West Shore Backcountry Lakes Tour
ElevationAscent: 2,133' 650 m
Descent: -2,135' -651 m
High: 7,693' 2,345 m
Low: 6,283' 1,915 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 21% (12°)
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“A big West Shore loop featuring 6 lakes, 3 cabins, and some rocky, technical singletrack.”— S. Lengyel
Electric Mountain Bikes Unknown
The outer parts of this ride skirt the edge of Desolation Wilderness and have a really feel remote. The crown jewel of this ride is the turnaround point at Lost Lake. Lost Lake is a gorgeous natural alpine lake with sunny granite outcroppings, great views, and is deep enough for swimming.
There are a couple of hike-a-bike sections along the slot canyon of General Creek Trail, but the views are great. Expect 3-5 minutes of hike-a-bike on the way down.
Bring a camera!
The first two miles of the Rubicon Jeep Trail are paved up to the staging area. From the end of the pavement, you'll climb to McKinney Lake on a mix of gravel to loose cobble and big rocks. The ride along the Rubicon Jeep Trail ranges from easy and flat, to some tough sections on loose cobble and picking lines around large rocks. Also look out for some large mud puddles in spring!
Along the Rubicon Trail, you pass by McKinney Lake, Lily Lake, Miller Lake, and Miller Meadows (which has a seasonal pond, open meadows, and great spring flowers). Immediately after Miller Lake, you'll make a left turn onto the Richardson Lake Trail (jeep road). On the way out (past the cabin), you'll see an old road spur to the left, this is the start of Lost Lake Trail and General Creek Trail. You'll be coming back to this trail after the side trip to Richardson Lake. The TRT/PCT drops into Richardson Lake, but is sadly not bike legal.
There is a little known Sierra Club hut- the Ludlow Hut- just past Richardson Lake. It's worth the 1/4 mile side trip for a visit and pics. The hut is not visible from the lake.
From Richardson Lake, turn around and head back to Lost Lake Trail. The trail quickly turns to singletrack (long abandoned jeep road), and has a remote feeling. After climbing for approximately 1/2 mile, and passing the intersection for the wilderness section of General Creek Trail, you'll descend to the first crossing of General Creek. In big snow years, there can be a lot of water flow. This is an easy crossing.
Safety Note - During spring snow melt, the lower crossing of General Creek can be really dangerous. If the upper crossing (first crossing) is swift and deep and sketchy, I would not attempt the lower crossing (where the trail crosses in a slot canyon). Use good judgement. The creek crossings are usually easy by mid-June.
After the General Creek crossing, you'll pass the General Creek Trail intersection and start heading up toward Lost Lake. The first climb to Lost Lake is steep, technical and rocky. It is rideable, but very difficult. Be prepared for a dismount or two. The trail quickly levels off and becomes more manageable all the way to Lost Lake.
Approximately 1.5 miles past the intersection, you'll see Duck Lake on the left side. It's a pretty natural alpine lake and worth a side trip and pics. Duck Lake is usually shallow though. Continue another 0.2 miles to Lost Lake and the end of the trail. Eat snacks, take pics, soak up some sun, go swimming! It's almost entirely downhill back to the starting point.
Descend back to the General Creek and make a right turn. This is a rocky technical section, with a few required dismounts. Here is also a short hike-a-bike section down to the lower crossing of General Creek. After the crossing, you'll stay on General Creek Trail, and finish with Sugar Pine Campground Trail. There are two sets of rock stairs on General Creek Trail that are rideable, that that is the toughest obstacle. The trail starts to wind back and forth, meandering its way back to Lake Tahoe.
I rated this ride as a single black diamond, but there are some tricky technical sections and mandatory dismounts on General Creek Trail. Scout your lines first if unsure. As always, be prepared with a well functioning bike, food, and water, and a map. (I recommend the Adventure Maps Lake Tahoe Basin, by far the best local map or use the MTB Project mobile app). It's a long way out to the nearest road, and there is no cell service for much of this ride.
Please write a comment if you do this ride. I live in the neighborhood here and rarely see people out this far!