Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tahoe's Grand Estates - The South Shore's Valhalla

Where: The southwest corner of the lake, just northwest of Camp Richardson, 3 miles from town on Emerald Bay Road. Plug “Tallac Historic Site” into Google Maps, and you'll find it.
Parking is on the side of the highway just northwest of the Camp Richardson Hotel. You walk in on a beautiful network of paths. There is no charge for parking.
Alternatively, there is a wonderful bike path from South Lake Tahoe, and you can ride to Valhalla, and also to all of the nearby beaches. If you'd like to rent a bike, visit Anderson Bike Rental on Emerald Bay Road at the southern end of miles of bike paths.

As one of America's premier resort areas ever since the larger world discovered it, Tahoe has always attracted wealthy people who built fabulous estates. Three of them that were built around the turn of the 20th century on the South Shore have been preserved at the Tallac Historic Site.
Wandering the grounds on foot or bicycle is a bit of a time machine back into their lives.
I won't give you the details here as they can be easily found on the links that follow. Suffice to say that the Baldwin Estate, the Pope Estate, and the Heller Estate were all built by prominent San Francisco families. Lucky Baldwin was an especially dramatic figure of his day. After he became very rich investing in the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, he built a large hotel and casino on the grounds, both of which are now gone. Never mind that gambling was illegal. No one seemed to mind such flamboyance “way up in the mountains.”
Baldwin is also credited with saving many old growth Ponderosa from the late 19th century loggers that clear-cut the Tahoe Basin. Those giant trees (6-feet in diameter!) are still scattered about the area.
Valhalla Tahoe Visiting the site, Events, etc.
Tallac Historic Site info from the Tahoe Heritage Foundation 

Look for this sign on the highway. Park off the highway anywhere near and walk in.

This is the Valhalla Grand Hall, originally the Heller Estate. Popular for weddings, inside the
grand hall is a stone fireplace so big you can walk inside it (when there isn't a fire burning!).
The back side of Valhalla is a grand lawn leading to the lake.
One of the beautiful bike/walking paths that wind through the grounds.

If you want to check the water clarity,
the bike path will take you to the pier.
The old boat house was turned into the beautiful Boathouse Theater for plays and musical performances.

You can tour the Pope Estate and stroll the grounds to look at the many servant quarters,
blacksmith shop and other outbuildings.

Enjoy the Pope Estate gardens.
Wander the paths through the flowers.
Yes, Tahoe does have some Giant Sequoias,
although the Pope version is only 7 feet in diameter.
The Popes built a honeymoon cabin right on the shore.
The Baldwin Mansion is made of massive logs.
At the end of your day, you can catch a cold one on the deck of the Beacon Restaurant.
Or you can find a quiet bench and enjoy the amazing view and imagine
what it would have been like to stroll these grounds during the Roaring Twenties.


  1. Reading this brought a smile to my face, and tears to my eyes. It is so beautiful to see the places that you write about in your books, and this really is gorgeous. Thank you.

  2. Thanks to you, Lil! Glad you are enjoying an armchair visit to Tahoe!

  3. Ahhhhh, my FAVORITE place in the world!!!!

    1. Hey, BakerFamily!
      Yeah, Valhalla is a great place to hang out, park on the lawn or beach, and have a picnic lunch.
      Glad you enjoy it, too!