Biking Tahoe: Tahoe Mountain Trail
By the numbers
Level: beginner to advanced
Trail type: singletrack
Elevation gain: 800-900 feet
Distance: 4-mile out-and-back or longer loop option
Summit: 7,249 feet
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Snow might be starting to kiss the top of the Sierras, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to put away the old mountain bike just yet. For a quick ride with killer views consider Tahoe Mountain, near Highway 89 and Camp Richardson, just outside of South Lake Tahoe city limits. The trail is a great beginner option. Fair caution, however, like most area trails it does require a significant amount of climbing, between 800 and 900 feet of elevation gain. But for those conditioned for it — or willing to hike-a-bike a bit — the winding trail has a steady grade that is pretty manageable over approximately 2 miles of trail.
The route passes through portions of the Angora Burn — a 2007 wildfire outside of South Lake Tahoe — near South Lake Tahoe High School. While it’s unfortunate to ride through the scorched acreage and hard not to wonder about the tree canopy that once was, downed trees do open a killer view of Lake Tahoe and surrounding mountains throughout the climb. Upper portions of the trail also reach healthier forest parcels.
The trail tops out at 7,249 feet on Tahoe Mountain’s summit ridge and makes for a great lunch spot at the halfway mark. As an out-and-back it’s an extremely fun downhill for most ability levels. Switchbacks are large and manageable and the trail as a whole is not terribly technical. Less advanced riders will be challenged, but they shouldn’t be intimidated. Advanced riders will have a blast kicking speed up a notch.
Intermediate or advanced riders can also consider dropping down the other side of Tahoe Mountain on a relatively new section of singletrack that doesn’t appear on all current maps. The loop option kicks out onto the Sawmill Bike Path, making for an easy route back to the trailhead. The Sawmill connector is more technical and likely wouldn’t be as fun for a beginner as doing an out-and-back on the front side
The Tahoe Mountain Trail has a number of access points along with the loop option incorporating the connector to the Sawmill Bike Path. One trailhead parking lot is located on the south side of Highway 89 before Camp Richardson. The trail can also be accessed from the bike paths at Camp Richardson and at a few access points in the neighborhoods around South Lake Tahoe High School. Some signage exists, but the trail is also easily visible winding up the hillside.
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