Everything You Need To Know To Kayak Emerald Bay

MS Dixie II in Emerald Bay on a summer day

The precious stone within the crown of Lake Tahoe. The unforgettable vistas. Home to the only island within its waters. Like a siren, Emerald Bay calls to everyone. Similar to the calm, glassy surface of Tahoe, Emerald Bay can easily hide some of its lurking dangers. Here’s a few things you should know if you want to kayak Emerald Bay.

Not For The Beginner

The long paddle to Emerald Bay – Image appears courtesy: Sierra Business Council

The normal gateway that kayakers must use to get to Emerald Bay is to raise anchor from Baldwin Beach. With that being said, this isn’t a trip to take without prior experience. First, it’s over TWO miles one-way to get to the opening of Emerald Bay. And from there, it’s another mile to get to Fannette Island, making the journey a SIX mile round-trip excursion. If that wasn’t enough, Emerald Bay is notorious for erratic windy conditions. Due to it’s glacier-carved shape it funnels wind blasts onto the water – catching paddlers by surprise. Mixing unpredictable winds with A LOT of motorized boats and tour crafts visiting this most popular destination in the Tahoe Basin makes for choppy waters to navigate.

Rent Kayak At Emerald Bay State Park Vikingsholm Area

Another option for the strong beginner/intermediate is to rent a kayak from our Kayak Tahoe’s Emerald Bay location. They have a rental location right on the beach IN Emerald Bay State Park. You may still encounter choppy waters as you paddle around the Bay, but at least you don’t have another three miles back to Baldwin Beach. As you’ve probably gathered by now, if this is your 1st time kayaking consider making the kayak Emerald Bay adventure a long-term goal and pick a more relaxed trailhead to start.

Experienced Kayakers Need Only Apply

kayaking Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe with Fannette Island in the center
Photo by: Emily Taylor – Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Now, if you are an experienced kayaker and prepared for what Mother Nature and Lake Tahoe throw at you, then this is a once-in-a lifetime experience you should try. Since this kayaking trip is long and introduces risk, create a rock solid plan. If the winds are blowing, don’t push it. Have a backup option and follow your alternative plan. Maybe enjoy a paddle to Camp Richardson instead. Also, file a float plan. Most of all, if you do plan on paddling to Emerald Bay, GO EARLY so you don’t get affected by the Washoe Zephyr.

What To Expect

Just like all great adventures, if you do get the opportunity to kayak Emerald Bay, you’ll get a perspective few others do. Lofty peaks impossibly shoot up from the shoreline reaching thousands of feet above you. In the center, you have Fannette Island – the only island on Lake Tahoe. And below the water’s surface is the first underwater state park in California’s history. Let’s just say there’s a lot to take in.

Stay safe, have fun, and happy paddling!

For a full write-up, head over to our day trips section and download the .pdf around Emerald Bay. Or better yet, pick up a copy of our Lake Tahoe Water Trail Map & Access Guide.

Looking for more about the Tallac Historic Site or Emerald Bay? Be sure to check out the Sierra Nevada Geotourism website which includes such things as a detailed write-up about Tallac Historic Site, museums, & even hiking ideas.

And of course, Heads UP! Be sure to wear a life jacket!

The Lake Tahoe Water Trail is a Sierra Business Council sustainable recreation tourism project. Learn more about SBC's innovative social, environmental and economic development projects in the Sierra Nevada at www.sierrabusiness.org.


Kayak Tahoe logo
go tahoe north
tahoe lakefront owners association


Sierra Business Council and the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Committee and their contributors will be in no way responsible for personal injury or damage to personal property arising in conjunction with the use of this website or printed materials. Good judgment and planning are critical to any successful outing. Before heading out on the water, it is recommended that you check with other sources of information for the latest lake conditions.

©copyright 2024 Lake Tahoe Water Trail | Privacy Policy | site by Hatchback Creative