Five Beginner Mountain Bike Trails in Tahoe-Truckee

Fall is definitely my favorite time to mountain bike in the Tahoe-Truckee area, and it’s great time to check out the sport and/or expand your skills if you’re new to it. The weather is cooler, wildfire smoke is out of the sky, the trails have been refreshed by fall precipitation, and the popular routes aren’t crowded with summer traffic. Mountain biking can be an intimidating sport to start, and it can especially be hard to find fun routes that are beginner-friendly and aren’t just a gravel road. If you’re new to riding or visiting the Tahoe-Truckee area, I’d recommend downloading the Trailforks or MTB Project app on your phone. Most of these trails are located in networks with multiple options, so some navigation help can be useful.

Beginner Mountain Bike Rides Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Here are some of my favorite trails that are suitable for newer riders.

1. Powerline Trail, South Lake Tahoe, California
Powerline Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Powerline was the first trail that I rode when I moved to Tahoe eight years ago! It’s a great introduction to the trails of South Lake Tahoe. The trail is pretty smooth, with some small rocks and roots but very rideable. There is enough climbing that you’ll get a workout, and there are great views. This trail can get a little sandy from decomposed granite in the late summer or dry fall weather. Click here to read my detailed trail report about Powerline Trail.

2. Elizabethtown Meadow Trail, Truckee, California
Elizabethtown Meadows Trail // tahoefabulous.com

The Elizabethtown Meadow Trail is a fairly new and new-to-me trail that I rode for the first time last weekend. This is a great trail to ride in the fall – the aspens were turning yellow and it was beautiful! Trailforks calls this trail intermediate, but I think it’s very doable by a beginner. It’s rocky, but the rocks are small so it feels more bumpy than technical. The actual trail is is about 2.25 miles one direction, but it does connect with other trails and fire roads in the Martis Creek area. I haven’t ridden any of those yet, so I can’t vouch for their difficulty though. Click here to see my Strava route.

3. Railroad Grade Trail, South Lake Tahoe, California
Railroad Grade Trail is a short, fun trail that can be used as a connector to other trails, or ridden as an out and back for a short and sweet ride. Click here to read my description of Railroad Grade, including how to get there and other, more challenging trails you can connect to.

4. Emigrant Trail, Truckee, California


The Emigrant Trail goes 9 ish miles from Highway 89 to Stampede Reservoir. It’s one of the flatter trails in the Truckee area, but there are plenty of small climbs and descents to get a workout. The trail surface is fairly smooth, with some small rocky or rooty sections, but no drops or jumps. Since this is an out and back trail, you can just ride for as long as you want and turn around at any time. To get to this trail, I’d recommend parking at the parking area for Donner Camp Historic Trail on the east side of Highway 89, here. From the parking lot, get on what Trailforks calls Emigrant Alternate and head north. At about mile 2.4, you’ll hit a sharp fork, you’ll want to follow the uphill one (the downhill will take you down to Prosser Creek, which is sometimes crossable, but frequently not). At mile 2.5, you’ll hit Highway 89. Turn right on 89 to go north. Cars go by pretty fast, but you’re only going to be on the road for 0.1 miles to cross Prosser Creek. Right after the bridge, you’ll see Emigrant Trail on the right. Jump back on the road and ride for as long as you want. Click here for my Strava route.

5. The Flume Trail, Incline Village, Nevada
Flume Trail // tahoefabulous.com

The Flume Trail (sometimes called the Marlette Flume) is hands-down the most iconic trail in the Tahoe area that is accessible to beginner riders. You’ll want to be in decent cardiovascular shape and not scared of heights, but all of the riding is doable by a new rider – any unrideable feature is clearly signed ahead with a warning to get off your bike. Since this trail tops out above 7,800 feet, it is one of the first to get snowed out, so check conditions before you go. I highly recommend this trail to visitors; the views can’t be beat. Click here to read my detailed trail report of the Flume Trail, including how to arrange a self shuttle.

5 Best Tahoe-Truckee Fall Hikes

Fall Hikes in Tahoe Truckee // tahoefabulous.com

Fall is my favorite time for hiking in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee area! The air is clear and crisp, the trails are less crowded, and the aspens are turning colors. Here are my favorite hikes to do before the snow flies.

1. Donner Summit Canyon, Truckee: (6 miles round trip, 1,000 feet of climbing). This trail off of Old Highway 40 was purchased and conserved by Truckee Donner Land Trust, and it has some interesting history:

A trail up the canyon follows much of the old Dutch Flat/Donner Lake Wagon Road, which later served as the Lincoln Highway. Some of the historic features visible from the upper part of the trail include Native American petroglyphs, the China Wall, and the world’s first automobile underpass (1913). Look for the abandoned Turkey Truck that careened off the road in 1955, scattering 30,000 pounds of frozen turkeys down the 175’ drop and delaying Thanksgiving dinner for hungry Nevadans!

Park at the Donner Summit Canyon Trailhead, which is here, about one third of a mile up Old Hwy 40 from South Shore Road.

Donner Summit Canyon // tahoefabulous.com
View from Donner Summit Canyon Trail

2. Fallen Leaf Lake Trail, South Lake Tahoe (8 miles around the lake): This lake is just outside of South Lake Tahoe, and is a great place to get away from the busier beaches of Lake Tahoe. The water is crystal clear, and it’s a gorgeous place to hike around. While you can make the full 8 mile trek around the lake, the trail can be tricky to find in spots and turns into a paved road for several miles. The nice thing about the Fallen Leaf Lake trail, is that there are gorgeous spots almost immediately. You can just walk until you find a serene spot and then hang out there. Fallen Leaf Lake is super easy to get to, follow the directions to here.

3. Tahoe Rim Trail from the Brockway Summit Trailhead, Kings Beach (3 miles, 700 feet elevation): For a short hike with a gorgeous, view, hike up to this little spur off of the Tahoe Rim Trail. You’ll be able to see all the way across Lake Tahoe. For a longer hike, you can keep going to reach another view point at about mile 5.
Brockway Summit Viewpoint // tahoefabulous.com

The trailhead is on the south side of Brockway Summit – click here for a map. There are quite a few parking spots on the south side of 267.

4. Mount Tallac, South Lake Tahoe: (10 miles, 3,300 feet elevation). Fall is a great time to hike one of my favorite Tahoe Peaks, Mt. Tallac. This is a very strenuous hike, but it’s a super rewarding one. The hike takes you through varied ecosystems and the view from the top of the peak is expansive and incredible. The trailhead is a few miles west of South Lake Tahoe, click here for directions.

5. Tahoe Rim Trail from Tahoe Meadows Trailhead, Incline Village (~4 miles): This is another short and sweet hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail to some awesome views. Be sure to check out the humorous leave no trace signs, addressed to wildlife.
Tahoe Meadows TRT View // tahoefabulous.com

To access the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead, head up Mount Rose Highway from Incline Village for about 6.5 miles, and it will be on your right. Click here for directions.

Shoulder Season: Tahoe Bars for All Weather

Fall is definitely my favorite season in Tahoe. The crowds have died down, but there’s still stuff to do outside. The weather can be hit or miss – some days are rainy and cold, giving a preview of winter to come and some are a throwback to summer with clear skies and hot temperatures. After a long day on the trail or on the beach, it’s nice to wind down with a cold beer, glass of wine, or fancy cocktail.

Best Bars in Tahoe for Fall // tahoefabulous.com

Outdoor Venues
If it’s sunny out, I want to soak up what might be the last nice day for awhile, so here are my recommendations for places to grab a drink outside. In South Lake Tahoe, MacDuff’s Public House has outdoor seating when the weather is good. It’s not right on the lake, but they have a full bar and usually an awesome beer selection. If you’re looking for something on the water, the Beacon Bar & Grill at Camp Richardson is just a little west of South Lake Tahoe and has the best deck view on the shore. Riva Grill at Ski Run Marina is higher end, and to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of their food, but they’ve got a great deck and everyone should try their signature drink, the Wet Woody at least once. Sidellis Brewery is located slightly off the beaten path, but has a large, fenced in outdoor area that is dog friendly and features cornhole and great beer.

On the north shore, there are quite a few restaurants and bars that offer the outdoor drinking experience. On the Nevada side, Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village has an awesome outdoor seating area out back that has live music some nights, complete with fire pits for low temps.

Sunday funday at #alibialeworks #craftbeer #beer #inclinenv #tahoefabulous

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In Kings Beach, I love Jason’s Beachside Grille. This is a great place to get a delicious glass of wine while watching the sunset from their Adirondack chairs before dinner. Down the road in Tahoe City is Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co., which has a patio where you can eat & drink outside and enjoy lake views. (See my favorite Tahoe Mountain Brews here). In Truckee, 1882 Bar and Grill is right on the Truckee River and is located in historic downtown.

Indoor Bars
If the weather drives drives me inside, there are quite a few bars – from dives serving PBR to lounges with fancy cocktails that I enjoy. If you’re looking for a cheap place to get a beer in South Lake Tahoe, you can’t beat Turn 3 and  its two-for-one happy hour beer prices. For fancier beer, head to South Lake Brewing Company. It’s in a large, warehouse-type building with lots of table games – so it’s perfect for days when the weather is awful and you’re looking for something to do. They also allow well behaved dogs. I also love the Himmel Haus, near Heavenly Ski Resort. They have a great selection of Bavarian beer, German food, a foosball table and a cozy fire. They often host events like trivia, ski movies, and theme parties.

Sidellis Brewery
Photo by Sidellis Brewery

For something a little different, go see a movie at Tahoe Art Haus in Tahoe City. It’s an awesome locally-owned theater that serves beer, wine, and cider and has organic popcorn with a whole bar of toppings. They usually have the latest big releases, and show indies and local ski films during the slower season. For another off-the-beaten path option, the small bar in the very hip Basecamp Hotel Tahoe has a few beers on tap and wines available and the atmosphere is very different from your typical hotel bar.

#Beer and popcorn topping bar at Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema? I love you already.

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In Truckee, wait out the bad weather downtown at Moody’s Bistro, Bar and Beats in downtown Truckee – the gorgeous ambiance, knowledgeable bartenders, and live music make the somewhat pricey cocktails worth it. Also in the historic downtown is the Truckee location of Alibi Ale Works which has a larger beer selection than the Incline Village location and also has kombucha and nitro brew coffee on draft.

#sundayfunday at @alibitruckee. #truckeelove #beer #tahoefabulous

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If you’re looking for somewhere to watch a game, The Blue Coyote Bar & Grill is the main sports bar in town and is located in an area of town that is less touristy, if you’re looking for that. It has tons of tvs, so whatever you want to watch is likely to be on – or just ask! Their staff is very friendly.

Tahoe Round the Lake Beer Tour // tahoefabulous.com

Or if you have a designated driver, tackle my Round the Lake Beer Tour, taking you from Truckee and around the lake, hitting up by favorite breweries and beer bars along the way!

Fall Favorites Round Up

It’s no secret that Fall is an amazing time to be in Truckee-Tahoe – it’s definitely my favorite season, and it’s almost here.  The trails are less crowded, the weather ranges from stormy (Yay! It’s finally raining.) to hot & sunny (Yay! A little bit more summer.), and the general feel of the locals is just more relaxed. Over the years, I’ve posted a lot of my recommendations for the fall, so I thought I’d do a round up of previous fall favorites, and add some bonus new suggestions as well.

Sierra Fall Essentials:
Here’s a round up of some of my favorite products to help me get through the variable weather of fall in the Sierra.

Sierra Fall Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

Bonus Favorites:
An ultra-light, packable wind shell, like the Patagonia Houdini is perfect for cooler morning runs or to stick in your bike pack for a chilly downhill after a sweaty climb. It’s water resistant, so it will even keep you dry for a little bit in the event of a surprise rainstorm.

A mid-weight vest is the perfect fall layering piece. You can wear it under a raincoat or over a flannel, and your arms will be free while your core is warm. I think springing for a down version, like the Marmot Aruna is so worth it, for quality, packability, and warmth. The Aruna is a high quality – I own the vest and the jacket version and I love them both.

Fall In Yosemite Valley:
Fall is my favorite time to visit Yosemite – check out these photos of Yosemite Valley to see why!

Yosemite Valley Fall // tahoefabulous.com

Bonus Sierra Destinations if you want to see Fall Colors
June Lake, California: great beer, & fishing
Hope Valley, California:delicious pie & country charm
Nevada City, California: – incredible restaurants & the Yuba river

Whiskey Pumpkin Bread Recipe:
Nothing says fall like pumpkin, and this pumpkin bread recipe with a kick of whiskey is just about perfect, if I do say so myself.

Whiskey Pumpkin Bread Recipe // tahoefabulous.com

Round the Lake Beer Tour:
You’ll need a designated driver for this one, but check out my loop from Truckee, around the lake, and back, hitting up breweries and craft beer spots along the way. I just updated it for fall of 2018, so check out the new version!

Round the Lake Beer Tour // tahoefabulous.com

Favorite Fall Activities:
Sierra Fall Favorites // tahoefabulous.com
And here are some of my favorite things to do in Tahoe and the Sierra in the fall:
Go mountain biking. Often, we’ll get an early snowstorm that melts out and gets the trails in perfect condition. My favorite trails to ride in the fall are the Donner Lake Rim Trail to Wendin Canyon and Sawtooth Trail in Truckee, Mills Peak in Graeagle, and the Corral Trail Network in South Lake Tahoe.
Jump in the lake one last time. Often, the water is still warm enough for a quick swim in September and October. Or you could head to nearby hot springs, like Grover Hot Springs State Park in Markleeville or Travertine Hot Springs in Bridgeport.
Get in shape for snowboard season with some trail running. I like to get a few more trips up and down Donner Peak before the snow falls in Truckee. In South Lake Tahoe, Powerline Trail is my preferred trail running location.
Go on a road trip to the coast. Alright, that might be cheating for favorite Tahoe fall activities, but the California coast in the fall is amazing too! I especially like Santa Cruz, Point Reyes, Mendocino, and the North Coast during this time of year.

Whiskey Pumpkin Bread Recipe

I’m reposting this recipe from last fall!

So despite the snow that Tahoe has gotten lately, I’m still considering it fall! I said that one of my Fall Bucket List Goals was to perfect a Whiskey S’more Cookie recipe. Well, I haven’t quite finalized that recipe yet, but I did come up with a pretty delicious recipe for whiskey-based fall classic – Whiskey Pumpkin Bread. I based this recipe off of a couple of classic pumpkin bread recipes and this one featuring bourbon. I really like how the bread turned out – it’s not as sweet as some recipes and the whiskey flavor is definitely noticeable.

Whiskey Pumpkin Bread Recipe // tahoefabulous.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup whiskey + 1 tbsp (I love Bulleit Rye Whiskey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 1 large loaf pan. I like coconut oil.
  2. Mix together the canned pumpkin, brown sugar, coconut oil, whiskey, and eggs in a large bowl.
  3. In another large bowl, combine flowers, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.
  5. Pour into pan and bake for 50 – 55 minutes. Check with a toothpick or knife for done-ness.
  6. Cool on a rack or plate, slice and try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Sierra Fall Essentials

The leaves are changing, the weather has cooled off, and I’ve started craving pie at every meal. It’s fall!Boots, scarves, tea, pumpkin spice lattes, etc – there are many things that people consider essentials for the autumn season. Here’s my list of must-haves for a perfect fall in the mountains.

fall 1

  1. Boots that can handle rain and a little bit of snow:During a normal year, most of the precipitation that falls in Tahoe comes down in the form of snow. The last few years have been anything but typical, and, fall is our rainiest season. I have these amazing Sorel Women’s Winter Boots for heavy snows, but I wanted something a bit lighter and more puddle proof for fall. A bunch of my New Englander friends clued me in to the wonder that is the Original Duck Boot by LL Bean. More commonly known as “Bean Boots”, these things are amazing. I have the 8 Inch Women’s Bean Boots. They keep my feet dry, are way lighter than my snow boots, don’t make my feet swampy like previous all-rubber boots and can handle a few inches of snow with ease. Since mine are unlined, I got mine a little big (I normally wear a 10.5, got the 11) and wear them with fluffy wool socks and sweater pants. I couldn’t be happier!
  2. Wool clothing: See above. I have a bunch of Smartwool Socks – including biking, running, hiking,skiing/compressionand fluffy, a pair of Smartwool footless tights (aka sweater pants), and a Smartwool Sports Bra.

LL Bean Boots and Smartwool Leggings

Bean Boots and Sweater Pants

I also have a great soft shell jacket from Icebreaker and a wool base layer that I got at the Patagonia outlet years ago. Why wool? According to Sierra Trading Post, “Wool is one of nature’s best insulating fibers and has been used to make clothing for centuries. Not only is wool extremely good at holding in warmth, it also wicks moisture and dries faster than cotton.” Wool is definitely worth the cost, and it smells way better than synthetic fabrics after sweating. Just a warning – I dry my socks in the dryer, but all of my other wool products get laid flat for drying.

  1. Something to keep my tea and coffee hot. I have and use a double walled, stainless steel bottle from both Hydro Flask and Klean Kanteen. I slightly prefer the Klean Kanteen, mostly because I think the lid holds on to less smells/flavors that the Hydro Flask Both do an excellent job keeping my tea and coffee hot for hours – up to 6!
  2. A raincoat: Living in Bellingham and Seattle for 6+ years, I’ve worn a lot of raincoats. I think that I finally have a favorite!

Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket

The Patagonia Torrentshell is slightly visible in this picture of Yosemite Valley last October.

While not the lightest or the most packable, the Patagonia Torrentshell raincoat keeps me totally dry while still looking pretty cute. I was at a mostly outdoor work training last week, and it poured for much of Saturday. The Torrentshell kept me dry, warm and comfortable the whole time. This time, I wore it over my Patagonia Half Zip Fleece, but I have also worn it over a puffy vest or down coat for wet snowboarding days.

  1. A seasonal drink: While Negronis might be the drink of the summer, come fall, I’m drinking something different. I crave darker beers (like Great Basin Brewing’s Outlaw Milk Stout) and I start enjoying my ales over nitro – like thisAlibi Ale Works Pale Ale. When it comes to something a little harder, I like the Boulevardier(aka a Negroni that replaces the gin with rye). I bought a huge thing of Bulleit Rye at Costco, and we are enjoying slowly going through that.

Sierra Fall Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!