The Lake Tahoe area on the border of California and Nevada serves as an amazing vacation destination. The area is extremely unique and provides for great views, but there are many other less known gems in the area. Besides the beautiful mountain views, there is one attraction that stands out among the rest. If you want to channel your inner Viking, make sure that you visit the mansion Vikingsholm.
Vikingsholm Castle is a 38-room mansion on the shore of Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe. The Vikingsholm foundation was laid in 1928, but the building was constructed in 1929 by 200 workers. Vikingsholm was built by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight as a summer home. Before starting construction, Mrs. Knight and her architect traveled to Scandinavia to gather ideas for the construction of the house. Some parts of the structure contain no nails or spikes, as a result of old-fashioned construction methods. Most of the building was made from materials found at Lake Tahoe.
Top Ten Things to Do Around Vikingsholm
1: Hike to Vikingsholm
Even if you want to take a tour, Vikingsholm is almost exclusively accessed by a moderate trail unless for school tours or guests requiring ADA accesibility. Just be prepared with appropriate footwear and read our notice about the hike at the bottom!
2: Tour the Magnificent Mansion
Tours are offered 7 days a week, from June 15 – September 17, 2023. Tours begin every 30 minutes from 11 AM to 4 PM. Tickets are $18 for adults, and $15 for youth students from 6-17 years as well as seniors and active duty military. Children 5 and under are free! Tickets can be purchased at the Visitor Center. Learn more about Tours on the Vikingsholm website.
3: Appreciate the Unique Architecture
Since the construction of the mansion borrowed Scandinavian influences, you’ll note many little touches reminiscent of such designs. One of the interesting architectural designs is the sod roof which covers both the north and south wings of the complex. And you can admire that without even taking the tour!
4: Note One-Of-A-Kind Design Elements
If you do tour the home, you’ll notice all sorts of creative designs that truly make this home unlike any other. The interior of the home has paintings on some of the ceilings and walls and two intricately carved dragon beams.
5: Appreciate Scandinavian Fireplaces
As you tour the home, you’ll notice several unique fireplaces. The six fireplaces are of Scandinavian design with unusual fireplace screens. The knowledgeable tour guide should point these out, but you can always ask questions too!
6: Take a Picnic to Enjoy on the Vikingsholm Trail
Even if it’s not the season for tours, a great idea is to take a picnic with you to enjoy on Emerald Bay with views of the sparkling water and the looming magnificence of Vikingsholm Castle! Make sure to bring some beach gear too, as the hike back up can be rather steep, so it’s best to bring everything at once!
7: Learn About the Rich History of Life at Vikingsholm
When you tour the home, your guide will give you a wealth of information of what life was like at the castle in the early 1900s, from the way meals were prepared to the social gatherings and events that took place at the castle.
8: Kayak out to Fannette Island to See the Ruins of the Tea House
Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight, the original owner of Vikingsholm, used to take her guests for high tea out to a small island on the bay. Today, you can rent a kayak or canoe and go marvel at the ruins.
9: Travel to Vikingsholm by Boat
Skip the hike and travel to Vikingsholm in style! The Sierra State Parks Foundation has teamed up with Action Water Sports and Cruise Tahoe, and now offers a beautiful journey across the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe to Emerald Bay to Vikingsholm Castle!
10: Explore the Rest of Emerald Bay Park
Vikingsholm, along with the “Tea House” on Fannette Island and Emerald Bay, is a part of Emerald Bay State Park. Emerald Bay has also been declared a National Natural Landmark.
Hiking Down to the Viking Mansion
Lake Tahoe Vikingsholm can be reached by parking in the Vikingsholm parking lot by Highway 89 at Emerald Bay. Access to lower Vikingsholm is via a steep one mile trail that drops 500 feet in elevation to the house. Visitors are welcome to hike down to Vikingsholm Castle any time of year, but please be aware: In the winter, snow and ice can lead to hazardous conditions. Before deciding to hike in the snow, consider if you have appropriate footwear, clothing, food and water supply, and stamina level. Cell phones may not have reception. There are no services or drinking water from October to May. Restrooms are available year-round at the bottom. Round-trip to Vikingsholm and back is 2 miles with 400 feet elevation gain.
(Photo courtesy of Dawn Ellner via Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/naturesdawn/2937372667)
Want more? Check out our list of all the best places for Hiking in Lake Tahoe this summer!