Motors Allowed?
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Emerald Bay is without question one of the most beautiful and scenic areas of Lake Tahoe, with nearby lower Eagle Falls, historic Vikingsholm, and many of the features of Emerald Bay State Park in walking distance and views of the Desolation Wilderness peaks dominating the western horizon. But a unique way to explore the area, as well as to get a break from some of the crowds that can make their way to the area in peak-season, is to paddle out into the bay. 

The cove setting of Emerald Bay ensures that wind conditions here may often be better than on other areas of the lake, and it is small enough that paddlers can explore shoreline, the creek below Eagle Falls, or access the boat-in camp along the bay's northern side. Paddling is also the only way to access Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe. Fannette Island offers a short hiking trail to the tea house, which was built by Lora Josephine Knight, owner of Vikingsholm, to entertain guests. 

Two caveats to paddling in Emerald Bay, however, are that parking at the Vikingsholm Parking Lot requires a $10 parking and can fill up early. After this, there is limited parking along the shoulder of Highway 89, though this will require a walk back to the parking area. Also, the hike from the parking area to the lakeshore is about 1 mile with about 400 feet in elevation difference. This means that hauling in your own kayak or stand-up paddleboard may turn out to be a laborious undertaking. Inflatables may provide an easier entry for this reason.

Additionally, kayak and SUP rentals and tours are available seasonally near the bottom of the entry trail. Provided by Kayak Tahoe, rentals include necessary safety gear, as well as a lesson for first-time or beginner paddlers. 

More information from Kayak Tahoe can be found at or by calling them at 530.544.2011.

Emerald Bay is open for day use year round. The boat-in camp is open seasonally. Fannette Island remains closed to the public from February 1 to June 15 for bird nesting.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

General Day Use Fee


Beautiful scenery. Option to explore Fannette Island.


Requires a steep hike to access.

Water Temperature

32.00 °F (0.00 °C)


Backcountry camping

Typically multi-day


Shuttle required


Site characteristics: Water


Portage required



Nearby Adventures

Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, California
Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, California

Nearby Lodging + Camping


Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.