Seven trails to tackle this summer.
DEEP BLUE SKIES, snowcapped mountains, dramatic rock formations surrounding crystalline waters — it’s hard to imagine how Lake Tahoe could be a more perfect family vacation spot. However, with an eye toward creating a trail around the entire lake, Chris McNamara, Marin County native turned Tahoe outdoor adventure guru and bike trail advocate, is trying to do just that. According to McNamara, who sits on the Strategic Advisory Committee of the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association (TAMBA), the “golden era” of bicycle trail-building has arrived at the lake. Many of us have explored trails like the ever-popular Camp Richardson bike path, but there are new adventures to be had for every level of rider. Here are some of McNamara’s favorite rides.
Paved Bike Paths
LAKEVIEW COMMONS TO BIJOU BIKE PARK
The Trail 1.5-mile mostly flat bike path (3 miles round trip) leads to the new Bijou Bike Park, which includes terrain for everyone. The most talked-about section is the Strider Track for 2- to 4-year olds, but there is also a pump track, BMX track and three progressively harder slopestyle lines for more advanced riders.
Extra perk A great Frisbee golf course on site
Grub Stop by Sprouts Cafe on the way back
Parking Lakeview Commons, 1004 Lakeview Avenue, South Lake Tahoe, bijoubikepark.org
TAHOE TRAILWAYS BIKE PATH
The Trail A mostly flat, dedicated bike path. Ride east to Kings Beach, west to Squaw Valley, or south toward Meeks Bay. From Tahoe City it’s just 6.5 miles to Homewood on the west shore of the lake.
Grub Don’t miss Fire Sign Cafe, Tahoe City
Parking 64-Acres Park, 165 W. Lake Boulevard, Tahoe City, tahoecitypud.com
Family-Style Mountain Bike Rides
KINGSBURY STINGER TRAIL
The Trail South Lake Tahoe’s newest trail is great for beginner and intermediate mountain bikers. Five miles if you use a car to shuttle. Otherwise, 10 miles out and back. For an advanced route, ride up the Stinger, join the Tahoe Rim Trail, then descend Van Sickle, a 15-mile loop with about 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. There is an interesting video on how the trail was built at tamba.org.
Grub Blue Angel Cafe at South Lake
Parking Tahoe Rim Trailhead, end of Genoa Peak Road, Stateline, Nev., southlaketahoe.com/biking/chinese-downhill
INCLINE FLUME TRAIL
The Trail To find the “other flume trail,” leave Incline Village on the Mount Rose Highway (NV Route 431). The trailhead is about a half mile beyond the scenic Tahoe Lake view point (after the hairpin turn). At the trailhead there is only a small parking lot (for about five cars max), so it is better to get dropped off or park on the other side of the highway. This is a 5-mile bike ride with a car shuttle or a 10-mile out-and-back on a singletrack trail with little elevation change and stunning lake views. Ride east for roughly 5 miles and eventually hit the sandy fire road that leads downhill to Tunnel Creek Cafe. While this can be a ride on its own, it is also an extension to one of Tahoe’s famous (and much longer and advanced) rides called the Flume Trail.
Grub Tunnel Creek Cafe at the bottom of Tunnel Creek fire road
Parking Get dropped off at the trailhead or park one car at Tunnel Creek Cafe, 1115 Tunnel Creek Road, Incline Village, and the other at the trailhead, tamba.org/incline-flume-trail
TRUCKEE BIKE PARK
The Trail Like Bijou Park on the South Shore, the Truckee Bike Park provides a variety of terrain at a park outside the town of Truckee. The features are designed for all skill levels, including areas like the Drop Zone, the flow trail, and a large pump track that helps riders build advanced skills. A forested half-mile perimeter loop is perfect for the youngest riders. Grub Marty’s Cafe, Truckee
Parking 12304 Joerger Drive, Truckee, Calif., truckeebikepark.org
Advanced Mountain Bike Rides
MR. TOAD’S WILD RIDE
The Trail Tahoe’s most iconic downhill ride is also known as Saxon Creek Trail. With a car shuttle you still climb 1,000 feet over 2 miles on the bike trail, then drop 2,500 feet over 6 miles of technical and fast terrain. Boulders, roots, and steep drop-offs make this trail advanced, while expansive views, forests and meadows make it one of Tahoe’s most beautiful rides.
Grub The Brewery, South Lake Tahoe
Parking Big Meadow parking lot off Highway 89, or contact Over the Edge Shuttle Service at 530.600.3633, mtbproject.com/trail/2425654
STAR LAKE LOOP
The Trail This 26-mile loop challenges riders to almost 4,000 feet of climbing and in return offers up almost 4,000 feet of singletrack descent. Take a break, and maybe a swim, at the ultimate selfie spot, Star Lake, a hidden alpine lake under Freel Peak (at 10,891 feet, it is Lake Tahoe’s highest peak).
Grub Base Camp Pizza Co., South Lake Tahoe
Parking Near locked gate at end of Fountain Place Road; bike up to meet Armstrong Connector Trail, mtbproject.com/trail/7006386
Where to rent
INCLINE Flume Trail Bikes, flumetrailtahoe.com, offers rental bikes and shuttle rides in summer months.
In 2014, rock climber, BASE jumper, mountain biker, and OutdoorGearLab founder Chris McNamara made Lake Tahoe his permanent home. An outdoor enthusiast who grew up in Marin, he had always spent a lot of time at the lake, but believes he made the move at the right time, a time when good things were happening. The Tahoe Rim Trail and Tahoe Trailways Bike Path are both successful examples of the role private donors and nonprofits play in kick-starting public projects, and now McNamara is helping to coordinate efforts between TAMBA, the Tahoe Fund, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and the Tahoe Forest Service to build new stretches of trail and “chip away” at the long-term dream of creating a continuous mountain biking and hiking trail around Lake Tahoe. “Normally you’re lucky to build a new trail once a decade. There have been about four new trails built here each year, and that’s for five years or so,” says McNamara, who credits the Tahoe Forest Service for encouraging the building of trails and working collaboratively with nonprofits and groups. The plan is to connect existing sections of the Tahoe Rim Trail to create a 110- to 120-mile route accessible to both hikers and mountain bikers, something McNamara estimates will take 10 years and a couple million dollars to complete. “The most exciting thing up here is that relatively little private money will go a very long way to help create world-class trails,” he says. tamba.org