Trail Report: Mountain Biking Powerline Trail

Powerline Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Powerline Trail is a well established, popular trail right in the midst of South Lake Tahoe. This is a great trail for beginning mountain bikers who are ready to start challenging themselves, but is enough fun that intermediates and up won’t get bored. More advanced riders can use Powerline as a warm up and to access more challenging and technical trails like Cold Creek and High Meadow.

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Photo via Google Maps

The trailhead is at the dead end of Saddle Rd. 

Powerline Trail can be accessed at a few points, the most popular being at the end of Saddle Road, a few blocks west of its intersection with Ski Run Boulevard. While there is no parking on Saddle Road, there is parking on Mackedie Way. (This is a residential neighborhood, so please respect the people who live there with your parking!) You can also access the trail from the High Meadow Trail parking lot.

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

The trail is well marked right from the start. There are two options to begin the trail which meet up about halfway through. I recommend following the more obvious trail up to the left, not up the more gravel road-like section to the right.

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com
Map and elevation profile via Strava

There is a pretty steep and short climb almost immediately, but don’t worry, that’s the most difficult climb on the whole trail! Powerline Trail is pretty unique for the South Lake Tahoe area, as it tends towards rolling and doesn’t require a long slog of a climb. Not that there’s no climbing involved! You’ll gain about 600 feet over the 6.6 mile trail.

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Most of Powerline Trail travels through shaded forest, making for good trail conditions. There are some sections of that famous South Lake decomposed granite, resulting in some short, but intense, sandy sections by mid-to-late summer. However, if you happen to time it right with some summertime afternoon showers, Powerline has some of the best dirt I’ve ridden in South Lake. I rode it last week after a couple of days of intense rain, and it reminded me of riding in Washington. There are a few spots along the way where the trees open up, and offer incredible views in every direction.

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Thunderheads building earlier this week.

After about 1.25 miles, the trail comes to a tee, where heading straight will keep you on Powerline Trail, and going right will take you down to Al Tahoe Boulevard, if you want to bail out. You can access Powerline Trail at the intersection of Pioneer Trail and Al Tahoe Boulevard, and, after an exposed, sandy climb, this is where you’ll connect with the trail.

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Al Tahoe Blvd bail out intersection

After this, you’ll head down to a bridge that crosses a small stream, climb out of that small valley and be on to my favorite part of Powerline Trail. The trail gets really flowy with small rolling hills, great dirt, and banked turns so you can fly! Just watch out for hikers and dogs, as this is also a popular trail for walkers and trail runners!

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Handmade “Powerline Trail” signs point you in the right direction.

Powerline Trail essentially hits the turn around point at the bridge over Cold Creek. More advanced riders can add a climb to your route by heading up Cold Creek Trail which follows the creek up for about 1,400 feet of climbing over 5 miles (or go up even further on the new and extremely steep Star Lake Trail). You can also continue a little further up the trail, which will end at High Meadow Trail parking lot, and connect with a dirt road that will take you to the Corral area trails.

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The back half of this out-and-back trail is even more fun than the first part! While there are still a few (short) climbs, Powerline Trail trends more downhill in this direction. Enjoy the momentum, and have fun! Before you head back to your car, climb up the little rise to the south that you ignored on your way out. The views of Lake Tahoe and the mountains are incredible!

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Trail Stats:

Location: Saddle Rd, South Lake Tahoe, California

Mileage: 6.6 miles

Elevation Gain: ~600 feet

Difficulty: Beginner