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Stories from the valley

D.L. Bliss State Park: A great place to relax and enjoy Lake Tahoe

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

My travels tend to take me to the high country and away from more populated areas. However, this year I have decided to visit some places that are new to me even though they are quite well known and frequented by others. 

D.L. Bliss State Park on the west shore of Lake Tahoe is one of those places I have wanted to visit but always avoided because of its popularity. Located just 10 miles north of the intersection of Highways 50 and 89 in South Lake Tahoe, it offers hiking, beaches, camping and beautiful views of the lake. 

people walking on hiking trail

We arrived at the park midmorning on a summer weekday and saw that it was already busy. Not knowing if we would even be able to get in, we stopped at the first entrance kiosk and had a delightful conversation with the summer intern working for the state park system. Turns out that even though the park had been full, many people had finished with their morning visit and there was space in all of the parking lots throughout the park.

After parking at Lester Beach right next to the water, we headed out on the Rubicon Hiking Trail. The trail climbed the cliffs at the lake’s edge and provided some wonderful views of the entire lake. Our goal was to get to the Rubicon Lighthouse, which was the highest elevation lighthouse on a navigable body of water in the world. 

old wooden lighthouse building along hiking trail

The lighthouse is located 1.5 miles from the parking lot and has stood on the brow of the cliff 1919. While it resembles an old outhouse rather than the classic image of a lighthouse, it helped travelers be safe until 1921 when a new light was built on Sugar Pine Point. The lighthouse has received restoration and is an interesting historic site.

We chose to return to the car rather than hiking the full length of the trail, which would have taken us all the way to the historic Vikingsholm mansion on Emerald Bay. Instead, we headed to the Balancing Rock Nature Trail in another area of the park.

rock formation along hiking trail

Though not really balancing, the huge boulder, which has been created by erosion, provides a unique spectacle on the short loop trail that winds behind the rock. At some point nature’s forces will cause the rock to lose its balance and join many other rocks in the creek at the bottom of the hill.

Sadly, we left the park with many trails remaining unexplored and with a desire to return in the near future. Even though it’s popular and receives heavy usage, plan your arrival early in the morning to beat the crowds or around midday when many earlier visitors have left. You will not be disappointed by this wonderful state park.