Lake Tahoe Hiking – Rubicon Trail – West Shore

General Information: The Rubicon Trail is a delightful easy hike that includes level walking, stunning views of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe, and quiet forests along the way. It can be done as a long (8 mile) round trip or, by shuttling a car, as a pleasant 4 mile jaunt. In the spring, snow plants push their way through the duff to add a splash of red to the constant blue, green and brown landscape.

Where To Start: Emerald Bay is located a few miles north of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 89 and D.L. Bliss State Park just 4miles beyond that. This trail can be started at either end, but by starting at Emerald Bay, most of the 200 feet of vertical change is DOWN…which we like! To hike one direction, shuttle a car to D. L Bliss State Park (fee required) making sure to park in the lot closest to the trail head as the walk back to the entrance station from the trail is 2 miles of steady climbing. Then, return to the Vikingsholm parking area at Emerald Bay.

Trail Description: From the Vikingsholm parking lot, follow the paved road down to the historic Vikingsholm “castle”. This is an interesting side attraction and worth a little time in its own right.

Click here for a trail map and profile.

From the mansion, find the trail heading along the north shore of Emerald Bay. You’ll enjoy views of Fanett Island (Tahoe’s only island) along the way. After you pass the boat camp, the trail passes close to Emerald Point, giving a fine view back towards Emerald Bay as well as across Lake Tahoe. The trail then heads north moving away from the shoreline for a bit. The trail climbs some as it heads over a small ridge

then continues along the shoreline of Lake Tahoe a hundred feet or so above the lake. All along this section, views of Tahoe are worthy of John Muir’s description of The Lake as the “Jewel of the Sierra.” As you near the end of the trail, it passes along an intimidating section with overhanging rock on one side and a steep drop to The Lake on the other. Fortunately, the Park Service has installed railing along this part making it safe even for small children if supervised by adults. You will end the hike in the parking lot near Rubicon Point and one of the best beach spots in Tahoe. By packing a lunch and beach gear in the shuttle car you can enjoy a little relaxation as a reward for your effort!

Environmental Concerns: The greatest environmental concern here is the shear volume of people and the pollution that seems to always accompany thousands of humans. Be sure to use the restroom at the trailhead but if you have to go while out, stay a minimum of 100 yards away from the lake. Use the hike as an opportunity to talk to your children about responsible environmental stuardship and pick up any trash you find along the trail.