Tahoe Adventures

Exploring the Great Outdoors

Kayak Camping Emerald Bay

Just weeks after buying our kayak, we wanted to start the summer off by planning an overnight kayak camping trip. Emerald Bay Boat Campground is only accessible by boat or by foot, and requires reservations. The entire summer is usually reserved, except for a few weeks before and after the busy season. We went the first week it opened in early June where the camp sites are first-come first-served. Without a reservation, we were a little nervous we would paddle all the way there and not end up with a campsite, but the office assured us it hadn’t been busy and we decided to take a chance!

The paddle to Emerald Bay Boat Camp from the Tahoe Keys is approximately 6 miles. The entire trip with our 2-year old daughter on board took us about 3 hours. We had to take a break in the middle, at Baldwin Beach, for lunch and to let her run around a little. The second half of the trip, she fell asleep and took a nap for an hour.

When we arrived around 12:30 pm on Saturday June 3, only 2 out of the 20 sites were taken.

Here is the location of the Emerald Bay Boat Camp:

Boat Camp Emerald Bay

We packed our kayak the night before and left around 9:30 am from our house in the Tahoe Keys neighborhood. We packed our sleeping bags in the dry bag, towels, tent, clothes, diapers, food and water. For the food, we brought oatmeal and raisins for breakfast, peanut butter sandwiches, apples and bananas for lunch, and pasta and some sauce in a plastic bag for dinner. On a kayak, you can’t bring a lot of items since your space and weight are limited.

Baldwin Beach Kayaking

After 1 hour of paddling, we took a lunch break at Baldwin Beach.Baldwin Beach Baldwin Beach

Entering Emerald Bay…Emerald Bay Kayaking

And we made it! Parking our kayak at the Emerald Bay Boat Camp. Our babe had a nice nap the last hour of the trip.Emerald Bay Kayaking Emerald Bay Boat Camp

The campground has boat racks for kayaks.Emerald Bay Boat Camp Emerald Bay Boat Camp

Our daughter found us the perfect camping spot for the night. The campground is located right on the Rubicon Trail, so there is plenty of hiking in the area.Emerald Bay Boat Camp Emerald Bay Boat Camp

There are amazing views from the Boat Campground.

Emerald Bay Boat Camp

You can swim too!Emerald Bay Boat Camp

Our camping site with an amazing view of Emerald Bay.Emerald Bay Boat Camp

Next morning, time to pack up and paddle home.

Emerald Bay Boat Camp

We though about stopping to climb up Fannette Island, but passed since the wind was picking up.Fannette Island Tahoe

We took another break at Baldwin Beach on the way back home.Baldwin Beach


For our Emerald Bay Boat-in Camp kayaking adventure, we used the following gear.


We have a red Necky Manitou II, and love it. One reason we decided to go with this kayak is the extra middle seat for a child. Our 2-year old loves to come on the kayak with us! It has a hatch for storing beach toys, towels, etc. in the back. The seats adjust very easily, and you can put a rudder system on for super easy steering.

Necky Manitou II


We use Aquabound Sting Ray paddles. They are very light since they are made with carbon.

Aquabound Stingray Paddle

Life Jackets

Our brand of choice for life jackets is Kokatat, because they are PVC-free. We love the pockets in the front for chapstick, sunglasses, cell phone, a whistle, and snacks. The womens’ is the Kokatat MsFit and the mens’ is the Kokatat Outfit. We bought our life jackets in red to match our kayak!

Kokatat MsFit

For our daughter, we use the Stohlquist Nemo. It is very comfortable on her and she likes to wear it.

Nemo PFD

Dry Bag

Sometimes the hatch is not big enough, for example, if you are going on a long day or overnight trip. For trips like these, we use Adventure Lyon dry bags. You can bungee them on top in the front or back, or let them tail behind in the water. Your stuff with stay completely dry during the trip on the water. We put dry clothes, towels, electronics, etc. in these bags.

Lyon Dry Bag


For our tent, we had a 3-person 3-season backpacking tent: Meteor Light 3 by Sierra Designs. We love this tent because it is light for a 3-person tent for hiking/backpacking. It has an outer shell that you can remove for a completely see-through mesh, which is great for star-gazing in the tent on a warm summer night.

Sierra Designs Meteor Light 3


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