There has been a bunch of fun trails built in the Tahoe Donner neighborhood of Truckee in the past few years. We rode a new to us loop that included Cinnamon Twist, Mustang Sally, and Sidewinder.
The leaves are changing in Truckee-Tahoe right now, and it’s beautiful on the trails right now. A great place to check out the fall colors and get a great ride is the Donner Lake Rim Trail. This video is of the Glacier Way & Drifter Hut Switchbacks sections of the Donner Lake Rim Trail and the Wendin Way Trail. I hope you get out and enjoy!
I think I have a new favorite trail on the south shore of Lake Tahoe – the Kingsbury Stinger trail in Stateline, Nevada. The climb isn’t terrible and the downhill is super fun ride, with a mix of fast, bermed switchbacks and rocky features. Add in incredible views of Lake Tahoe, and you’ve got an amazing trail!
The Kingsbury Stinger trail was built in 2016 as a reroute of an old, eroded moto trail as a project of TAMBA and the US Forest Service. The route we did was about 10 miles and 1,450 feet of climbing. Kingsbury Stinger is accessed from a neighborhood off of Kingsbury Grade/Highway 207. The trailhead is on Terrace View Drive (which is listed incorrectly as Terrace View Street on Trailforks, so Google Maps won’t find it!), and there’s street parking near the trail. Click here for a map to the Kingsbury Stinger trailhead and street parking.
While you can ride all the way up on the regular Kingsbury Stinger trail, we cut off about a mile and a few hundred feet of climbing by using the Lower Stinger Shortcut, which is accessed by climbing up about a tenth of a mile on Terrace View Road. The access point for this trail is on the right, and easy to spot. I highly recommend using this shortcut for the climb up, especially as the lower part of Kingsbury Stinger is pretty sandy.
The climb up to the top of Kingsbury Stinger is a steady climb, punctuated by some really steep stretches and a few techy sections that I had to hike up. It was also pretty sandy, which makes the climb feel even longer than it actually is. There are not really any notable downhill sections during the climb up, but there are a few easier climbing and flat stretches to give you a break. There are some pretty incredible views of Lake Tahoe along the way also, so I stopped to admire the view quite a few times. At about mile 4.1, you’ll cross the Tahoe Rim Trail, which is a sign that you’re almost to the top!
The climb tops out after about 4.6 miles and 1,275 feet of climbing at 7,950 feet. Here we took a break to have a snack and get ready for the long downhill to the bottom. I was a little nervous about the downhill, since some of the rock features seemed pretty challenging on the ride up, and the lower part of the trail was pretty sandy and loose. We rode the trail in early October, not too long after the area had gotten some rain and snow, so we were expecting the trail to be in decent shape. The decomposed granite sections were really loose and blown out – I had forgotten how quickly those dry out in the fall. The dirt parts of the trail were dusty and a little unconsolidated on the lower half of the trail, but there was some nice tacky dirt near the top where the snow had hung around longer. Next year, we’re going to ride it in the spring or early summer!
That said, the downhill was incredibly fun! Having good tires and riding under control makes a big difference, but I never felt like I was going to slide out in the sandy turns. As for the rock features, I was able to ride all of them. On a couple of the more challenging ones, I rode up to and got a look first, but I found everything rideable. Most of the features had very visible ride outs, so I could see where I was going, and there weren’t really features built on blind corners, which I struggle with.
We planned to ride all the way down on Kingsbury Stinger proper, and at about mile 8.7, we crossed the intersection with the Lower Stinger Cutoff. Now we were riding blind! This section was pretty loose and involved a ~0.4 mile climb in strength sapping sand, pretty late in the ride. I wasn’t super into this part. At about mile 9.5, we did get to go down again. The last part of Kingsbury Stinger was a mix of single and double track sandy whoops and loose descents. Sandy whoops are not usually my favorite, but for whatever reason, I had a blast on them this time. Maybe it made me nostalgic for when I was first learning to mountain bike in South Lake Tahoe, and ALL the trails had sandy whoops sections? After that, we popped back out in the neighborhood, right by our car. This was such and awesome ride, and I’m excited to ride it again next year!
Fall is the perfect time to get out for a trail run on one of the many awesome hiking trails in the Tahoe-Truckee area. Click here for a list of my favorite fall hikes – all make great trail runs as well. Another trail I love running in the fall, but is the trail to the top of Donner Peak. It’s about 4 miles round trip, and I usually run the flats and downhills and power hike the strenuous uphills.
As far as gear for fall trail running, I’ve been loving my Ultimate Direction Womens Ultra Vesta for a running specific hydration pack. It’s lightweight, comfortable, has TONS of pockets and can do bottles in the front pockets and a 1.5 L bladder in the main compartment. It’s really lightweight and comfortable, and it has lots of little straps to adjust and tighten it down. If I’m running in the mornings or late afternoons, when it’s chilly but not too cold, I usually go with a lightweight, long sleeve top, like this Smartwool merino one and shorts. My favorite running shorts are the Brooks Women’s Chaser 5″ and the REI Co-op Active Pursuits.
I’ve had my gravel bike, the Diamondback Bicycles Haanjo Trail for about a year, and I’m now a huge fan of gravel biking. I use mine for a bunch of things – bike commuting, riding mellow mountain bike trails, and true gravel grinding. There are miles and miles of gravel roads in the Truckee area. If you’re looking to do some exploring, I’d recommend checking out the Prosser Creek Reservoir area. For a slightly more challenging ride, check out the Elizabethtown Meadows Trail.
I’m able to use a lot of the same gear for gravel biking that I already owned, which has been nice. I did switch to a lighter weight, lower profile road helmet, like the Giro Saga. It’s more comfortable than my mountain bike helmet when I’m leaned over the bars. I also wear really basic mountain bike shoes, like the Shimano ME2. They’re fairly light weight, comfortable for long rides, and easy to walk on and stable on uneven surfaces. I don’t like wearing a full hydration pack on the gravel bike, so for really short rides close to home, I’ll just do a water bottle and a FlipBelt. For longer rides, I’ll add a saddle bag, like the Evoc Saddle Bag Tour. Greyson has the Salsa Exp Series Top Tube Bag, which is really nice for storing extra gear on really long rides.
This fall, I’ve gotten back into yoga. As the days are getting shorter, and it gets harder to go for a ride or hike after work, it’s nice to do something active that’s not the gym. I got the prAna Indigena Natural Yoga Mat as a gift, and I love it. It’s held up well, it grips well on the ground and my hands don’t slip. Since it’s made from natural rubber, it doesn’t off gas that gross plastic smell, even when brand new. For leggings, I really like the Athleta Elation Tight in Powervita. In the “Tall” length, it’s one of the few pairs I’ve had that are actually long enough. The Elation tights aren’t very thick or compressive, so if you’re looking for that, I recommend the Outdoor Voices Warm Up Leggings. During yoga I prefer more minimalist sports bras, like the Smartwool Seamless Strappy. If you’re visiting the Truckee area and looking for a yoga studio to visit, I highly recommend Truckee Yoga Collective.
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!
Jackass Trail is probably the most ridded downhill trail in the Truckee area, and that’s for a good reason. It’s rideable by all levels of riders, with ride arounds for beginners and doubles, drops, and rock rolls for advanced riders. It’s newly legal (thanks Truckee Trails Foundation & US Forest Service!) and there’s a new trail for climbing so go check it out.
Fall, or “Locals Summer”, is hands down my favorite time to go mountain biking in Tahoe and Truckee. The weather is cooler, the trails are less crowded, and, if we’re lucky, we’ve gotten some rain to help tamp down the dust. However, some rides are better than other in the fall. Some trails get over ridden throughout the summer and are too loose by September, and others are high enough that early season snow renders them unrideable. Here are some of my favorite Truckee and Tahoe trails to ride in the fall.
Donner Lake Rim Trail, Truckee, California
The Donner Lake Rim Trail, which currently traverses about 10.5 miles of single track above the north side of Donner Lake is an awesome fall ride. Other than some loose, dusty corners, the trail holds up really well into the late fall. The Donner Lake Rim Trail has some of the best views of Donner Lake, it’s one of the best mountain biking trails for fall colors. It’s easy to access, has plenty of parking, and it connects to other local trails, like Hole in the Ground and Wendin Way.
The Donner Lake Rim Trail has sections for everyone, from beginners to advanced riders. The Castle Valley segment is rocky and technical, the Drifter Hut Switchbacks are mostly flowy with some tight corners, and the Skislope segment is either a mellow climb up or ride down. For more details about the trails, check out my Trail Guides for the Donner Lake Rim Trail from Castle Valley and from Glacier Way. I haven’t written a trail guide for the newest section of the Donner Lake Rim Trail that connects to Northwoods Drive, but you can check out my video of the trail here.
Upper Corral and Incense Cedar Trails, South Lake Tahoe, California
While Truckee mainly gets dusty in the fall, South Lake Tahoe trails tend to get sandy from decomposed granite. This route consisting of Upper Corral and Incense Cedar mostly avoids the sandpits that form in the fall. To access the trails, head up Fountain Place Road, a paved road that can be ridden or shuttled. Upper Corral is a pretty technical downhill trail, earning its advanced rating on Trailforks. There are some tricky turns, mandatory drops, and long rock gardens, though all the features are walkable if needed. Incense Cedar, on the other hand, is a mellow trail that’s mainly downhill, with a few short climbs sprinkled throughout. Incense Cedar pops out onto Powerline Road, a fire road that can get pretty sandy in spots, but is rideable back to the parking area on Fountain Place. To see my Strava track for this route, click here. For more information about the Corral Trail Network, click here for my trail guide.
Royal Gorge Rim Trail, Soda Springs, California
The Royal Gorge trails on Donner Summit make for great fall riding. The trails were designed with mountain biking in mind, so they hold up well. Also, since they’re less well known than other Truckee trails, they have much lower traffic than something like Jackass, and aren’t as beat up as a result.mFor a great fall ride, I’d recommend the Royal Gorge Rim Trail Loop, which is a little over 6 miles and about 1,000 feet of climbing. Be sure to take the Routen Peak Spur, and enjoy the incredible views. Click here to see my video featuring the Royal Gorge Trails.
Tyrolean Downhill, Incline Village, Nevada
The Tyrolean Downhill is an awesome shuttle trail that gets sandy, but is still an excellent late season ride. It’s got incredible views of Lake Tahoe and takes you through a variety of classic Tahoe terrain. Tyrolean has features that will challenge advanced riders, but the majority of the technical features have ride arounds that make this doable by intermediate riders – without losing the flow!
To do the Tyrolean Downhill as a shuttle (which most riders do), leave one car parked at the Diamond Peak Ski Resort parking lot, where the trail ends. While there are several ways to access the Tyrolean Downhill, my favorite is via the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). Park at the Tahoe Meadows Tahoe Rim Trail parking area, off of Highway 431. Hop on the TRT: Tahoe Meadows to Tunnel Creek segment, and after about 1.6 miles, you’ll hit ab intersection. Turn right to get on Upper Tyrolean, which is a mellow flowing ride through the forest. After about 1.15 miles, Upper Tyrolean turns into the Tyrolean DH, which drops nearly 1,650 feet in 3.3 miles! The trail ends at the Diamond Peak parking lot, making this a super easy shuttle, with only about 350 feet of climbing over about 6 miles. Click here to see my Strava route, but ignore the spur at mile 0.8. We were riding through patchy snow at the top and took a wrong turn. For my video of the Tyrolean Downhill (also featuring a trail race and a bunch of runners who aren’t usually there), click here.
Big Chief Trail, Truckee, California
One of the newest, techiest trails in Truckee is an incredible fall ride, the Big Chief Trail. The trail is mainly in the thick forest, and is well built so the dirt segments hold up well, even after long, dry periods. There are also incredible rock work, long rock gardens, and gravel sections which won’t get very loose and dusty. It’s made up of two sections, Big Chief Upper and Big Chief Lower and can be accessed by a 7.7 mile fire road climb on the 06/Sawtooth Road. It can also be shuttled and some people ride up the trail. The trail is multidirectional, but most riders tend to ride up the fire road. The whole ride is about 15.7 miles and around 2,000 feet of climbing. For my Strava route, click here.
This is a trail for advanced and intermediate riders, especially the upper section – there are some big drops, tight corners, and technical rock gardens. I ended up walking quite a few features on Big Chief Upper! For an easier ride, you can easily just do Big Chief Lower, as the start of this segment crosses the 06 at about mile 3.7. If you’re looking for even longer ride, you can tack on Sawtooth Loop or other trails in the Sawtooth network. Click here to see my video of Big Chief Trail.
While I’m going to hold on to the last bit of summer weather for as long as it lasts, I can’t deny that there’s a chill in the air and the tourists are (mostly) gone. Fall is coming, and it’s time to start making my favorite fall recipe: Whiskey Pumpkin Bread. Click here for my delicious Whiskey Pumpkin Bread Recipe!
This weekend, I rode the Donner Lake Rim Trail from Castle Valley west and down the Wendin Way Trail. This is a great route for late in the summer – it’s less dusty than a lot of the trails in the area and is still in good shape. We did it as a shuttle, leaving one car at the PCT trailhead near Boreal Resort and one down at Donner Lake. Doing it that way it’s a fun shuttle with a mellow fire road climb, some chunky granite XC style riding, flowy mellow trails in the trees (with a great stopping point at Summit Lake) and a downhill that has both fast switchbacks and some rocky features.
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.
Here are some of my favorite trails that are suitable for newer riders.
1. Powerline Trail, South Lake Tahoe, California
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
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
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.
If you’re looking for more great Fall mountain bike rides in Truckee and Tahoe, click here!
If you’re looking to challenge yourself on more difficult intermediate trails, click here!