Basin offers 340 miles of off-road bike trails |

Basin offers 340 miles of off-road bike trails

Amanda Fehd
Tommy Lake, from South Lake Tahoe, tears down the Powerline Trail last month. The trail provides varying terrain and connects with several others in the area, and is popular with locals. / Photo by Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Tahoe’s outdoor buffs will reluctantly admit the place’s best kept secret might be its world-class mountain biking.

From winding neighborhood single tracks, to the 360-degree views of the Tahoe Rim Trail, Tahoe offers more than 340 miles of trails in all shades of difficulty.

“Mountain biking in Tahoe is pretty hard to beat,” said Chris Drake, a shop worker at Sierra Cycle Works. “It’s not quite as known as Moab or Santa Cruz, which is good and bad; good for us as riders, not so good as a shop owner.”

The sport has seen its struggles in the Tahoe Basin. In the late 1990s, residents fought to keep areas of public land open to bikes after conservationists pushed to close them for wilderness consideration.

Mount Rose Wilderness and Desolation Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail remain off limits to the two-wheelers, but Tahoe’s most famous trail leads the list of must-rides.

“The Tahoe Rim Trail provides some fantastic mountain biking opportunities in the Tahoe Basin,” said Garrett Villanueva, a trails engineer for the U.S. Forest Service in Tahoe. “It’s world-class, it’s ridiculously scenic and there’s a variety of technical challenges in different types of terrain.”

The summer brings a constant stream of people to cycle shops looking for advice on where to ride. And the fall season, with its decrease in visitors and cool weather, might be one of the best times to hop on the bike.

“The standard is Power Line trail for people who haven’t lived here,” Drake said. The ride is accessible from several points in South Shore and parallels Pioneer Trail in a stretch. “The riding is different here because of the sand, as far as traction and cornering.”

Another well-known ride starts in Meyers near Kent Wattanachinda’s shop Wattabike.

“The majority of people ask me ‘Where’s Mr. Toads?'” Wattachinda said. “Then you’ll tell them, you can’t just shuttle, you still have to climb at least three miles up, which is a good thing, because the downhill is a great ride.”

Mountain bike advocate David Hamilton said Tahoe’s variety of trails could keep a visitor busy their entire stay, but he cautioned against pushing it at Tahoe’s high altitude.

“Even if you are marathon runner, you are going to be sucking wind a little bit up here,” he said.

And because of the area’s remoteness, riders should be prepared for backcountry conditions. Bring repair tools, and adequate water and food, he said.

Seems some of Tahoe’s secret will remain just that. Most shop owners and workers wouldn’t disclose their favorites spots, referring instead to the standard popular trails.

Paul Tindal at Sports Ltd. said the only way to learn Tahoe’s best trails is to get in with the locals.

“There’s some top of the line stuff here, a lot of them are not on maps, the only way tourists find out about them is to ride with people that live here.”

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