Mountain biking Lake Tahoe: Armstrong and Corral trails provide lots of options
For those of us that don’t like riding uphill and prefer shuttled mountain biking, there is Fountain Place Road/Forest Road 1201 — near where Pioneer Trail road connects with Highway 50 in Meyers. It’s hard to eliminate climbs altogether on many of Lake Tahoe’s area trails, but this steep grade road accesses one of the South Shore’s most popular mountain bike routes, the Corral Trail, making it entirely shuttleable. Add the Armstrong Trail Connector just above it and you have 3.6 miles of almost fully downhill singletrack. And for a great fall ride, it’s worth adding the 2.9-mile climb up Armstrong Pass Trail to the junction with the Tahoe Rim Trail.
“It’s my favorite trail in town. The pitch is just right, so going up and down are both super fun,” Sam Hyslop, owner of Over the Edge bike shop, said of the Armstrong Trail. “To me it’s the ideal mountain bike trail. It’s good for everybody.”
Combining all three trail sections will provide a roughly 2,300-foot singletrack descent along 6.5 miles of singletrack with great scenery and thick forests along the way.
Two trail accesses via FS 1201 offer a variety of shuttle options and can eliminate up to about 3 miles and 1,300 feet of elevation gain. Avid climbers can use the road to loop the trails instead of climbing along the, at times, technical singletrack. There’s no eliminating the 2.9-mile roughly 1,000-foot climb up Armstrong pass, but it’s worth it for the mountain views from the junction with the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Each of the three segments of trail offer a distinct character. The climb up Armstrong pass — from the end of FS1201 — is steady but manageable. Rocks and technical stretches can generally be circumnavigated and the trail has only a few, well spaced, bigger switchbacks. The trail is in immaculate condition with some banked turns, and relatively smooth singletrack from top to bottom. Good conditioning is a requisite for the climb and the trail is likely best for intermediate to advanced riders. A hardy beginner, however, may want to give it a try. This section’s decent is not too technical.
The Armstrong Connector Trail portion of this ride offers its share of rocky technical stretches, making it less appealing to climb but plenty fun for the downhiller. It also offers some big views of the surrounding valley and distant peaks. Parking is available at both ends of this 1.6-mile stretch. The lower parking lot also offers access to the top of Corral Trail segment. Work on the Corral section this summer has made it a mountain biker’s must-ride for South Lake Tahoe. It includes banked turns and a number of tabletop jump features that are great for any ability level. This section alone is a great option for anybody looking for a quick afternoon ride. It’s a prime example of the type of flow trail that involves minimal pedaling and allows a mountain biker to be carried primarily by momentum. There is also a parking lot at the base of this trail.
Getting there: The Armstrong Pass, Armstrong Connector and Corral trails are all accessible from Fountain Place Road/Forest Road 1201. Turn onto Oneidas Street from Pioneer Trail — near Highway 50 — and drive to the parking lot at the base of the Corral Trail. Oneidas turns into Fountain Place/Forest Road 1201.
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