Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from San Francisco and it was absolutely worth every single minute of the gorgeous drive. I fell in love with this beautiful area of the country and can’t wait to go visit it again.
Emerald Bay, which is located in Emerald Bay State Park, in Lake Tahoe, is a beautiful National Land mark. The park is easily accessible by driving on California State Route 89 near the southwest shore of the lake. The lookouts that we stopped at to spend some time were absolutely breathtaking and it is so easy to see why Emerald Bay is one of Lake Tahoe’s most photographed locations.
While there was tons of people visiting the area, it was still extremely easy to locate parking and walk the short distance to the lookouts. We stood in awe at the beauty that surrounded us from the bay below to the tall towering mountains and trees above us.
Emerald Bay also features Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion that is considered by architects to be one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. The Vikingsholm was built in the late 1920s by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight as a summer home. Mrs. Knight may be best well-known for building Vikingsholm, but she and her husband were also the main financial backers of Charles Lindbergh’s non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927.
Before construction began, Mrs. Knight and her architect, Leonard Palme (her nephew) traveled to Scandinavia to research the construction of the home. Due to this some parts of the mansion contain no nails or spikes, yet most of the materials used to build the structure came from Lake Tahoe.
Mrs. Knight desired to build a summer home in this area because Emerald Bay reminded her of her many trips to the Fjords. Mrs. Knight and her husband enjoyed many years at her summer home before her death in 1945. After this the land was sold to a rancher from Nevada and then sold to Harvey West, a lumberman from California. It was Mr. West, who was known as a philanthropist who sold the land to the state of California in 1953.
Visitors can visit Vikingsholm in the summer months by parking cars at the Vikingsholm parking area (there is a fee of $10) and hike the steep 1 mile down to the property. There are tours that take place throughout the summer and more information can be found at the Vikingsholm website. Visitors with disabilities may contact Vikingsholm to make arrangements.
Emerald Bay also contains the only island to be found in Lake Tahoe, Fannette Island. Over the years the island has been called a variety of different names, but is typically referred to as Fannette Island.
As you look closely at the island you can see that there is the ruins of a small stone building, which was the “tea house” that was constructed by Mrs. Knight. The tea house was constructed at the same time that Vikingsholm was built. Mrs. Knight had stone hauled to the island to construct the 16×16 tea house. Mrs. Knight would bring her guests to the tea house a couple of times each summer.
Before Mrs. Knight constructed her tea house in 1929, the island was the home of Captain Dick Barter in the late 1800s. The captain, who had a reputation of being extremely eccentric, built his own tomb and chapel on the island. Ironically he never spent much time there as he was lost in a storm in 1873. Rumor has it that Mrs. Knight liked to embellish the stories about the sea captain to her visitors when they went to the tea house.
If you would like to visit the island, it is accessible by boat, kayak, or canoe. Visitors are not allowed to swim to the island due to the extremely cold waters and the boat traffic that is in the area.
After we had spent some time at the overlook we continued to drive around the lake and saw a space to pull over on the road on the opposite side that we had just been on. The views from the opposite side were equally as breath-taking, allowing us to see more of the opposite mountain range that surrounds the Lake .
The views from every direction were absolutely stunning! We were completely in awe. I can’t recommend taking a trip to this beautiful area of the country enough. It was simply gorgeous.
Author: My name is Rebecca and I am an author, artist, blogger, speaker, and traveler, who delights in finding grace in simple beauty and ordinary days as I fight Lyme Disease.