Vikingsholm Tahoe is one of the true gems to visit around Lake Tahoe. It is located on Emerald Bay and is well worth the time to visit. It goes by a few names, and is more formally Vikingsholm Castle. The property has a long history going back to the 1860’s, but Vikingsholm Castle was built in 1929. It is now maintained as part of Emerald Bay State Park.
When I arrived at Vikingsholm Tahoe, I was amazed at the grounds and features of the house. Be sure to take time to find out more about it, and you will be even more amazed to find out it was built from local resources and completed in one season.
The first thing you have to do is get to Vikingsholm Tahoe. There are a couple ways to get there. The most common way is an upper parking area just off Highway 89. This can get very crowded. If you are up for a beautiful hike, I would suggest an alternate Vikingsholm trail for your Vikingsholm Tahoe adventure.
Make your way to Eagle Point Campground on Emerald Bay. You don’t need to camp there, just use the day parking for access to the Rubicon trail. The full trail is a serious day hike that will take you 7.4 miles if you hike the entire trail. The Vikingsholm Visitor Center is only 1.5 miles from the trail head. I have to say, it is one of the more beautiful hikes around with many wonderful views of Emerald Bay. Just remember the golden rule of hiking, what goes down must come up.
The elevation difference from the trail head to Vikingsholm is only about 400 feet, but remember that Lake Tahoe is at 6,225 feet. If you are not accustomed to hiking at some altitude, that 400 foot elevation change can feel like quite a bit. Be sure to bring twice as much water as you ever think you’ll drink. The Vikingsholm visitor center does sell snacks and beverages.
While you are hiking, don’t just take in the beautiful views of Emerald Bay, keep your eye out for wildlife. There are osprey nesting in the area, and if you talk with a ranger, you will get the standard warnings about bears.
I would never consider hiking to Vikingsholm Tahoe without taking the actual tour. It does not cost much, and is well worth the time and effort. You do not get to see the truly amazing aspects until you are inside Vikingsholm Castle.
Carved by Scandinavian master carvers, I was nearly hypnotized by the details in the carvings. The main living room where you enter the tour has two of these dragons heads hanging. In Viking tradition, the Chieftain would hang these to mark an area where only their inner circle could be. All others had to stay outside the area these marked. In Vikingsholm Castle, they are symbolic and intended to mark an area where all are welcome.
As you explore the castle and grounds, keep your eyes open for many visual treats such as this. There are so many, they can be easily missed if you are not observant.
The carvings are far from the only visual treats in Vikingsholm Tahoe. I felt like it was a trip back in time, exploring craftsmanship that may not exist anymore. My favorite aspect of the castle is a small stained glass window at the top of the stairs. I think many people on our tour may have missed it, but it was remarkably beautiful. I marveled at the old style craftsmanship of the stained glass. The view out the window did not provide much detail as it overlooks the main courtyard, but the patterns made by the glass, with the trees and structures in the background were wonderful. I had a vision for how I wanted to capture it as soon as I saw it.
Vikingsholm Tea House
Another of the cool concepts for Vikingsholm Tahoe is the Vikingsholm tea house. You may have a challenge actually visiting it though, as it sits on top of an island in Emerald Bay. There are no actual tours that include the tea house, so you will need a boat to get there. Visiting the Vikingsholm tea house is on my list for my next visit, but I first have to figure out how to get a canoe or kayaks to a launch point on Emerald Bay.
If you plan to take Vikingsholm pictures when you visit, be prepared to wait for people outside the castle. They will be passing through your shot often, and have no awareness of anything around them. Vikingsholm Castle is a museum, so no flash photography is allowed inside. There is not a lot of walking space and the tours take many people at a time. It is not reasonable to try to use a tripod indoors. Be ready to hand hold with only moderate lighting.
I took these photos at ISO 1,600. The living room was shot at f/5.6, 1/15th, and exposure bias of -0.3. The dragon was at f/5.6, 1/25th, and exposure bias -1.3.
Vikingsholm Visitor Center
I recommend leaving enough time to look around the Vikingsholm Visitor Center. It has additional information on the history of the area and some historical photos that are well worth the time.
On your way back up the Rubicon trail, spend some time at Eagle Falls and enjoy the view.