The largest, and arguably most luxurious of the state parks at Lake Tahoe, Ed Z’Berg Sugar Pine State Park (formerly known as Sugar Pine State Park), sits on 2000 acres of gorgeous alpine greenery that rolls gently into two lovely miles of lakefront on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.
The impressive centerpiece of the park is a “rusticly elegant” 11,000 sq ft Pine Lodge mansion (also known as the Ehrman Mansion) that towers and awes alongside the pines and cedars. Summertime attractions include tours of the mansion, a nature center, nature preserve, picnicking, a tennis court, kayak and paddle board rentals, paved and dirt walking trails, General Creek, a pier, and swimming. Wintertime attractions include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as well as winter tours. Nordic enthusiasts take note: this is the only Tahoe-area campground that remains open year-round.
Completed in 1902, the Pine Lodge mansion built by Isaias W. Hellman truly is an architectural and cultural wonder. Constructed almost entirely from locally sourced materials, its exterior design, the Shingle Style California Craftsman, was the creative work of architect Walter Danforth Bliss. Despite its three stories and stately covered front porch that stretches between two circular turrets, the structure complements and echoes its natural environs rather than imposing upon them.
Leaving his native Bavaria at the age of 17, Mr. Hellman’s astute financial savvy and trustworthy nature contributed to his international success as a San Francisco-based banker. He built Pine Lodge as a summer getaway for family and friends, and guests were absolutely indulged. Their luggage was immediately whisked away and comfortable, tastefully decorated rooms were brightened with fresh vases of flowers. Call-buttons installed in each room even provided guests with direct access to anything they may need. Breakfast could be served in bed or by the living room fireplace, and then the day was open to visitors to fill as they desired: croquet, boating, fishing, or relaxing on the front porch. At 7 pm, cocktails were served on the porch where guests gathered in their finest formal attire before dinner.
After Mr. Hellman’s death in 1920, the house was passed down to his daughter Florence (who by that time was Florence Ehrman), and it remained a summer home for the family until 1965. The State of California then bought it from Esther Lazard (Florence Ehrman’s daughter). Collaborative efforts between California State Parks, North Lake Tahoe Historical Society and Sierra State Parks Foundation slowly refurbished and restored the home to its 1902 splendor.
Half-hour tours provided by volunteers from the Sierra State Parks Foundation are highly engaging and informational. From the ice that was cut and stored each winter to provide refrigeration to the specially crafted “birdcage-style” elevator that was installed for Mrs. Ehrman, sneaking a peek inside the details of the grand and gracious lifestyle of the Hellman-Ehrman family is a unique experience.
Planning your day visit
To maximize your visit, plan to arrive by 10 a.m. and pop into the Visitor’s Center to schedule a morning tour of the mansion. Your tour will begin on the front porch where your guide will invite you to imagine yourself as an honored guest hailing from San Francisco. Once you step through the spacious and opulent front foyer, it is easy to immerse yourself in the style and luxury of life on Lake Tahoe at the turn of the century.
After the tour, explore the grounds while the morning air is still cool. The Lakefront Interpretive Trail is especially nice for a casual stroll. It is paved, flat and about a quarter of a mile long. Another scenic option is the 1.5 mile Dolder Nature Trail. It is a dirt path that loops around the Edwin L. Z’Berg Natural Preserve for views of subalpine meadows and a maritime navigational light that boasts the highest elevation of its kind in the world.
Bring a blanket and picnic lunch – you’ll find many delightfully shady spots with views of the lake. For a refreshing dessert, grab an ice cream sandwich from the Visitor Center.
The afternoon is a fine time to hit the beach. A wagon might be useful for transporting your beach items from the parking area to the shore since it’s about a quarter-mile walk. Families with small children might enjoy staking a spot in the sandy, shallow waters of General Creek that runs just north of the mansion. Then again, your crew may be content to dangle legs off the pier and soak in a little mountain sun and scenery. Kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are also available for rent if you’re inclined to take your leisures out on the water.
Sugar Pine Point Campground
This campground consists of 175 sites located on the inland side of Highway 89. Though it is not on the lake, it does provide campers with walk-in access to the rest of Ed Z’Berg State Park (minus tours of the mansion). Reservations can be made up to seven months in advance and no less than 48 hours prior; expect the campground to be full during peak summer months and book your spot well in advance. Ten group sites accommodate a maximum of 25 people for $165/night. Otherwise, the remaining family sites can accommodate up to 8 people for $35/night. For the winter season, one loop of the campground remains open.
Flush toilets, tap water and coin-operated hot showers (not available during winter) are also on-site. General Creek Trail (6.5-mile loop) and Lily Pond Trail (7-mile loop) start between campsites 147 and 149.
Black bears are highly active in the area, and absolute precaution is necessary. It is adamantly stated by park officials that all food be stored and locked properly in bear-proof coolers and storage containers.
Tickets and other practicalities
The park is located on the West Lake Tahoe Shore, ten miles south of Tahoe City and 25 miles north of South Lake Tahoe. Parking fee is $10 during the summer and $5 during the winter.
The park can also be accessed via the West Shore Bike Trail, but please pay attention to signs that advise where bikes are not allowed on the property.