This version of the Xmas Valley loop includes the out-and-back spurs to the PCT on the Tahoe Rim Trail: Big Meadow - PCT
section and Meiss Valley and Dardanelles Lake on Dardanelles Lake Trail
This ride is relatively short in terms of miles, but OMG amazing! The 2.5-mile, out-and-back to the PCT and Meiss Valley have some of the most amazing alpine scenery in the Tahoe Basin. If you like challenging climbs, flowing descents, gorgeous alpine scenery, and some technical, rocky sections this ride is for you!
Most people skip the out-and-back to the PCT intersection, but it has some of the most amazing scenery on the ride. Wide open meadows, huge rock formations, aspens, wildflowers, some short, tough climbing sections (on the way out). There are also a couple of historical (1880s) cabins at the turnaround spot. This spur flows nicely on the way back and is worth the climb out.
The out-and-back to Dardanelles Lake is also totally worthwhile and includes some technical rock challenges. Dardanelles Lake is a gorgeous alpine lake ringed by big granite.
This ride ends with an awesome 3.5-mile descent back to the start. It's a mix of flowing singletrack, with some fun, rocky sections.
Living in Tahoe for 12 years, this ride is one of my favorites for spring wildflowers and fall colors.
Park at the end of the Christmas Valley Trail
on South Upper Truckee Road. You'll start this ride with about two miles of climbing on the pavement to the Big Meadow Trailhead. The road portion has almost no traffic and you'll do a big chunk of your elevation gain on the pavement this way (and finish the awesome singletrack descent at your car). No reason to shuttle this since it makes a good warmup and the road has almost no traffic.
You'll start climbing immediately on South Upper Truckee road for just under a mile. Then you'll cross over Hwy 89 (watch for cars), and continue straight across. The road winds through Alpine Campground and ends at the Big Meadow Trailhead.
Cross back over Hwy 89 and head onto the Tahoe Rim Trail: Big Meadow - PCT
. This first 1/2 mile of singletrack has some uphill steps and challenging sections before opening up to gorgeous meadows (Big Meadow!). You'll stay on the Tahoe Rim Trail as you climb to just over 8200' elevation.
Continue past the Christmas Valley intersection (go straight). You'll ride past Round Lake and some massive (cabin sized) boulders next to the trail. There are a few loose sections past Round Lake before you emerge into the meadows and continue on the Tahoe Rim Trail: Big Meadow - PCT
until you reach the Pacific Crest Trail and the settlers cabins (it's legal to ride to the cabins since it isn't on the PCT). Carson Pass is about 2.9 miles away from the turnaround, sadly it's not bike legal since it's perfectly suited for bicycle use.
The trail flows nicely on the way back and is mostly downhill to the Christmas Valley intersection.
Make a left turn onto Christmas Valley Trail
and descend downhill for about 1/10 mile to the Dardanelles Lake Trail
intersection. Make a left turn toward Dardanelles Lake.
The trail is a little over a mile and is a mix of smooth, forest singletrack with some fun, technical rock challenges. There are three creek crossings with stepping stones (although they are usually easily rideable in late summer). There are a few short, hike-a-bike sections right near the lake, scout your lines for the way back. The ride back has some great rock ramps and low-speed tech challenges before opening up onto a smooth trail.
Once you are back at the Christmas Valley Trail
, make a left (downhill) and enjoy an amazing 3.5-mile descent back to the start.