The Rubicon Trail, Lake Tahoe

Carson City, NV

For our last hike during this visit to the Carson City area, we decided to go back up to Lake Tahoe and do the Rubicon Trail.  When we visited the lake two years ago it was during that severe drought in California.  The photo below is one we took along the south end of the lake during that visit.


Below is a photo from around the same spot today.  The lake looks to be completely recovered.


The Rubicon Trailhead is in the D. L. Bliss State Park along CA 89 on the western shore of the lake.  The road is quite scenic as it winds steeply up a series of switchbacks and goes around Emerald Bay.  The trail will take us along the far shore of the bay in the photo below.

Emerald Bay

The Rubicon Trail follows the shoreline of Lake Tahoe for about three miles.  It then crosses over a little peninsula and continues along Emerald Bay for another two miles.

The trail goes up and down as it winds along the shoreline.  At one spot early in the hike it goes around a rocky outcropping, but a chain eliminates any danger of a fall.

The weather was perfect and the sunshine made the water even more beautiful.

Much of the hike is through an impressive, aromatic forest along the lake.

Crossing a small stream

Lunch with a view

We made our way along Emerald Bay and finally came to our turn around spot, Vikingsholm, a 38 room mansion that is now a part of Emerald Bay State Park.  In 1928, Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight bought the land along the bay with the intent of building a summer home that would compliment the natural surroundings.  Emerald Bay reminded her of fjords she had seen on numerous travels to Scandinavia.  She commissioned her nephew by marriage, Lennart Palme, a Swedish architect, to design the home.  Vikingsholm was completed in the fall of 1929.  The exceptional summer home was enjoyed by Mrs. Knight and her guests for 15 summers until Mrs. Knight’s death at the age of 82 in 1945.  The estate changed ownership a number of times over the years until taken over by the State of California in 1953.  The house is open for tours during the summer months.

A tour boat goes around the bay in front of Vikingsholm

In the photo above you can see a small island behind the tour boat.  Known as Fannette Island, it was once the home of Captain Dick “Them’s my toes” Barter from 1863 to 1873. The eccentric captain had moved from England and built his own tomb and chapel on the island.  He enjoyed sailing and earned his nickname from his penchant of showing his self-amputated toes to guests.  Ironically, he was never interred in the chapel he built, as he was lost in a storm off Rubicon Point in 1873.  Mrs. Knight built a teahouse on the island where she could enjoy some privacy with friends (as if Vikingsholm was not private enough!).

Fannette Island

The tea house

Creativity along the trail

The trail makes its way through the Boat-In Campground, where you can tie your boat up and camp for the night ($35/night).  The campground was empty and is scheduled to close next week for the season.

Boat-In Campground site

Just a beautiful view

And another

As we approached the trailhead on the return hike, we could hear quite a bit of noise on the lake.  We rounded a curve and could see a party boat filled with young guys yelling at their buddy perched on the rock ready to jump.  In the photo below you can see one jumper in the water, but the one on the rocks soon backed out and crawled down the rocks to the water.  That might be the only good decision this group made all day!

We returned to the Jeep after a hike of just under 10 miles.  This is a perfect hike to enjoy the beauty of Lake Tahoe.  You don’t need to make it a long hike if you don’t want to, as a short hike will still provide many beautiful views.

On Saturday we drove up to Reno to meet some RV friends.  We first met Bob and Sandra at a rally in 2010 during our first summer full-timing.  We have crossed paths a number of times over the years but it has been a long time since we last met up.  They are from this area and are currently spending the summer in Reno, where Bob recently had surgery to correct a torn bicep muscle and a damaged rotator cuff (ouch!).   We were in contact with them earlier in the week but decided to wait till the end of the week to meet up, giving Bob a few more days of recovery time.  We met for lunch in south Reno and three hours flew by as we caught up with each other.  It will not be as long until our next meeting as they will visit us in Borrego Springs in January.

That wraps up our week in Carson City.  We’ll now head south on US 395 into California for a visit to the town of Bishop.  More on that later . . .

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33 Responses to The Rubicon Trail, Lake Tahoe

  1. suziecue55 says:

    I love reading about your hikes. I would love to find out where/how you find your hikes, word of mouth? or research? Please keep up your wonderful blog – I really enjoy it. I hope to try some of your hikes.
    Mary Klinger – suziecue55

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks so much, Mary! We get our trail ideas from fellow bloggers that hike similar type trails and then, just internet research. I use Alltrails website often. Sometimes Visitor Centers will have good hiking info, as well.

  2. Jeff Pierce says:

    Most folks think of ‘The Rubicon’ as the famous Jeep trail – not knowing, or forgetting, that the trail also leads to the lake shore. Great post on how to hike the Rubicon! Are you going straight to Bishop? skipping Mammoth/Mono? Safe travels and as always looking forward to your next update.

  3. The only time I was at Lake Tahoe, the same spot you hiked was attending my niece wedding and I saw that trailhead. Well, I guess Im glad you took the hike for us for I’m we sure won’t be that way again. Lake Tahoe looks more beautiful now with its high water levels, thanks for the before and after photos!

  4. Upriverdavid says:

    You folks do have the best pictures and info…Thanks!

  5. exploRVistas says:

    What a beautiful hike! I can smell those pine trees right through the computer screen. 🙂

    Glad that person didn’t jump. We had a young man jump 100 feet off of a rock into Prineville Reservoir this summer. That didn’t end well, as you can imagine. 😦

  6. Box Canyon Blogger Mark says:

    I was surprised to see a thatched roof on the back side of the mansion…a taste of home for the original owner, I suppose…

  7. LuAnn says:

    So glad to see that the lake looks healthy again. We too enjoyed the Rubicon Trail hike when we were in the area. Enjoy your time in Bishop. We loved it!

  8. Looks like a beautiful hike, I hope we make it up there when we pass through that area. Thank goodness last winter was so rainy…the lake looks wonderful!

  9. Jim and Barb says:

    Wow, what a beautiful area! Love the looks of Vikingholm, would have loved to see the inside….

  10. libertatemamo says:

    Love that trail. I think we did it a few years back when we were in the area, but there are so many trails out there I might be confusing them. Looks like you got SPECTACULAR weather for it too! Check out Tacos Jalisco after the hike. Great Tacos (our fav in Tahoe)


  11. Laurel says:

    What a beautiful trail! And what a difference when the lake is full. Definitely on our list. I’d like to tour the mansion — but not if the only time to do it is during the summer, when Tahoe is overrun with crowds. I like the “art” on the trail. Reminds me of a whale. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      You and Eric definitely need to hike this trail. I believe Volkingsholm is open until the end of September. It was closed when we arrived later in the afternoon. Yes, the clever rock art does look like a giant whale.

  12. pmbweaver says:

    I like the lake recovered much better.
    I like those chains…hehe
    Oh I love that estate. I can definitely see that in a Scandinavia country. So pretty.
    His self-amputated toes…who does that?
    Beautiful photo of the four of you. What a nice visit to Carson City.

  13. Debbie L says:

    Another great post with fabulous pictures! Especially like the before and after.

  14. Jodee Gravel says:

    Wonderful to see the lake so much healthier!! The views along the water are beautiful. I’m sure those chain railings can’t be as terrifying as they look 🙂 Love the creative rock art.

  15. PAMELA LEONARD says:

    Looks delightfully cool in those woods and along those lakes. Been over 90 degrees here in Wisconsin and we’re not getting a break from it for another 5 days!! You’d never know it was late September…enjoying some armchair hiking as it is too hot to venture outside. I enjoyed my brief visit to Lake Tahoe too, must go back and explore some more someday!

    • placestheygo says:

      It’s been warm for us, also, until yesterday. Then we went from A/C and the fan at night to extra blankets and high 30’s at night!! Snow in the mountains and higher elevations. But we did have a perfect day for the Rubicon Trail hike. Hope fall arrives soon for you!

  16. geogypsy2u says:

    Lake Tahoe is so gorgeous. Haven’t been there in decades. Love Lora’s stone built summer house, and the tea room looks like a fun place. Beautiful hike and nice to visit with friends.

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