Hiking Lake Tahoe's Rubicon Trail - Sunset Magazine
In the 1880s, a Sacramento newsman compared Lake Tahoe's sapphire depths to bluing solution, so astonishing was the color. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) said Lake Tahoe's air was pure enough for angels. Clear sky and water still startle the senses here, especially when you spend the day close to shore on the 6 1/2-mile Rubicon Trail.
The footpath connects rocky points and sandy coves along an untamed shoreline that once intimidated mountain men. Today, the paths have been cleared and the steeper sections shored up. The most popular trailheads are at D.L. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay State Park. It's 4 1/2 miles between those points; also, you can take the new 2-mile extension past Vikingsholm.
The Bliss trailhead approach is particularly sweet. Its crushed-granite path leads, after about 1/8 mile, to Rubicon Point, where the trail turns south. About 1/5 mile past Rubicon Point, you'll reach a place where dramatic granite cliffs descend 600 feet to a watery mosaic of blues – they continue another 1,400 feet below water.
A few steps around the corner juts a strange crowd of natural rock figures. Use your imagination to identify local favorites such as Frog Rock, Sleeping Lady, Gladiator, and Old King Cole. Across a ravine behind the formations is an osprey nest that's been there for years. A separate trail departs here for the remains of a small wood lighthouse.
About 1/2 mile farther south, the trail leaves sunny terrain for cooler slopes shaded by sugar and Jeffrey pines, Douglas fir, and incense cedar trees. You'll pass another rocky viewpoint before switch-backing downhill to the sandy coves of Emerald Point. Views encompass glacier-carved mountain peaks and the lumpy profile of Fannette Island – legends of ghosts and turn-of-the-century tea parties here enthrall visitors.
Continuing around the bay, you'll come to Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion built in 1929 for a woman who wanted to replicate the stonework, turrets, and sod roofing of medieval Scandinavian architecture.
Save time for a 30-minute guided tour – they're available between 10 and 4 every half hour daily through the end of September.
About 8 miles north of the park, Tahoma Meadows B&B (530/525-1553) is a good place to spend the night – which you may well want to do once this region has cast its spell on you.