Ready to ride: Kingsbury Stinger Trail up and running on South Shore for hikers, bikers
The South Shore has a new trail for hikers, bikers and off-road riders. And its path to completion represents a vision that began nearly a decade ago.
The Kingsbury Stinger Trail celebrated its grand opening Oct. 8. The 5-mile trail above Stateline was created through a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and local nonprofit Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association — and is finally ready to ride.
“When I use the trail — either hiking it for work or riding it on my own time — I just have a big grin on my face,” said Jacob Quinn, a trails engineer with the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “To me, it was the right time for the right project and it all came together with the right people.”
Quinn began working with the local Forest Service in 2008, and explored a number of trails in Tahoe to determine the biggest areas of need. The Kingsbury Stinger Trail in its past form stuck out to him as one of the “worst trails in the basin” in terms of sustainability — environmentally, economically and socially.
“It had gotten to a point where it was rutting out so badly that it was displacing users,” Quinn said. “It had become so difficult to hike, bike and ride motorcycles on that a lot of people had turned their backs on it.”
The Forest Service began initiating the environmental review process for the trail in 2009. A little more than a year later, it joined with the newly reformed TAMBA — and plans began to move forward, which included the decision to move the trail rather than keep its current alignment.
“We came to the decision that we couldn’t stabilize the trail in place in the location where it was,” Quinn said. “It really wasn’t feasible, it wasn’t going to meet the sustainability goals and it wasn’t going to provide a high-quality recreation experience.”
The trail in its old form connected to the right places — but that was about all it had going for it. The heart of the old trail ran straight downhill within 100 feet of a stream for much of its length, which created maintenance issues while affecting the nearby habitat.
“We approached the idea of where the right location would be with a completely open mind,” Quinn said. “We walked all over out there — up, down and around — to find the right place.”
As many as 15 potential alignments were considered before the new trail’s current route was settled upon. Of the multiple scenarios for Kingsbury Stinger, Quinn said the new layout of the trail is the one ideally uses the surrounding terrain while delivering the best experience for those using it.
“I had several scenarios in my mind, and none of them looked as cool as the trail looks right now,” Quinn said. “I think what we found is where the trail best fits the landscape — and it incorporates a number of really desirable features.”
Construction of the new trail began in 2015, with a majority of the work coming this past spring and summer. The Forest Service had a full-time crew working on Kingsbury Stinger starting in May, American Conservation Experience provided a part-time crew, and TAMBA hosted multiple trail work days — along with volunteer efforts coordinated by nearby Shoreline of Tahoe.
“We’re all volunteers, and a lot of us don’t even work in the bike industry,” said TAMBA president Ben Fish. “We just want to see cool trails get built and be able to ride them.”
By the time it was completed in October, the new Kingsbury Stinger Trail was five years in the making from the time planning started — and came at a total cost of $500,000. That investment from the Forest Service was buoyed by a number of grants, including one from the Nevada State Parks’ Recreational Trails Program.
“It took a while to get that done, and it was kind of an expensive project because of the nature of the terrain we were building in,” Quinn said. “But to me it’s a total win in terms of the right trail being in the right place for the community and the landscape.”
Tahoe’s latest trail can be tackled by moderate riders, and features rock outcroppings, fun rock features and several vista points — including down toward Stateline and in the direction of Pyramid Peak and Desolation Wilderness. It also has a mile more of terrain than its predecessor, and was constructed in a way that makes it nearly maintenance-free.
“It was important for us to design a trail that still had that character,” Quinn said. “We put it intentionally through some rock piles, and we intentionally left some texture in the tread for those features.”
“On the last trail, you didn’t see anything — you were just on a fall-line rut and had no idea the lake was there,” Fish added. “Now you come around corners and the views stop you in your tracks.”
Kingsbury Stinger Trail connects trails within the lower Kingsbury neighborhood that were once isolated from the local trail network. It also allows for the possibility of a 20-mile loop around the South Shore via the Van Sickle Trail and connects with the Tahoe Rim Trail — making it the start of a future expanded network.
“I’m excited to see how it evolves,” Quinn said. “We plan to go back and do some little tweaks and tunes — we’re excited to treat it like a living thing.”
“It’s been fun to see the buzz around town from people riding it,” Fish added.
The Kingsbury Stinger Trail is up and running on Tahoe’s South Shore. And getting there has been quite the ride.