This scenic inlet offers a beautiful beach, island, waterfalls, wreck dives, heritage sites and campgrounds with views over the crystal-clear waters of Lake Tahoe.
Declared a National Natural Landmark in 1969, Emerald Bay is surrounded by snow-capped peaks that are a stark contrast to the cobalt-blue water of the lake. It’s no wonder that photographers, hikers and other nature lovers flock here year-round.
Emerald Bay is located 22 miles (35 kilometers) south of Tahoe City. It’s the only inlet in the lake, and home to Lake Tahoe’s only island: Fannette Island. Accessible by boat or kayak, Fannette was home to whiskey-loving Captain Dick Barter, nicknamed the “Hermit of Emerald Bay.” He built his own tomb on the land, but it never became his final resting place, because his boat sank in a storm, and he was never seen again.
Hike to the Lower Eagle Falls near the lake’s edge or explore one of the other trails further inland. There’s a short one-mile (1.6-kilometer) trail that leads you to a stunning beach at the mouth of Eagle Creek. It fills up with boats in summer, so get there before the crowds. It’s not uncommon to spot Californian black bears, among other native animals, on some of the hiking trails.
For a cultural experience, take another one-mile (1.6-kilometer) trail to Vikingsholm, a Scandinavian-style mansion built in 1929. The elaborate house was built as a summer home for an heiress. Pay for a guided tour to learn about its design and its wealthy owner. You can still see the ruins of her Tea House on Fannette Island.
Scuba divers can jump into the lake and explore the underwater world off Lester Beach or pay for a boat trip to dive shipwreck sites. This is a designated Underwater Park, so leave all artifacts in place.
Emerald Bay is easily accessible by car and has a shuttle service from Tahoe City. The waterfront and sheltered campsites for summer stays have bear-resistant food lockers. There is a visitor center, and parking along the bay is paid. The island is closed to the public from February to mid-June. The falls dry up in summer.