If you have a free day in Tahoe or are just looking for a fantastic summer, hike we highly recommend checking out the Rubicon Trail on Tahoe’s southwest shore. Not to be confused with the 22-mile long, four-wheel drive route west of the lake, this lakeside foot trail is 6.5 miles long and connects two of Tahoe’s premier state parks, D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay. Most people set out do the section between Rubicon Point and Vikingsholm (4.6 miles one way), but the full length of the trail extends from Rubicon Point south around Emerald Bay to Eagle Point Campground.
This lake-oriented, moderately level trail offers an intimate look at Tahoe’s blue waters from elevated vantages that hug rocky precipices and lakeside sections near the water’s edge. Add in the D.L. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay attractions of Rubicon Point, Vikingsholm, and state park beaches, and you’ve got one of Tahoe’s premier hikes with a fantastic itinerary in store.
The trail can be accessed at one of three primary trailheads: Rubicon Trailhead in D.L. Bliss State Park, Vikingsholm at Emerald Bay State Park, and the Eagle Point Campground in Emerald Bay. Our recommendation is to begin at Rubicon Trailhead and work your way south in order to maximize views and save the gems of Emerald Bay for later in the day. Some parties may opt to shuttle a car to Emerald Bay for a one-way hike as opposed to doing the round trip.
Starting near Calawee Cove Beach in D.L. Bliss State Park, head south on the Rubicon Trail above Rubicon Point . This dramatic section of trail is built into the cliff hundreds of feet above Tahoe’s indigo blue waters. The depth of lake here is said to reach 1,400 feet, hence the deep oceanic blue hue. Continuing south you’ll pass under the site of the old Rubicon Point Lighthouse, which guided lake vessels in the early 20th century.
The trail continues south in and out of woods, opening up with fantastic viewpoints of the lake and the southwest shore’s terrain. Slightly before nearing Emerald Point, the trail passes into Emerald Bay State Park and bends southwest toward Vikingsholm. After passing the boat-in campground, the Rubicon Trail continues to the 38-room Vikingsholm castle, considered one of the best models of Scandinavian architecture in North America, and the beach at the head of Emerald Bay. Hikers can end their hike here or continue on a short way to see Lower Eagle Falls and finish out the last 1.5 miles to Eagle Point Campground on the south side of Emerald Bay.
If you’re shuttling cars and ending the hike at Vikingsholm, take the mile-long Vikingsholm Trail up to the parking area to connect with your shuttle. Otherwise, retrace your steps and head back to the Rubicon Trailhead in D.L. Bliss State Park.
Overall, the Rubicon Trail is relatively flat and conducive to families, particularly using the one-way shuttle option. Note that dogs are not allowed on park trails.