If you were going to do only one ride in Tahoe - this is it.
Much of the ride is easy with a smathering of technical features that will keep even the most advanced rider on their toes. The trail itself ranges from packed sand, loose sand, loamy/rooty forest to granite boulders and steps.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is 168 miles circling Lake Tahoe along the ridges and mountaintops that form the Lake Tahoe Basin in northern Nevada and northern California. Much of the TRT is off limits for mountain bikers and signage alerts you to this. This ride uses only a portion of the TRT that is available to the MTB community. Be aware that this wilderness is habitat for Black Bears and Mountain Lions.
While the TRT portion of the ride is more technical and advanced in sections, the Flume Trail
is ideal for the beginner to intermediate rider. Few if any will have the ability to peddle this entire ride without dismounting but nothing is difficult to hike a bike past.
I am being reserved when I say the the views are stunning. Perhaps the phrase "Shock & Awe" is more appropriate. There is a view point at 11.7 miles that will blow your socks off. Take it in, put your socks back on and continue down the trail....there is more to come!
Take a shuttle from the Tunnel Creek Cafe parking (where the ride ends) to the drop off at Tahoe Meadows Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead.
A morning start of this ride is often cool - a long sleeve or shell is recommended. There are small light blue and white triangular Tahoe Rim Trail signs guiding your way throughout the ride, though they are few and far between.
At the shuttle drop off point as you face the wilderness with your back to the road, mount up and drop onto the trail to your right. You'll ride a very tight trail through the meadow that is covered in soft, dense vegetation. Be aware of small obstacles hidden from eyesight. A fragmented wooden boardwalk guides you into the the woods. Look for the Tahoe Rim Trail signs directing you up and right onto the TRT after a quarter mile.
After the meadow, you'll encounter a 300' climb beyond which you'll enjoy many small climbs and descents. The trail is semi-technical through this section due to the many rock steps which can be frustrating to many. 9 miles of riding brings you to a four-way intersection.
Continue straight for another 5 miles. In this section you'll encounter a torturous 900' climb with many... no... VERY many obstacles. I recall a theme resonating in my mind..."does this never let up?" Perhaps I am just soft, but I found this part difficult. The climb rewards you with an opening to another meadow with spectacular views at Marlette Peak. Here you find a couple hundred foot diversion to a view point. Enjoy the view of Tahoe & Marlette Lakes. Continue back to the trail and descend 500' to Marlette Lake where you engage the Flume Trail
Ride Marlette Lake Road around Marlette Lake to the beginning of the Flume Trail
. At one point, on the day I rode, the road ran across a short section of lake about a foot deep giving wet tires and brakes that gave cause for difficult opening moves down sandy granite rocks.
After this though, the Flume Trail
is enjoyable mostly flat singletrack twisting along a steep mountain side dropping only 40' per mile. There is one very short rock slide area that you'll walk over that has a sign warning you of. Enjoy the ride, have lunch, take in the views. The Flume ends at a 3 mile 1500' descent down Tunnel Creek road to the Tunnel Creek Cafe. (Sure its a road, but the descent is quite fun with its many small dips and drops that can provide a thrill at speed).
It's over, sit back and tip a cold one. You have just ridden one of the best rides you'll ever ride.