Whether you prefer fat tires or skinny tires, the Lake Tahoe area offers a vast array of cycling for every ability and age. No matter if you’re based in Truckee, the North Shore, South Shore or the West Shore, it’s likely there’s a ride right outside your door.
Tahoe Rim Trail
The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) circles Lake Tahoe and offers up world-class mountain biking, but there are a few restrictions due to the trail going through wilderness areas or sharing the route with the Pacific Crest Trail, which means no cycling is allowed on the latter or in the former. Riding on the open sections of the TRT ranges from intermediate to technically advanced, so pre-plan accordingly.
- Tahoe Meadows to Spooner Summit is an excellent section with intermediate to advanced terrain and includes the Flume Trail (see below). Note that the first 9 miles from the Tahoe Meadows trailhead are restricted to even-numbered days of the month for mountain bikers.
- From Spooner Summit the TRT is broken into sections all the way to Big Meadow and includes the highest elevations and requires high skill level. From Spooner Summit the first section goes to Kingsbury without any restrictions, other than your lungs and legs. Likewise from Kingsbury to Big Meadow.
- From Echo Summit to Barker Pass the TRT is off-limits to mountain bikers as the trail is shared to the hiking-only Pacific Crest Trail and runs through a portion of Desolation Wilderness. From Barker Pass the riding will take you into Tahoe City and on to Brockway Summit.
If you’re a experienced mountain biker or somewhat new to the trail, it’s likely you’ve seen photos taken from the iconic Flume Trail overlooking the turquoise waters of Sand Harbor. The Flume Trail can be accessed from Incline Village via a healthy uphill pedal. And while Flume itself is relatively flat and not extremely technical, the stunning views of Big Blue can be a distraction on the narrow singletrack — but it’s worth it.
- Tahoe Meadows-Marlette Lake Loop: Another great ride near Incline Village is an out-and-back from the Tahoe Meadows trailhead south to Marlette Lake and back. The first 9 miles out of the trailhead are restricted to even days for mountain bikers. This ride is best done via the Flume Trail, around Marlette Lake and up and over Marlette Peak. Expect stunning views, tough climbs and technical-yet-fun descents.
- Brockway Summit to Tahoe City: This unrestricted section of the TRT boasts amazing views of Lake Tahoe, technical sections, plenty of climbing and a long, smile-inducing descent into Tahoe City. Watson Lake is a good place for a snack.
- Paige Meadows: If you’re looking to try mountain biking for the first time, Paige Meadows out of Tahoe City is ideal. There are a variety of trails in the area, plus the wildflowers in spring are superb.
- The North Tahoe Regional Park: Located in Tahoe Vista, this dog-friendly park has a mapped trail system with the majority of the trails offering a good introduction to mountain biking for all ability levels.
The Stanford Rock loop is best left to those with advanced skills, strong legs and hearty lungs. But once at the top of the climb, riders are rewarded with a panorama of peaks and a technical descent that includes granite steps in succession.
Once off the cluttered main drag of South Lake Tahoe, the riding is absolutely rewarding. There is a plethora of trails above the South Shore to fit every riding ability. There is the iconic Mr. Toad's, which is suited to expert riders on bikes with hefty suspension, or the Power Line Trail for a great intermediate ride. Hit the high country on the Star Lake Connector or the Monument Trails, both of which tie into the Tahoe Rim Trail. Check out the Corral Trail complex, which includes a network of trails for every ability and is pretty much the epicenter for riding in the area. For all the trail info on the South Shore check out the web site of the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association.
While Lake Tahoe usually gets top billing, Truckee has a ton of mountain biking too — and can be a bit less crowded than around Big Blue. As with any self-respecting mountain biking town, Truckee has its “approved” trails, some of which are listed below, and its “secret” trails, which are not! Ask a local about both; neither will disappoint.
- Hole in the Ground Trail: This is a longtime staple for any mountain biker headed to the Sierra. The riding requires solid legs and lungs plus strong bike handling skills. The rewards are many, from spectacular vistas of Castle Peak, expansive granite slabs and Sierra meadows full of wildflowers.
- Sawtooth Trail: Sawtooth is perfect for newbies, single-speeders or those with a limited amount of time. Located above downtown Truckee, Sawtooth can be had from an easily found trailhead or by riding up from town. Stay on the main trail for a fun ride, or ask around before your ride about some of the less-known loop options.
- Emigrant Trail: This one is ideal for those not wanting heavy climbing and/or who are new to mountain biking. Emigrant is also one of the first trails in the area that sheds its snow, but please stay off the trail during the muddy spring thaw!
Bike Parks: Truckee and South Lake Tahoe
Whether it’s little kids on strider bikes, teenaged BMXers or adults looking to relive their high-flying childhoods, Truckee and South Lake Tahoe offer expansive, state-of-the-art bike parks filled with jumps, berms and a ton of big air. But the designers of the parks know their main goal is to get kids — heck, even adults — on bikes no matter the age or skill set. So there are designated areas for the little ones and those seeking to learn or practice their skills without being run over. Helmets are required; knee/elbow pads are optional but are suggested.
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