Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm – Lake Tahoe, California

Jocelyn Murray August 4, 2011 No Comments

Emerald Bay with Fannette Island

View overlooking Emerald Bay with Fannette Island

Nestled among incense cedar, mountain hemlock and various species of fragrant pine, Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, California lures guests with its enchanting mountain scenery, towering granite cliffs and Eagle Falls flowing down the rocks like something out of a fairytale. The water here runs several shades of deep emerald green – a green so vibrant and soothing one cannot help but ponder its beauty. This magical place is home to the lovely Vikingsholm, also known as “Tahoe’s hidden castle.”

Built as a summer home by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight in 1929, Vikingsholm is a testament to architectural ingenuity in the Scandinavian tradition. The impressive beauty of Emerald Bay with its lofty granite bluffs reminded her of the fjords in Norway, and she decided that the house must be of Scandinavian architecture. Details like hand carved beams, wrought iron fixtures and latches, leaded glass windows, the carved balustrade, and the painted walls and furniture lend this 38-room reproduction of a medieval Norse fortress a timeless elegance. The house makes the most of the spectacular views of the bay.

Emerald Bay Eagle Falls

View of Eagle Falls at Emerald Bay

Hiking to Eagle Falls and the surrounding woods, swimming and sunbathing by the sandy beach, or rowing out to Fannette Island with its Tea House (also built by Mrs. Knight) are favorite activities in Emerald Bay.

In touring Vikingsholm, one imagines what it may have been like to stay here as a guest: an unhurried life where long idyllic days blended seamlessly into tranquil nights. Time stood still. It was an era of gracious living, where one paused to smell the pine, walk through the trees, watch for birds, contemplate the wildlife or just relax with a book under the shade of a ponderosa as the fragrant breeze stirred by the bay gently blew.

Vikingsholm architectural detail

The exquisite architectural detail and craftsmanship is evident in Vikingsholm

Vikingsholm has a medieval charm and craftsmanship with all the modern amenities of the early 1930s: electricity, running water and indoor plumbing. Each bedroom in the main house had its own bath with modern fixtures. The large pantry and kitchen boasted high-end appliances of the time.

Vikingsholm living room

Living room view of Vikingsholm

The house itself is built in a circular structure with a large courtyard in the center. Facing the front with the best views of Emerald Bay is the main house with its elegant living and dining rooms, library and morning room. The second floor features several bedrooms with bathrooms, a sewing room (complete with sewing accoutrements of the 1930s), maid’s room and sitting porch. The large kitchen, servants’ quarters, garage and laundry room flank the sides and rear of the courtyard.

The hike down to Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm after parking in the lot above is a comfortable 20 minutes (1.7 miles) and perfect for families with children. Although unpaved, the path is wide (wide enough for cars) and can easily accommodate strollers (jogger strollers would be best considering the dirt road). It’s a lovely walk where dappled sunlight filters through the pines above, and little grottos with streams of fresh cool water appear along the way. The return walk back up to the parking lot is a bit more of a workout, but still an easy hike. We paused to dip our hands and refresh ourselves in those little grottos, and the cold water felt wonderful.


Emerald Bay by the beach

The water of Emerald Bay runs in stunning hues of green

There is a sandy beach for swimming and sunbathing so bring towels and beach chairs. The only way down and back is on foot, so pack light because you will have to carry things yourself. Bug spray is recommended for the biting flies and mosquitoes, although we did not require any. Bring your own food and water because there is no concession stand available.

Vikingsholm is open for guided tours from Memorial Day weekend through the end of September. The Visitor Center features interesting information, memorabilia and photos of Vikingsholm’s early days. For more information about Vikingsholm visit www.vikingsholm.com

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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