so if you can’t get a spot then you will need to wait.

Emerald Bay State Park 6

After getting a spot and paying I would recommend going out on the small rock next to the lot to get a view of the entire bay before starting the walk down.

Emerald Bay State Park 7

This walk is really easy heading down but has a decent amount of elevation as you are going back up so remember that and plan accordingly. 

Emerald Bay State Park 9

When you reach the bottom you will have a plethora of options of things to do and I would recommend at least a half day to do it all. Here are a few of the options:


Emerald Bay State Park 12

Even though it is a little bit pricey, a kayak rental will take you out to the island in the middle of the bay. This is the only easy way to get there so if it is something you want to see then you need to grab a kayak or a stand up paddle board. There is even a small house that was built for the owners children and that you can climb up to after making your way over.


Vikingsholm 10

The castle of Lake Tahoe, as it is affectionately known, is the beautiful Vikingsholm. You can take a 1 hour tour for $10 and you can read all about my thoughts on the tour here. It is crazy to think that someone actually owned this entire bay at one point in time so touring their house was a must for me.

Visitors Center

Emerald Bay State Park 5

If you need questions answered, want to buy tickets for Vikingsholm, or want to see what else the park has to offer , there is a visitors center that is open for all of these things and more here as well.

The Beach

Emerald Bay State Park 4

If it is a warm summer day then you will no doubt want to swim and rightly so. The clear and cool water is incredibly popular and since the parking is so sparse it is never too full on the beach. After seeing the house and kayaking I would recommend just grabbing a spot of sand and taking a load off.

Emerald Bay State Park 3

After you have soaked in the bay then you will need to make your way back up the steep hill to your car. Take your time and when you are tired remember how beautiful your day was. 

Vista Point

Emerald Bay State Park 1

After getting back to your car I recommend going to the vista point as well. The vista point is on the hill opposite the parking lot, South on the main road. You can pull in here and see a beautiful view of the bay and the island below. It is a great way to end your day in Emerald Bay.

Emerald Bay State Park 2

If you are looking for other adventures I highly suggest checking out the nearby Eagle Lake loop as it is a great hike, one of my favorites in the area. You can read more about it here.

Center map

Interested in supporting this blog?

This blog is simply a hobby and labor of love for me. If you have enjoyed the posts consider sharing it with your friends. I want as many people as possible to explore this state and you can help by letting them know about all of the great spots!

About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.