If road cycling is your thing, Tahoe and Truckee offer an awesome variety of roads to explore and sights to see. Along with amazing views of Lake Tahoe and mountain peaks, one other thing is sure: You’ll be riding at least a mile above sea level and going uphill — a lot.
From annual, organized rides that circle Lake Tahoe to challenging routes in and around Truckee, the only limit on riding in the area is how far one wants to go. Oh, and that elevation!
Lake Tahoe Rides
There are several organized, supported rides that circle Lake Tahoe over the course of the riding season. If you’re new to the area, a paid event ride is a great way to experience riding around Big Blue. Depending on the event you choose, figure a 72-mile challenge if going all the way around the lake. Highlights include the narrow spit of road between Emerald Bay and Cascade Lake. It’s an iconic view, so stop and click a pic. The climb from Incline Village to Spooner Summit affords gorgeous, undeveloped vistas of Tahoe’s East Shore. Stop at Sand Harbor and check out the white sand beach.
One thing to note about riding around the lake during summer: There is a good deal of vehicle traffic, especially in and around the main North and South Shore developed areas. Best is to try to ride early or get out on a weekday. Expect even more traffic on holidays.
North Shore Rides
A great ride if you’re staying in Tahoe City, Kings Beach or Incline Village includes ascending Mt. Rose summit. The climb from the lake is challenging but doable. Your goal is the highest, year-around pass in the Sierra. Lake Tahoe’s elevation is 6,224 feet above sea level and Mt. Rose summit is at 8,911 feet. You can do the math in the 5 miles or so between the two. We guarantee it takes longer to go up than down.
West Shore Rides
From Tahoe City or anywhere along the North Shore, the West Shore is a great out-and-back spin. Once past Tahoe City the traffic mellows out and the small, West Shore enclaves of Homewood, Tahoma and Meeks Bay are good spots to stop and fuel up. There are also beautiful, lakeside state parks in DL Bliss and Sugar Pine Point to explore. The big challenge on the West Shore is the Barker Pass climb. What makes this climb sweet is that the road doesn’t see a ton of traffic. That said, it is a secondary road maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, so there are potholes and such, so watch it as you bomb back down.
South Shore Rides
At all costs avoid the Highway 50 mess when riding in South Lake Tahoe. But by all means don’t avoid the challenging Kingsbury Grade climb. It’ll take you from near the lake up 1,100 feet in about 4 miles. Expect some steep areas — like nine percent grades. You can either go up and over or descend back down and head out Pioneer Trail to Meyers. From there try Luther Pass and the stunning Hope Valley.
There are several popular routes that run through Truckee. A 40-mile beauty is what the locals call the Truckee Triangle. Start in Truckee, head down Highway 89 west to Tahoe City, bear left along the shore of Lake Tahoe to Kings Beach. From Kings Beach head up Highway 267 to the 7,179-foot summit of Brockway Pass. From there head back down to Truckee while taking in the views of the Pacific Crest from Martis Valley.
Another Truckee standby is the Old 40 ride. Start out in town and head west on Donner Pass Road along with shaded shore of Donner Lake. From there you’ll enjoy stunning mountain vistas up to the summit at just above 7,000 feet. Turn around back to town or complete the out and back to Cisco Grove. This is the bike leg for the Donner Lake Triathlon.