The southern end of the West Shore features beautifully undeveloped swathes of lake shore, along with some of Lake Tahoe’s grandest estates.
I talked about West Shore from Tahoe City south to Homewood in the last edition, so I’ll pick up from Homewood and head to Emerald Bay for this installment.
At the far south end of McKinney Bay is Sugar Pine Point and the state park that bears its name. The 4-mile shoreline of Sugar Pine Point State Park is a great place to picnic and sunbath. You can use the public pier for drop off and pick up only, but you can pull in close enough to the beach to anchor your boat and wade to the sandy beaches.
From the beach, you can go for a hike in the woods or follow the paved, interpretive nature trail to Ehrman Mansion for a tour of this Old Tahoe home.
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Rounding Sugar Pine Point, you’ll enter Meeks Bay, once the summer home of Tahoe’s native peoples, the Washoe. The Washoe now operate Meeks Bay Resort through a concession with the U. S. Forest Service. The marina is closed for the season, so be sure to gas up and get supplies in advance. The next marina is at Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe, which is about a 20- to 30-minute boat ride away.
The waters off Rubicon constitute the deepest part of Lake Tahoe closest to the shore.
Often referred to as Lake Tahoe’s Gold Coast for the families of old money that make this span of the West Shore their summer home, Rubicon Bay is one of my favorite places for a sunset cruise. Stretching from the end of Meeks Bay to Emerald Bay, most of Rubicon’s shoreline is craggy, high cliffs dotted by secluded spots. Once you past the last home on the north end of the bay, you’ll come to the white sand beaches of D.L. Bliss State Park.
The beach at Calawee Cove is usually quite busy. You can easily pull up to shore and enjoy the beach or take a hike on the Rubicon Trail accessible at the parking lot above the beach. Rubicon Bay also is a popular spot for boaters to weigh anchor and sleep under the stars.
At the south end of the beach, rocky Rubicon Point juts into Lake Tahoe and begins a great stretch of cliffs extending to Emerald Bay. The waters off Rubicon constitute the deepest part of Lake Tahoe closest to the shore, dropping sharply to depths of more than 1,400 feet.
This stretch from Rubicon Point to the mouth of Emerald Bay also is the D.L. Bliss Underwater Park, so be mindful of scuba divers. (Scuba divers will float a small flag in the area where they are exploring.)
Along its high cliffs, you can catch glimpses of the Rubicon Trail. After you spot the bridge past Rubicon Point, look above it to the left to see Lake Tahoe’s first lighthouse, once the world’s highest elevation navigation light. One of the least known historic sites along the West Shore, you can reach Rubicon Point Lighthouse from Calawee Cove (see Hiking in this issue or at TheTahoeWeekly.com for trail information).
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe’s only bay, is home to Vikingsholm Castle and the famous Tea House perched atop Fannette Island. Enter Emerald Bay only through the channel, marked by red buoys on the starboard and green buoys on the port, to avoid large boulders under the water’s surface.
The bay is full of treasures to enjoy both on the shore and under the water. On the north side of the bay is a boat camp that is open to the public, but fills up fast. Following the shoreline, look for the wreckage of an old dory — a small wooden skiff — underwater just before the boat camp.
At the end of the bay you’ll find the Scandinavian-style Vikingsholm Castle, where you can tour the stately castle and its grounds. There are picnic tables along the beach and you can usually pull your boat up to the beach. From the castle, you can hike over to the boat camp and out to Emerald Point.
After you leave the beach, head over to the outlet of Eagle Creek at the bottom of the falls and look for the underwater trees. Continue along the shoreline on the south side where you’ll find two sunken barges once used to transport lumber across the Lake. This is the site for the Emerald Bay Underwater Park, so keep a watch for scuba divers. The site is located directly across the bay from the boat camp. From here, head back to the bay’s crowning jewel — Fannette Island.
Approach the island from the south, where there’s a small cove. Follow the path from the cove and you’ll quickly ascend to the top of the island and the Tea House. The views are magnificent.
Editor’s Note: The Tahoe Weekly is exploring Lake Tahoe from a boater’s perspective throughout the summer. Find features on the hamlets of the North Shore at TheTahoeWeekly.com. Click on Boating & Sailing under the Out & About tab.