Explore Tahoe-Truckee: Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe shine from the Inspiration Point Vista | SierraSun.com

Explore Tahoe-Truckee: Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe shine from the Inspiration Point Vista

The Sierra Nevada mountains add a layer of beauty to the viewpoint of Emerald Bay from Inspiration Point Vista.
Kaleb M. Roedel / Sierra Sun |

Editor’s note

This is the second in a series of recurring stories highlighting simple-to-access scenic views for motorists and cyclists of the greater Truckee-Tahoe region.

Click here to read Part One, about McGlashan Point at Donner Summit.

Click here to read Part Two, about the Mt. Rose Highway Scenic Lookout.

MEEKS BAY, Calif. — You’ve seen the view before — on postcards, in your Facebook feed, perhaps even on TV.

But until you’re actually standing there, towering 600 feet above the impossibly blue water, you haven’t truly seen Lake Tahoe, the biggest alpine lake in North America, at its absolute apex.

The spot you need to set your compass — or rather, GPS — for: Inspiration Point Vista.

Located a few miles south of Emerald Bay State Park off of Highway 89, the fittingly named vista gives you an awe-inspiring view of more than just Lake Tahoe and all its glory.

From any point of the paved paths that meander along the overlook, you can gaze at the eye-popping Fannette Island, the only island found in all of Lake Tahoe.

The granite upheavel sparsely covered in pines and brush is planted in the west shore of Emerald Bay — beckoning adventurers to kayak over for a closer look.

Also, if you squint hard enough, you’ll see a stone structure that looks like a miniature castle standing atop the island. It served as a tea house for Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight, the former property owner of the region (she purchased it in 1928 for $250,000).

Look to your left, and there’s the real castle: Vikingsholm Castle (the summer home of Mrs. Knight), set hard at the head of Emerald Bay.

From the vista, it looks like the most elaborate sand castle ever built. But zoom in with your camera and you can see why the 38-room mansion is considered one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture.

When you zoom out, be sure to soak in the perfect-for-a-family-photo backdrop the vista offers. The sprawl of green pines, the blue Tahoe waters spilling out of the mouth of Emerald Bay, and the endless Sierra Nevada mountains encompassing it all.

Notably, there are many information panels located along the vista path that explain the history of Inspiration Point, Fannette Island, Vikingsholm and more. Binocular viewers are also stationed at several spots on the walkway.

As far as parking goes, there’s a spacious lot with room for a few dozen cars. Restrooms are also provided.

So, how do you get to this astonishing spot?

COMING FROM TRUCKEE/TAHOE CITY:

At the “Wye” in Tahoe City, hop onto Highway 89 South, which turns into Emerald Bay Road after you pass the Meeks Bay community.

After you pass Emerald Bay State Park (less than two miles from your destination), Emerald Bay Road will begin curling around the bay.

Continue past Vikingsholm Trail — which offers great views of its own, and the trail to get to the aforementioned castle — and just over a mile later, you’ll see Inspiration Point on your left.

There will be a brown sign on your right that announces the vista is 1,000 feet ahead.

COMING FROM SOUTH LAKE TAHOE:

A the “Y” in South Lake Tahoe, jump on Highway 89 North/Emerald Bay Road.

The road will wind and zigzag until you pass Upper Eagle Point Campground.

A mile later, you’ll see Inspiration Point Vista on your right.