Rubicon Trail at Lake Tahoe’s D.L. Bliss State Park provides history with its views |

Rubicon Trail at Lake Tahoe’s D.L. Bliss State Park provides history with its views

Mark McLaughlin
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
D.L. Bliss State Park provides an easy walk with remarkable views.
Courtesy Mark McLaughlin | Lake Tahoe Action

The spectacular hike from D.L. Bliss State Park to Emerald Bay and back ranks as one of the most exceptional walks in all of Tahoe. It is less than 6 miles round trip to the vistas of Emerald Bay, perfect for a family outing or a casual afternoon sojourn. If you’re feeling more adventurous, continue on to the Vikingsholm Castle at the west end of Emerald Bay, a fascinating example of Scandinavian architecture financed by Lora Knight in 1929.

The well-maintained trail is rated beginner level ability, but it offers “expert-only” views. Known as the Rubicon Trail, the trailhead starts at the southern most stretch of Lester Beach in Bliss State Park, one of Tahoe’s most scenic sand beaches. As you make your way along the trail, keep your eyes peeled for large raptors like bald eagles and osprey that grab fish right out of the lake. From the various overlooks on a sunny day, you can see 100 feet into Lake Tahoe’s famously clear water.

In addition to the hiking and swimming available in the park, if you bring a kayak, paddleboard or canoe on top of your car (trailers are prohibited in the day use parking lots), the paddling along the sheer cliffs to the south offers views of steep cliffs with hikers on the Rubicon Trail 150 feet above. And while you’re there, make sure to walk the half-mile, self-guided Balancing Rock Trail to see a large 130-ton granite boulder precariously perched on top of a thrust of bedrock that is slowly eroding away.

We can thank Duane Leroy Bliss, a 19th century banker, railroad operator and timber baron, for the near pristine conditions of his namesake park, since it was his vision of Lake Tahoe as a future scenic resort that protected this patch of land. The Bliss family donated these 744 acres of land to California State Parks in 1929.

Duane Bliss was a man of integrity, ability and vision. Born in Savoy, Massachusetts in 1833, he completed his schooling by age 13. In 1868 the Bank of California initiated the construction of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, and they appointed Duane Bliss right-of-way agent, responsible for acquiring the necessary properties for the project. In 1873, Bliss and a group of investors formed the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company, with Bliss as president and general manager. In pragmatic foresight Duane Bliss ordered loggers to spare trees fewer than 15 inches in diameter in order to protect some portion of the forest and accelerate its eventual regrowth.

At the turn of the 20th century, Bliss launched a luxury passenger steamship, built a fancy hotel for wealthy tourists and constructed a narrow-gauge railroad to connect Tahoe City with Truckee. It represented Lake Tahoe’s coming of age as a destination resort.

Lake Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. His award-winning books are available at local stores or at You can reach him at Check out his blog at

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