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Painted Rock Loop via Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT)

 4.1 (17)
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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


Shared By Nick Wilder



Getting forecast...

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

Nick Wilder

Dogs Unknown

Features -none-


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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Your Check-Ins


Oct 6, 2018
Jackie Tappan
Sep 7, 2018
Don Childrey
Rode the section from Painted Rocks back to town. 15.8mi
Sep 2, 2018
Brandon Traut
Jul 23, 2018
Nic Nac
Jul 11, 2018
Dan Mulder
Jul 2, 2018
Smashley S
Jun 16, 2018
Joel Maus
Rode from Tahoma. The beginning is tough to find the route but once on the TRT it’s all good- Once you cross Mt Watson Rd - game on- what a blast! 36mi
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

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 17 votes


in Tahoe City


  4.1 from 17 votes
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28 Views Last Month
12,570 Since Jun 28, 2013
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Anonymous User
Anonymous User  
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
Smashley S
Truckee, CA
Smashley S   Truckee, CA
I did part of this trail - from the Tahoe XC Center to Painted Rocks - and then looped back a different way. I thought it was a really nice, pretty easy / moderate uphill and I was surprised it's marked as black. I did take my sweet time... but found the uphill easier than some others I have done - it's not super steep, dirt is nice and there weren't many loose rocky sections or big rocks. The paved road was my least favorite section... probably because it was hot and boring. From Painted Rocks, I turned around and went back out to Watson Rd and continued following it (Fibreboard Freeway) to Watson Lake. More hot, boring paved road but the views are beautiful! The trail / road down to Watson Lake is fast and fun! From the lake, I took the TRT down and then followed a forest service road (which I regret - too rocky) and then finally looped back into the XC Center trails, Jul 3, 2018

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