As a part of my trip to Northstar Resort in California a couple weeks ago I got a chance to ride a portion of the fabled Tahoe Rim Trail that encircles Lake Tahoe. The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) meanders within a mile or so of Northstar and the resort offers connecting trails and maps that make access simple. One popular cross-country loop involves riding the lift up, taking the Northstar Tahoe Mulit-use Trail to the Tahoe Rim Trail and returning down to the resort via forest roads. On a Saturday afternoon I rented a full-suspension cross-country bike (Giant Reign SX) and our group hit the trail!
According to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, just over 50% of the 165-mile loop is open to mountain bikes which seems a little unfair – until you realize that’s still at least 80 miles of singletrack! On the upper portions of the trail we saw very few hikers and just one small group of riders which gave the trail a backcountry feel despite being close to several resorts. Early on we took a side trail around Watson Lake where a couple groups of mountain bikers had camped overnight.
Unlike the buff singletrack on the Colorado Trail, this section of The Tahoe Rim Trail is littered with medium sized rocks and fine, dry dust that sticks to your smiling teeth if you follow too closely to the rider in front. None of this is to say the singletrack isn’t fast – you just need to pick your lines a little bit to stay in the flow.
Of course the big draw for the Tahoe Rim Trail is the scenery and it’s hard to find a more beautiful mountain bike trail in the US. The alpine flowers were in full bloom at the beginning of July and we passed through meadows of tall yellow flowers that seemed to stretch for hundreds of acres. I’m kicking myself now for not stopping to snap pics of the snow plants along the side of the trail that looked like brilliant fire-red wildflowers (they’re actually non-photosynthesizing fungi).
Views of Lake Tahoe are fleeting on the TRT section we rode but when the trees did open up the scenery was ridiculous. I could have stayed all afternoon staring at the dark blue waters below ringed by snow capped mountains and tall green pine trees. Fortunately the mountain biking part was fun too.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is an IMBA Epic mountain bike trail that you don’t want to miss. If you ever find yourself at Northstar in the summer, tear yourself away from the DH trails for a couple hours and check out the TRT – and don’t forget to bring your camera!