There is really only one campground at Lake Tahoe where you can pitch your tent right on the water and be far away from car alarms and other night sounds. The Emerald Bay Boat-In Campground might be one of the best secrets on the lake, but you still have to be lucky to snag a camp spot at this coveted location. There are only 20 sites at this campground and they go fast, but when we were camping there over the Fourth of July weekend we happened to notice that some of the sites were wide open on Saturday night.
There are several ways to count yourself that lucky. You can boat in from any of the Tahoe marinas or you can kayak or canoe in from D.L. Bliss State Park. When checking into Bliss, you will receive an overnight pass to park your car in the overflow parking area of the D.L. Bliss campground. You will have to unload your kayak or canoe and gear at Lester Beach and then park your vehicle up the road and hike back down to the shoreline. The kayak trip over to Emerald Bay is just shy of 4 miles and follows the deep blue Rubicon Bay and Rubicon trail. If you have a boat, there are designated buoys for each campsite.
The campsites can be reserved on Reserve America from May 15 to September 15, but nearly everyone battles for the top three spots. There are three campsites (numbers 1, 21 and 22) that are located right on the water and actually have their own beaches. However, if you don't get one of those, it's okay, the other sites along the hillside above the bay are private and have bear boxes, picnic tables, fire pits and flat areas for tents.
Just like Emerald Bay in the summer, during the day the place is hopping with boat and kayak traffic, hikers along the Rubicon Trail and visitors coming down the Vikingsholm trail. However, in the evening, the place transforms. It becomes very quiet and is left to the campers. In the calm water after everyone else has gone home, we kayak out to Fannette Island or over to Vikingsholm. The two paddle boats, the M.S. Dixie II and the Tahoe Queen, will tour the bay for one last time and SUP paddleboarders often try to surf the boats' wakes. This is also a nice time to hike up the Vikingsholm Trail to Eagle Falls and avoid the parking nightmare on the top of the hill.