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!

# Comments

  • Suvacrew

    Welcome to my Summer playground. Was up there July 4th riding the TRT on the East Side and we were stumped with hundreds of yards of snow…difficult to find the trails in between. Limited riders in the backcountry for sure.
    Gotta love riding at 9000ft. Can run out of water quick..we bring water filters to avoid the neat pitfalls of drinking from streams. Glad you broke away from the DH and got a taste of the high country.

  • AK_Dan

    Yea, love this whole area. That section of the trail is notoriously rockier than others but still very fun. One of the best rides is just east of there across the Nevada border (and described here in the directory) starting at the Tahoe Meadows on the Mt Rose highway. Each section of the TRT was designed by someone different, and although his name escapes right at the moment this section was designed be a well known MTB trail builder. 9 miles of fantastic singletrack, extremely scenic, fast and techy at the same time brings you to an intersection at the north end of the famous Flume trail where several choices await you.
    Cant wait to get back there myself.

  • maddslacker

    Ever since seeing videos of Tahoe Rim in the VholdR contest, it has been on my must-ride list!

    Also, with over 6″ of travel, isn’t the Reign an All-Mountain bike?

  • trek7k

    Yeah, I guess the Reign is more AM than XC – Northstar actually classifies it as a Freeride bike. In any event, it’s the smallest travel bike you can rent there (other than kids’ bikes). 🙂

  • steve32300

    Yessss,this trail is on my must ride list,god it seems like forever until you get a chance to hit somthing like this and actually do it…….

  • tarvisg

    The rim trail is so beautiful. Many varieties of terrain offered. I am working on completing all the bike-able sections. Only a few spots left to do. Kingsbury to Big Meadow and a few small sections on the North shore. Rose to Tunnel creek is great and I have done it many times. It is the most ridden and tends to become a dusty mess quick. I have rode other sections that are just as tech and the dirt is much firmer. I live in North Lake and am finding this to be my favorite trail the more I ride it. If you come to Tahoe, ride the Rim at any point. You won’t be disappointed!!

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