Emerald Bay State Park is probably the most beautiful part of the Lake Tahoe area, complete with steep mountains, a Scandinavian-style castle, and an island with a tea house in the center of the bay's deep blue water. Even the short drive from Lake Tahoe is spectacular.
What I didn't know when I came is that one needs a few hours to explore this place between the stops on the road for views, the hikes, the places to rest and take in the views, and the visit to the castle, which includes a steep hike down to the shore.
Dogs are not allowed on trails, and while the upper part is kid-friendly, the hiking trails may be too steep for small children.
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A Granite, Spruce-Clad Island Gem
A sliver of pines in the distance, Fannette Island sparkled like a rough diamond.
We had driven past Tahoe City over Fanny Bridge and towards Emerald Bay in pursuit of what the locals said was "the prettiest view in town."
They also advised us to arrive early so we could get some decent parking, but alas the parking lot was jam packed. Finally, when a spot opened up at the Emerald Bay State Park, we dashed off to the lookout to spot the lone island.
Fannette Island is small but the colors of the lake vary from dark navy to aquamarine, and it is orbited by dozens of colorful kayaks on any given day. A granite-studded island, it resisted glacial erosion, along with the famed Emerald Bay.
Fannette Island also has the remains of a castle/tea house owned by the same the Emerald State Park which owns Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion on the shore of Emerald Bay.
The only way to reach Emerald Bay is through a paved road perfect for a delicious hike. No cars are allowed down to the bay. When you're there, enjoy an afternoon of swimming and kayaking, and try to spot the underwater wrecks near the island (you're not allowed to swim to the island from the bay shore, however). This is one spot not to miss on Lake Tahoe.