Easy, Active Escapes in Tahoe
Story and Photos by Ben Davidson
Kayaking on Lake Tahoe
(page 2 of 3)
In the High Sierra, the elevation makes lowland duffers like me tee off like champions (golf balls travel more than 10 percent farther in the mountains than at sea level).
There’s a tantalizing array of upland courses in Tahoe, from poky nine-holers to challenging 18-hole championship layouts. At some, mule deer and Canada geese graze the fairways; at others, raptors take in airborne views of the player’s birdies and eagles.
One of my favorite places to tee off is Northstar-at-Tahoe, near Truckee, on a beautiful 18-hole, par-72 course designed by legendary landscape architect Robert Muir Graves. Especially enticing is Northstar’s “twilight” golf special. From May 1 through June 14, you can get on the greens after 1 p.m. for just $39 (includes cart); June 15 through September 16, the rate jumps to $69.
Mountain Bike Mania
Avid mountain bikers will love Northstar Resort’s lift-accessed mountain bike park (northstarattahoe.com), the largest in North America, with over 100 miles of trails. The park has added five new trail segments and two new full trails, including a beginners’ trail from the top of Vista Chair to the Tahoe Zephyr six-seater lift. Trails range from easy (green circle) to very difficult (double black diamond) and include a skills development area where bikers can practice tricks on smaller features before heading to a brand-new jump park.
For a challenging but highly rewarding mountain bike ride, check out the north shore’s Flume Trail, which begins at 7,080 feet elevation at the Spooner Lake day use area in the beautiful Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. You start on North Canyon road, heading through rolling uphill terrain through beautiful aspen groves. A gradual 1,100-foot climb is capped by a steep half-mile section, then followed by a short descent to pristine Marlette Lake. A ride along the shore of Marlette Lake leads to the incredible Flume Trail and over four miles of single-track riding. This trail, perched some 1,600 feet above Lake Tahoe’s east shore, is nearly flat and features spectacular views of the lake and Tahoe Basin. The end of the Flume Trail is a three-mile, 1,500-foot descent to Highway 28, or you can ride back the way you came.
One of the easiest ways to quickly access Tahoe’s awesome hiking terrain is to catch a ride on Heavenly Resort’s gondola, which whisks you up to 9,136 feet elevation. At the top, you can head out on one of three hiking routes, which range from ambling to more challenging. The trails meander through the High Sierra forest with awesome views of Lake Tahoe en route. The East Peak Trail gently climbs almost 400 vertical feet over 1.6 miles and meanders through the forest to a vantage point with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley. Or choose the Sky Meadows trail, a 2.2-mile round-trip hike that takes you downhill almost 500 vertical feet, where you will find meadows full of wildflowers including the vibrant colors of Indian paintbrush, purple lupine and yellow mule ears. The 3.8-mile round-trip East Peak Lake Trail starts off with a gradual uphill climb, continues with a hike along a picturesque ridgeline, and then descends to East Peak Lake. During the summer season Heavenly also offers rock climbing at Adventure Peak at the top of the gondola. And in August, Heavenly will open the only zip line in the Tahoe Basin—a great way to make your heart pound even faster!
Another favorite view hike near the south shore is the Rubicon Trail, which you can join at Calawee Cove Beach at D. L. Bliss State Park and follow to Rubicon Point for stunning views of Tahoe’s emerald and sapphire waters. Continue following the trail to Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm Castle at the water’s edge. It’s Tahoe at its breathtaking best.
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