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D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay, Southwest Shore of Lake Tahoe

Two parks in a day: D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Parks

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 13.2 miles
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly

Overview:  D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay are effectively operated as the same State Park so why not walk a trail highlighting both!

The Rubicon... more »

Tips:  D.L. Bliss:
The park is located 17 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, a couple of miles north of Emerald Bay.
Latitude: 38.9779
... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Entrance to D.L. Bliss SP

Finding D.L Bliss and Emerald Bay is quite simple. Take HWY 89 along the western shore of Lake Tahoe between Rubicon Bay and Camp Richardson/Spring Creek. The drive in is a good one.

At the Bliss Entrance is the Visitor's Center. Follow a winding road down to the Check-in Station and continue through the campgrounds. Maps are available at both... More

2. Shorefront Parking for Trailhead

Calawee Cove parking is perched a short way above the cove itself. It's an ample paved area for 16-18 cars with views overlooking both the cove and lake.

It does have a restroom at the north end of the lot. Planning ahead for small children, the next restroom will be a few hundred yards off WP 12 in the center of the Pines Campground. At a bit... More

3. Informational Signage

Originally constructed at Rubicon Point the lighthouse is the highest on any navigable water in the world. Constructed in 1919 at the cost of $900.00 its 70 candlepower light was visible 7 miles across the lake.

In 1921 it was moved to the present location down the shore at Sugar Pine Point.

The trail is posted for no bicycles and no dogs. Many ... More

4. Rubicon Trailhead

The Rubicon trail for much of its first mile is that of a single track trail that features numerous steep short up grades and descents, periodic granite steps, and steep side slopes and cliffs down to the lake. In places, its boulders, thin to moderately heavy forest, and packed full of Tahoe views.

There isn't a lot of elevation gain or loss but... More

5. Junction-Lighthouse Trail

Just up the trail will be the trailhead for the lighthouse trail. It rapidly heads upslope and generally parallels the lower Rubicon Trail. They will rejoin further down the trail.

The Rubicon generally follows the contour...with severe short rises and drops aided by rock steps. Much of the slope below drops steeply into the lake below.

Have... More

6. Vista and Rock Face

This is one of the most entertaining sections of the hike! The trail's been carved into the side of a granitic outcropping overlooking an amazing drop down to the lake.

Along the trail edge is a convenient chain safety rail.

7. Lighthouse Above

Look up the cliff face. It's the old lighthouse.

Originally lit in 1921 as one of several navigational aids for commercial service on Lake Tahoe and temporarily shut down in 1935 only to be relit again a year later.

Its original location was a short distance away at Rubicon Point it was billed as the worlds highest lighthouse.

8. Side Trail-Rocks below the lighthouse

Side-trail out to the rocks below the light.
Take care with children, it's a long and steep drop down to the lake!

9. Out on the rocks

Out on the rocks nearly the entire lake is before you. Looking down are the crystal clear waters of Tahoe.

When done, head back to the trail. It will continue as it was, following the steep shoreline, moderately narrow in spots, granite steps where needed, lake views...as it winds its way toward the next cove.

If it's a busy weekend expect to... More

10. Junction-Lighthouse Trail

This is the point where the Lighthouse Trail rejoins Rubicon. This junction does not appear on the Park Map. The lighthouse is 0.2 miles up trail.

Just up ahead the trail will dip into forest cover as it pulls away from the lake.

11. Scenic Lookout

Just past a boulder outcropping is a fenced and graded scenic viewpoint with sweeping vistas to the east and south across to Nevada and South Shore.

The forest cover thickens from here.

12. Junction-Pines Campground Access

One of 2 trails up to the Pines Campground (Sites 1-90).

Should you need them, showers, restrooms, and check-in station. Its just over 100 yards to the campgrounds. Eyeballing the map, less than 300 yards to the restrooms (I've children in mind).

For parents with kids the next restroom is at the Boat-In campground (WP 27).

13. Junction-Pines Campground and Rubicon Trailhead

The second road to the Pines Campgrond (Sites 1-90) and the local Rubicon Trailhead.

From here the trail maintains an easy, well groomed grade through alternating heavy and light forest cover.

14. A thinning in the tree cover

The trail overall through this section is very well graded and fairly level. Sounds...primarily the breeze, jays, and the thumping of woodpeckers.

The forest has been thinned and cleared for fire prevention in this area.

The forest cover will thicken shortly. There will also be an area that shows fire damage...blackened trunks, dead lower... More

15. Vista Point

Another fenced and graded viewing platform overlooking Tahoe and the mouth of Emerald Bay.

16. Switchbacks

The first real drop in elevation for the Rubicon as it heads for the lakeshore.

Upslope in places it appears past slides have stripped out the forests. These would be marked by heavily thinned or only young trees and full undergrowth.

17. Waterfalls

Entering a shallow cove the vegetation becomes lush and while rounding a bend, a pair of small waterfalls cross the trail and continue down to the cove below.

The single track trail heads briefly upwards to cross another point before heading down into the next cove.

18. Switchbacks

Switchbacks and short rock staircase.

19. Vista Point

The trail provides access to the top of a point with the vista encompassing most of the Tahoe Basin.

The trail will continue to slowly loose elevation.

20. A Secluded Cove

Now down just above the lakeshore the trail will wind it's way from cove to cove. Periodically there will be short but steep side trails to the water.

This region of Tahoe has been long known for avalanches and landslides. HWY 89 is periodically closed in the winters as a result. Ahead on the trail we will be entering the recovering site of a... More

21. A Cove, crossing Emerald Point, and to the bay.

At the northerly side of Emerald Point there is a particularly nice and sheltered cove with easy access and a shallow sandy bottom. It's an ideal place to stop, have a picnic, and spend some time in the water.

It makes for a terrific paddleboard, kayak, or canoe stop.

From here the trail heads inland and cuts across Emerald Point on its way to... More

22. Shoreline Access

Along Emerald Bay there will be a number of easy water access points featuring log steps into the bay. In general there's little or no beach at each of these stepped locations. The bay bottom is generally sandy with scattered boulders and shallow near the shore.

Incidentally, the trail is entering another area affected by the 1982 Avalanche here ... More

23. Shoreline Access

The trail is about 10 feet above the shore itelf.

24. Shoreline Access

25. Shoreline Access

There is a slight elevation gain above the shore as the trail heads toward the "Boater's Campground" and into a somewhat heavier forest cover.

26. Rubicon Trailhead and Boating Camp

An expansive campground with 20 primitive sites terraced up the slope along the bay. There is offshore mooring, a dock, restrooms, drinking water a paved service road in, and several small beachheads suitable for canoes/kayaks. Picnic benches, fire pits, and food lockers are at the sites.

The campgrounds are a fun warren of trails leading to... More

27. Informational Sign

Park Map and several historic images of Emerald Bay include early 20th Century automobile travel and boating.

The dock access is close by.

28. Rubicon Trailhead

The trail follows along the shoreline toward the southerly end of the campground and toward Vikingsholm on a graded path that will gently gain elevation.

Vikingsholm: 0.9 miles.
Eagle Point: 2.6 miles.

29. Junction

A track heading upslope and northwesterly. It does not appear on the Park Map.

30. Shoreline Access

31. Footbridge

The first of two short footbridges over creeks draining into the bay.

32. Footbridge

33. Parson's Rock Trail

A side trail out to Parson's Rock.

Entering the area of the 1980 Landslide Path.

34. Parson's Rock and Fannette Island

Views of essentially all of Emerald Bay.

Fannette Island:
Fannette Island can be visited by boat only. Note that swimming to the island is strictly prohibited by state and county law. Historically the island has also been known as Coquette Island, Baranoff Island, Dead Man’s Island, Hermit’s Island, and Emerald Isle over the past 100 years.... More

35. Footbridge

36. Waterfall

A late running creek with a small waterfall along another footbridge.

Entering the Vikingsholm Day Use Area with picnic benches scattered around.

Side Trail-Vikingsholm Trail heads up to HWY 89 and the Emerald Bay Lookout. The lower trail starts out flat then heads steeply up the valley wall.

Keep to the low ground and follow the shoreline to Vikingsholm. Shortly there will be a boardwalk heading over some low ground to the beach.

38. Boat Pier

The boating pier at Vikinsholm and a long sand beach fronting the home itself. The pier is restricted to loading and unloading only of personal boats under 23 feet in length.

The Rubicon Trail appears to on the beach although there are a number of additional paths branching out into the home area itself that are worth exploring.

In 1928 Lora Knight of Santa Barbara purchased this land on Emerald Bay and instructed the Swedish born Architect Lennart Palme to design a home based on their travels to Scandinavia. The home was to be inspired by elements of Norwegian farmsteads and wooden churches of that region. It was also desired that the trees of the site not be disturbed, ... More

40. Leaving the Beach

Nearing the southerly end of the beach past Vikingshom round the meadow like area (hopefully with wildflowers in bloom)and locate the paved path.

The path enters a shaded park like area with a stone lined pond just inshore of the mouth of Eagle Creek.

It's about 1.7 miles to the Eagle Point Campground.

41. Old Boat Shelter

An old stone-lined boat shelter.

42. Visitor Center

The Visitor Center has the appearance of an old stone cottage. Inside are plenty of interpretive displays, a gift store, and a very friendly staff!

The interior is small and can get quite crowded as it's a popular stop.

43. Trailhead

Behind the Visitor Center the paved trail heads up to a bridge crossing over Eagle Creek through a open forested area then along a portion of the lower creek that rushes down a boulder strewn slope.

Climb the stone steps to the Junction and bridge.

The Eagle Falls Trail heads upslope toward Lower Eagle Falls, 0.2 miles.

Cross the bridge over Eagle Creek, stopping to take in the view of the cataract. The waters flow from the snowmelt upslope in the surrounding peaks and Desolation Wilderness.

After crossing the bridge our path will be... More

45. Footbridge

The path runs through an area of broken forest along the foot of the 1955 landslide area to a "quaint" for want of a better term, "A" framed footbridge nestled in the forest, crossing a small creek. There is only a handful of this style of bridge in the State Park system.

The vegetation will become the lushest of what we've traveled so far.

46. Footbridge

"A" framed footbridge in a lush riparian grove.

47. Viewpoint

Looking out over Emerald Bay in a slide area.

Keep an eye open for treetop Osprey nests along the rest of the trail. This day, there was one young osprey making its first short trip out of its nest!

48. Nest

Keep an eye out for bare treetops toward the bay, the favored nest locations.

49. Footbridge

50. Nest

51. Nest

Look down toward the shoreline.

52. Bench

With the trail getting steeper, a handy place to take a break and enjoy the views.

53. Viewpoint

Views up toward the bay's end and into Desolation Wilderness.

The trail gets steadily steeper as it makes it's way to the Campgrounds.

54. Nests

Active Osprey nests.

55. Rubicon Trailhead

Rubicon Trailhead, Upper Eagle Point Campground (Camps 1-34).

Restrooms available in the parking area just up the road.

56. Campfire Center

Campfire Center/Ampitheater