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Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe is a perfect year 'round vacation destination

By Jeaneane Payne

emerald bay
Emerald Bay. This is the actual color of the water without photo enhancement.
Photo by Jeaneane Payne


Emerald Bay is situated on the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe and 22 miles from Tahoe City. In 1969, Emerald Bay was designated a National Natural Landmark for its brilliant panorama of mountain-building processes and glacier carved granite. Emerald Bay was designated an underwater state park in 1994. It is the resting place for many boats, launches, and barges used in the lake before the turn of the century, during the heyday of Emerald Bay Resort and used in the construction of Vikingsholm.

Emerald Bay provided the setting for one of the first summer homes at Lake Tahoe. In 1863 Ben Holladay, stagecoach magnet and early day transportation king pre-empted land in Emerald Bay and built a summer home. In 1884 a Dr. Kirby bought 500 acres in the Bay and built a resort. A portion of the Kirby land was sold to the William Henry Armstrong family in 1895. Mrs. Knight purchased the land from the Armstrongs in 1928. Mrs. Knight's land included the only island (Fanette Island) in Lake Tahoe and the only water fall (Eagle Falls) flowing directly into the Lake. Magnificent cedars and pines set off by shear granite cliffs make this one of the most scenic areas in the entire United States. Mrs. Knight wanted to build a summer home that would compliment the magnificent natural surroundings. Emerald Bay reminded her of many of the fjords she had seen on numerous travels to Scandinavia. She commissioned her nephew by marriage, Lennart Palme, a Swedish architect, to design the plans.

vikingsholm castle
Vikingsholm Castle at Emerald Bay
Photo by Jeaneane Payne

Vikingsholm is located at the head of Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, California. This magnificent "castle" is a unique blend of Nature's spectacular beauty and man's architectural ingenuity. Vikingsholm, situated majestically among towering pines and cedars, was built as a summer home by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight in 1929.

In the summer of 1928 Mrs. Knight and the Palmes traveled to Scandinavia to gather the ideas they wanted to incorporate in Vikingsholm. Vikingsholm was completed in the fall of 1929 and occupied by Mrs. Knight, her staff of 15 and many guests in June of 1930. Mrs. Knight enjoyed 15 summers at Vikingsholm. She always had a home full of guests to share this magnificent summer home with her. Mrs. Knight passed away at the age of 82 in 1945. After her death, the home was sold to Lawrence Holland, a rancher from Nevada. He subsequently sold it to Harvey West, a lumberman from Placerville, California. In the early 1950s, Mr. West, a noted philanthropist, negotiated with the State of California and said he would donate one-half of the appraised value of the land, as well as the Vikingsholm itself outright, if the State would pay him the other half. This arrangement was agreed upon, and in 1953 the house and property were acquired by the State. Vikingsholm is considered to be one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture existing in the United States. It is now a part of the Harvey West Unit of the Emerald Bay State Park. The house is open for tours in the summer months and the grounds and magnificent scenery may be enjoyed all year around by those wishing to visit this beautiful setting.

emerald bay
Emerald Bay at Vikingsholm Castle. Photo by Jeaneane Payne


Tours of Vikingsholm Castle are available seven days a week from mid-June until the end of September. The first tour of the day starts at 10:00 A.M. and the last tour at 4:00 P.M. All tours are guided tours and take approximately one-half hour. The tour fee is $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for children 6 to 12. Children under 6 are free. The maximum number of people on a tour is 49. Limited parking is available in the Vikingsholm parking lot off of Highway 89. (It is advisable to come for morning tours as there are more parking opportunities at that time.)

Bus service to the parking lot is available from both North Shore and South Shore. A one mile steep, but well defined, trail leads from the parking lot to Vikingsholm. Many scenic views can be enjoyed during this walk. There are various resting places along the trail. It is to be stressed, though, this is a steep trail.

There is no public boat service to Vikingsholm, but Vikingsholm can be reached by private boat. A dock is provided for loading and unloading only. Beaching a boat is allowed in the bay from dawn to dusk. Tour boats are available from South Shore and North Shore. These boats allow passengers to view Vikingsholm from the water, but they do not dock in Emerald Bay. children.

emerald bay
Emerald Bay at Vikingsholm Castle. Photo by Jeaneane Payne

Join a 2 hour cruise around magnificent Lake Tahoe and savor the wonders of this picturesque area. Discover breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Emerald Bay, charming Fannette Island and Vikingsholm Castle. Enjoy lunch (available to purchase on board) as you listen to the crew narrate the local points of interest as you cruise by.
Emerald Bay Sightseeing Cruise

Published November 15, 2010

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