Hiking in Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

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Quinten Moulson
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Six days into our ten-day ski trip, my friends Guillaume, Neil, Alex and I decided that it was time to go experience more of what Californian landscape had to offer. We took a day off of our ski trip and embarked on an adventure to the Vikingsholm, and Eagle Falls Trail in Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. 

We rented a Jeep Gladiator and drove on North from Mammoth Lakes up highway 395 weaving in and around the Sierra Nevada mountain range. 

We drove through what felt like hours of mountain. It was one of the most surreal rides I have ever been on. One second we were driving beside a river, and the next we were on a mountain along the side of a 500 metre sheer cliff drop no more than arm's length away. It was something I had never experienced before.

It seemed like every time I would go to put my camera away, there would be another opportunity to take a photo.

We began a slow climb up a steep cliffside and next thing we knew, we had reached our destination. 

We parked the car, stepped out and walked up to the most stunning backdrop. Looking ahead we saw Emerald Bay with snowcapped mountains in the back, one of the most extraordinary sights I have ever seen. We enjoyed the brief moment, snapped a few photos, then began our hike.

Vikingsholm Hiking Trail

The first part of our adventure was a 30-minute hike down a 1.5km hill to reach the water of Emerald Bay. The closer we got, the more we could see why it was named Emerald Bay. The centre of the lake appeared to be a cobalt blue, while around the shallow edges it appeared Emerald and Turquoise.

We stopped to embrace the bay for everything it offered. The pure air, the shoreline Redwoods and a feeling of freedom. After taking everything in, we continued to the Vikingsholm Scandinavian Castle.

The Vikingsholm Scandinavian Castle is a 38 bedroom mansion on the lakefront of Emerald Bay and was constructed in the mid 1900s by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight. It was meant to be a summer home, not a bad, eh?

After our stops at the bottom of the trail, we headed back up to the next part of our hike.

Eagle Falls Trail

When we set out researching day trips, this trail is what ultimately made us choose Lake Tahoe as the place to go. The Eagle Falls Trail takes you above the majority of the tree-line where you have a complete overview of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe. It is a relatively short hike depending on the hiking conditions, it should take you about 20-25 minutes to reach the top.

Unfortunately for us, this trail isn’t maintained during the winter months so we had to hike up in deep snow and ice and it took us a bit longer. Along the way, if you took a quick peek over, you can see the falls which had this alluring and curious feeling to them.

I’ll never forget this moment

As we reached the top of the trail and looked back overtop of Emerald Bay, we had a viewpoint of the entire bay and its brilliance. Once we got to the top of the trail, I realized this might be the most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen.

There was something about climbing up the Eagle Falls Trail and realizing that this is what it’s all about. Working hard to accomplish what you aspire. We had planned this trip back in April and it was finally coming to life. Only with hard work and determination will you make your dreams into reality.

On trips like this one, I always like to reflect on how grateful I am for having such great friends who will fly to the other side of the continent with me. There is so much that goes into making these trips happen and sometimes things don’t go the way you expect them to, but I know that at the end of the day, everything will work out, and as long as you have friends and family with you, you are sure to have the time of your life no matter what you do.

4 things to remember

These hikes are short and sweet. Perfect if you want to hike them both in one day and take your time doing it. We also managed to hop over to the Cascade falls and take some photos with the falls beside you and Emerald bay in the background.

If you are hiking these trails during the wintertime, you will be in for a delight with all the surrounding snow and ice. Much of the melting snow and ice gives the falls and river much more power and beauty, but be careful to not get too close!

If you plan on bringing children with you, the way down the Vikingsholm trail won’t be a problem but the way up will be because it is entirely uphill and when you’re hiking at 2000 metres above sea level, the altitude will get to you very quickly. 

Make sure you bring a camera with you, otherwise you’re going to miss out on remembering all the amazing views and scenery.