Lake Tahoe’s stunning Rubicon Trail stretches between Emerald Bay State Park and D.L. Bliss State Park in South Lake Tahoe.
Throughout the hike you can enjoy a variety of landscapes and vantage points along the lakeshore, sometimes walking right by the water and others climbing slightly for gorgeous panoramic vistas.
Side note: the Rubicon Trail that I’m featuring here is the lakeside hiking trail, not to be confused with the 4×4 trail near Lake Tahoe with the same name.
Despite some mild elevation change and a bit of narrow, rocky terrain, it’s not a particularly intense hike. And for a little bit of effort, you get a big reward.
A great thing about the Rubicon Trail is that it’s customizable depending on how much time and energy you have.
Walking the entire route between D.L. Bliss State Park and the Eagle Point Campground in Emerald Bay State Park is about twelve miles round trip.
Walking from D.L. Bliss to the lake’s famed Vikingsholm castle – a popular alternative that ends about 1.5 miles before the Eagle Point Campground – is just over nine miles round trip.
There’s also the option of walking a smaller section in one of the two parks instead of visiting both.
In the end, we decided to walk one way from Emerald Bay to D.L. Bliss.
As we soon found out, hiking the trail one way can be a little tricky. While totally doable, there are a couple of factors that mean you do need to plan ahead: the location of the trailheads and the shuttle bus schedule.
More on that soon.
On the morning of our hike, we left our car on the side of the road by the Eagle Falls trailhead. This area is almost directly across the road from the Emerald Bay State Park lot.
While it costs $10 to leave your car in the state park lots, parking along the side of the road is free. We were surprised to see so many people doing this on such a narrow and hilly road, however the parking lots fill up very quickly and there are often no spaces left in them, leaving no other option.
After parking, we headed down to the lakeshore to access the trailhead.
Cue: views on views on views! From the very beginning of the hike, the scenery was incredibly beautiful.
While we started out on an overcast morning, the sunshine worked its way through. Before long, there was barely a cloud in the sky.
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Upon arriving at the end of the trail at D.L. Bliss, we hiked to the park’s entrance to catch the #30 shuttle which took us back to Emerald Bay State Park. After enjoying some beautiful Emerald Bay and Fannette Island views, we walked the short distance back to our car.
The Fine Print For A One-Way Hike
If you start at D.L. Bliss and end at Emerald Bay (shortly before reaching Vikingsholm), keep in mind you’ll have a steep ~1 mile walk back up to the parking lot in order to reach the shuttle stop.
Conversely, if you start at Emerald Bay and end at D.L. Bliss, there’s an additional ~2.5 mile walk from the trailhead by Calawee Cove up to the park’s entrance to catch the shuttle.
If you have a large enough group and multiple cars, you could consider leaving a car at each park; however, this will still require some extra walking on either end due to the trailheads not being located right by the road.
As for the aforementioned tricky part of the shuttle: it simply doesn’t run very often. If your timing doesn’t work out, you may end up waiting by the side of the road for a while to catch the next one.
There are also times the shuttle may not run at all. There’s a small stretch of time from late June to early July where it runs daily. Aside from that, it runs from Friday through Monday or on Saturday and Sunday only.
This might sound like a lot of planning for one hike, but don’t let the fine print deter you! As I mentioned above, there are plenty of ways to break up the hike – including walking a smaller section round trip – to make it easier logistically.
And in the end, our one-way route worked out really well!
We caught a bus about twenty minutes after we arrived at the shuttle stop. It was running a little late, but there is a set schedule you can plan from.
Plus, our walk through D.L. Bliss to the park’s entrance was absolutely beautiful, if not slightly confusing at times for lack of signage.
We had so much fun hiking the Rubicon Trail. Whether you decide to walk the entire route both ways or tailor a smaller piece of it to suit your needs, it’s an amazing way to experience the varied terrain and gorgeous views Lake Tahoe has to offer.
Have you visited Lake Tahoe? How about the Rubicon Trail? Let me know in the Comments below!
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