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HIKING

Rubicon Trail Joins 2 Tahoe Parks

August 16, 1992|JOHN McKINNEY

Adjoining state parks D. L. Bliss and Emerald Bay protect six miles of Lake Tahoe's shore. Rubicon Trail, a superb shoreline pathway, contours over shady slopes, linking the two parks and offering grand views of what American Indians once called the "Lake in the Sky."

Even if the parks themselves weren't so splendidly scenic, they would still attract lots of visitors because they offer something in short supply around Lake Tahoe: public access to the lake.

Most park visitors come to see Vikingsholm--a lakefront summer home built in the form of a 9th-Century Norse castle and later donated to the state. (Tours are conducted 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Labor Day, then weekends only for a few more weeks. Cost is $2 for adults, $1 ages 6-17.) Even if you can't schedule a tour, the two-mile round-trip hike on Vikingsholm Trail (a road closed to vehicle traffic) to view the structure is worth the effort.

Another attraction is Emerald Bay itself, one of Tahoe's best beaches. Swimmers can brave the bay's chilly waters, which "warm" to the low 60s between mid-August and mid-September.

To reach the trail head for Vikingsholm from South Lake Tahoe, drive north nine miles on California 89 to Emerald Bay Overlook, a large parking area on your right. If you're coming from Tahoe City, drive 18 miles south on 89.

Emerald Bay/Vikingsholm is also the terminus for the Rubicon Trail, described below.

Directions to trail head: From South Lake Tahoe, drive 11 miles north on State 89 to the D. L. Bliss State Park entrance. (There's a $5 fee for day use.) If you're coming from Tahoe City, you'll drive 16 miles south on 89 to the park entrance. Follow the park road 2 1/2 miles to its end at a parking area for Calawee Cove Beach.

The hike: Take either the upper or lower trail, both of which loop south and rejoin in a bit more than a quarter-mile.

Rubicon Trail climbs gently south, soon offering much better views of Lake Tahoe, then ascending into a white fir forest. Emerging from the trees, the path begins a one-mile descent to the lake shore, then meanders lakeside to Emerald Point. Here the trail splits: One branch visits Emerald Point, the other bypasses the point. The trails soon rejoin; you cross the boundary from D. L. Bliss State Park into Emerald Bay State Park and hike another half-mile among pine, fir and incense cedar to the park's Boat Camp. This camp is an ideal lakeside picnic spot.

For its last mile, Rubicon Trail sticks close to shore, with only a single foray inland to climb around Parson Rock. Vikingsholm is your turnaround point, unless you've arranged to have transportation waiting for you at Emerald Bay Overlook, a one-mile ascent up Vikingsholm Trail.

Lake Tahoe / Rubicon Trail Where: Bliss and Emerald Bay state parks. Distance: To Old Lighthousse, 3/4 mile round trip; to Emerald Point, 6 miles round trip; to Vikingholm, 9 miles round trip. Terrain: Pine and fir cloaked slopes above Lake Tahoe. Highlights: Grand views of the "Lake in the Sky," including Emerald Bay and Fannette Island; swimming (chilly) for the hardy; touring the Norse castle Vikingsholm. Precautions: Winter snows close the state parks. For more information: Contact D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay state parks, P.O. Box 266, Tahoma, Calif. 95733, (916) 525-7277. For all Lake Tahoe-area state parks, call the Sierra Area Headquarters at (916) 525-732.

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