Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park

While in Lake Tahoe, I ran the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park. I heard Emerald Bay was beautiful, and it was a “must-do” at Lake Tahoe. Believe me, even if you don’t run or hike, it’s worth coming out to check out the views. It’s beautiful!

About Emerald Bay State Park:

Emerald Bay State Park is located 12 miles north of South Lake Tahoe. Vehicles cannot drive down to the lake. However, there are many vistas and hiking trails.

It does cost $5 to park and run the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park. (Or any trail at the park). The parking lot is open from sunrise to sunset.

Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park

History of Rubicon Trail and Emerald Bay State Park:

You know I love good history about where I’m running, and the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park is no exception. In 1969, Emerald Bay was designated a National Natural Landmark because of its panorama of mountain-building processes and glacier-carved granite. The geology and history make it one of the most unique areas in Lake Tahoe.

Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park
Still plenty of snow in April

In 1994, Emerald Bay designated an underwater state park. (I didn’t even know those existed). There are many boats, launches, and barges at the bottom. The water is one of the clearest areas of anywhere I’ve seen.

In the summer, you can hike, swim, kayak, scuba dive, boat, sightsee and tour Vikingsholm.  When we were there in April, it was chilly (around 35 at 8 am). There was still snow on some parts of the trail, but for the most part, it was clear.

Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park

What can you do at Emerald Bay State Park?

  • 2 campgrounds: Boat-In Camp and Eagle Point Campground.
  • Running the Rubicon foot trail around Emerald Bay (that’s what we did). There are also trailheads at Eagle Point campground, Vikingsholm, and DL Bliss State Park.
  • Visit Vikingsholm: One of the finest Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere.
  • Visit the “Tea House” on Fannette Island (Fannette Island is the only island in Lake Tahoe).

Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park

Running the Rubicon Trail:

The Rubicon Trail is 16.4 miles long and goes around Emerald Bay. The entire trail has about 2200 feet of elevation gain. You can see the entire map on alltrails.

Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park
Stream crossing

My Experience at the Rubicon Trail:

We started at the Vikingholm parking lot and went north. When we arrived around 7:30 am, we were the only car in the parking lot. When we left around 10, the entire lot was full. I can imagine Emerald Bay State Park es busy in peak months. (Also, keep in mind it does cost $5).

Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park

Parking at the Vikinholm parking lot means the first mile drops nearly 200 feet. That sounds great, except your run final mile of the run will be the hardest incline of them all.

In April, there was snow still on the ground, but nowhere you couldn’t run. We averaged about 12 minutes per mile depending on terrain, elevation. There are A LOT of stairs on the Rubicon Trail. I highly recommend a good trail shoe or good shoe in general as it’s not a trail you can “chill on.”

Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park
Lots of loose rocks

There were plenty of single-track areas and also areas that opened up with beautiful pine needles on the ground. In all, it was one of my favorite trails I’ve ever run. It’s runnable in about 80% of the spots, but there are a lot of stairs.

Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park

We took a short detour to see the Emerald Bay Rubicon Point Light. It was built in 1916! I hadn’t seen photos beforehand

Running the Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park

If you are ever in Lake Tahoe, I highly suggest running or hiking the Rubicon Trail or going to Emerald Bay State Park. Even just going out to Emerald Bay is worth the drive.

You can see more trail runs and hikes here.

Questions for you:

Have you ever been to Rubicon Trail at Emerald Bay State Park?

What is the most scenic trail you’ve run?