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Painted Rock Loop via Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT)

 14 votes


18.4 Miles 29.6 Kilometers




1,959' 597 m


-1,959' -597 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (9°)

7,684' 2,342 m


6,268' 1,911 m




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A long climb rewarded with some of the best views in all of Tahoe and a great descent.

Nick Wilder


This is a difficult loop. It's only moderately technical (at least in the counter-clockwise direction as shown), but the climbs are long and tiring, and route-finding is quite difficult in the first half (use the MTB Project mobile app). But the scenery is just stunning, from old-growth forests to huge lake views. And the descent, though a bit rocky, is great fun on a modern bike with big wheels and decent suspension.


Starting from Tahoe City, take the bike path north until you get to Village Road (look for a sign for the cross country ski area). Follow this road until it ends and look for a trail. There are many trails here, but it doesn't matter too much at this point, as long as you use the app and get on the right one eventually.

Find your way to Dollar Reservoir and have fun riding over the dam (or go around), and then follow dirt roads for a mile or two. This area is extremely confusing - did I mention you should use the app yet?

You now have two options:
Option 1. (shown here). Turn left on unmarked singletrack (named "Brutal connector to the TRT" here) and start heading up. The trail goes up and down a bit, but the middle section is a relentless 500' climb that most people will walk. The benefit of this option is you get up for some nice easy miles on the TRT. Follow the TRT for several miles of easy level, smooth riding on what must have been a road a long time ago. Arrive at 73 Rd and follow it for 100 feet before making an easy-to-miss left turn back on to singletrack. The next section is super fun, fast, bermed and buffed singletrack going slightly downhill.

Option 2. Continue on the dirt road for a while longer until you get to The Great Ski Race. Take this fantastic singletrack for a couple miles until it ends at Mt. Watson Rd. Take the paved road uphill until you find the TRT.

From either option, you are now at the Tahoe Rim Trail - Brockway Summit to Tahoe City where it hits Mt. Watson Rd. From here, the trail enters a beautiful forest with nice, relatively moderate switchbacks. These are fun for a while, but this last climb is surprisingly long and tiring. You'll wander around the Painted Rocks (with a few side trails available to explore), before heading out one more ridgeline.

When you find yourself in a huge pile of basalt (volcanic) rocks, you're finally finished climbing. Enjoy the views and now the fun really begins. You now have ALMOST 6 MILES of downhill awesomeness with some of the greatest views of any trail. Stop once in a while to soak it in and let your brakes cool!

You'll end up right in Tahoe City just a couple blocks from where you started.


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Sep 25, 2017
Kevin Loomis
Awesome trail with insane views. There is one key point, the route highlighted is option 2! The way the wording states the route is option one and ... 18mi
Sep 10, 2017
Norbert Barbosa
Aug 29, 2017
Marc Emmett
Aug 24, 2017
erica brown
Jul 30, 2017
Jeremy Martinez
Dry and rocky. Loved the views.
Jul 29, 2017
Graham Leonard
Jul 7, 2017
Will Urich
Not the whole thing, would do it again - need two cars unless you want to ride back to Squaw! 12mi — 1h 30m
Jun 23, 2017
Dave Dutro
still too much snow

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 14 votes


in Tahoe City


  4.1 from 14 votes
5 Star
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in Tahoe City


in California


50 Views Last Month
9,207 Since Jun 28, 2013
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hard, long, severe uphills, rocky, bouncy. some great downhill sections, great views of tahoe. Oct 11, 2015

Rode on 06-26-2016. From the Description above, there are couple things I noticed. 1. There won't be much of confusion on the trails as of today. Once you cross the Dam and catch the trial to left. it takes you all the way to a paved Mt. Watson road junction (fork). Take a right on this fork and ride mile and keep watching your left side for TRT. The marker at that point says TRT, 8.0 miles to Tahoe city. The distance to catch the TRT is 8.5 miles. TRT is 8.0 to tahoe city. So the total diatnce of this trail seems like 17 miles; rather than 18.5 mentioned. I followed the GPS track attached. 2. It says the final 6 miles is downhill ride. There is so much rock/boulder riding, it mostly tough ride. you will probaly not feel downhil at all. In many sections you wil feel uphill eventhough you may going down due to big rocks. What did happen is, most of the elevation just dropped in the final 1/2 mile; this stretch you will come down really fast, loose, steep, rocky downhill that drops to TRT end, Fairway road. Also, - I am an intermediate skill. I wouldn't call/rate this trail Black since intermediate rider can fully do this without fear. There are bunch of rocky technical places but they are ridable. Good thing is trail rims are not eposed; so no fear/danger. - There is not much sight seeing here. Mostly riding through forest. Towards the end there are 3 or 4 excellent views to lake and truckee river. Overall, great trail for an intermediate rider. Good technical places to ride, learn and enjoy. Peaceful ride through the forest. Hardwork/tiring on few miles of rocks. Enjoy! G Jun 26, 2016
I rode this yesterday. Most of the ride is in the shade of the beautiful forest, and I used the gps on the app constantly in the beginning due to lack of signage. The climb is gradual and the ride did not feel as long as it was. There was some need to negotiate rocks on the last third of the loop, but I definitely would not consider it technically challenging. Most views are of forest. Sep 10, 2017

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