Blaze threatens popular mountain bike, hiking trails |

Blaze threatens popular mountain bike, hiking trails

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

A milelong section of the Dardanelles loop, a steep downhill trail popular with mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers, was likely charred by the Showers fire.

“If we have to close that loop, it will have pretty big effects,” said Dave Hamilton, director of Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association. “It has a lot of technical areas, good rock gardens, it’s not an intermediate ride per se.”

The trail is known as the Dardanelles or Christmas Valley loop because it runs down from Dardanelles Lake in the Meiss Meadows area and into Christmas Valley near South Upper Truckee Road.

The Big Meadow trailhead, east of Highway 89 and a very popular spot because it accesses beautiful land, was luckier than the Dardanelles loop. It escaped the fire despite spot fires sparking all around it.

“If they hadn’t caught the spotting last night, we probably wouldn’t have a trailhead today,” said Don Lane, U.S. Forest Service recreation officer at Lake Tahoe Basin for 31 years.

Neither the Pacific Crest Trail nor the Tahoe Rim Trail, two nationally known trails in the area, were damaged by the fire. The Rim Trail circles the 384-acre burn area to the south until it joins the Pacific Crest, which runs on top of an 800-foot granite cliff that overlooks the Upper Truckee River.

Land burned by the fire is filled with fuel from years of buildup, Lane said. It includes aspen, white fir, lodgepole and white pine. Its terrain ranges from aspen groves to steep canyon areas to lush wetlands to manzanita and sagebrush.

“This is an area where many residents and visitors spend time hiking around and they will be able to look at a map and recognize it,” said Maribeth Gustafson, U.S. Forest Service supervisor of the land.

Lane said he worries curious people will try to take a look at the damage the fire inflicted and in the process put themselves in danger.

“There will still be hot spots out there for weeks,” Lane said. “We may have to close this for public safety for a while.”

The area has not been officially closed, but the Forest Service has posted signs at trailheads saying the area is closed due to fires.

“That’s an advisory not a mandate. I won’t cite you when I see you,” Lane said.

Forest Service employees also on Tuesday hiked in to check campsites for people. About midday, no one had been found in danger, Lane said.

As with any serious fire, rehabilitation work begins right away. Specialists begin assessing damage and what work might be needed. Hamilton said TAMBA is anxious to work with the Forest Service to repair damage done to the trail.

“If it has sustained some damage, we’ll help do some work to keep a lot of drainage from going into the lake,” Hamilton said. “It’s one of those trails that has never gotten full attention from the Forest Service. It needs some reroutes to get it out of the stream environment zone.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at

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