Last month, I got to demo the Santa Cruz Megatower at Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz. It was waaaaaaay more bike than I needed for those mostly mellow trails, but I had a blast!
I returned to the site of my first ever Youtube video to ride the Hoot Trail in amazing, winter dirt conditions. Since the snow hasn’t been great, I’ve really been taking advantage of the foothill trails this winter.
I love heading down the hill to ride the Auburn mountain bike trails in the winter! Greyson and I had a great day on Culvert and Confluence trails last weekend – check it out below.
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!
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.
I rode the Royal Gorge Trails on Donner Summit for the first time this summer, this is such a cool and underrated area for mountain biking in Truckee! The trails are well built, and climbing doesn’t feel like a chore to get to the good stuff. While the downhills have flow, they’re not overbuilt flow trails, and riding through the forest feels natural. As a bonus, they aren’t as well known as the other Truckee trails, so they don’t get very crowded or beat up by overuse.
The fact that there are any trails at Royal Gorge is an amazing story of conservation success story. In 2012, Mountain Area Preservation (the organization where I work), Truckee Donner Land Trust (the organization where Greyson works) and eight other organizations came together to stop a proposed development of 950 residential units. Through negotiations and fundraising more than $11 million, the Truckee Donner Land Trust was able to acquire more than 3,000 acres at Royal Gorge, which is now permanently protected and accessible to the public for mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing and more! Click here for more information from the Land Trust about Royal Gorge.
For an awesome ride that showcases some of the Royal Gorge Highlights, I’d recommend this route that’s mainly on the Royal Gorge Rim Trail which is about 6 miles and ~1,000 feet of climbing. Park at the Hoelter Hall Trail Head in Soda Springs, and from there hop on Upper Switchback which turns into Lower Claim Jumper. After about 0.5 miles on Lower Claim Jumper, there’s an intersection and take the right fork to continue on to Upper Claim Jumper for less than 0.25 miles. Take a right for a short jaunt on the Razorback/Claim Jumper Connector and then another right on to Lower Bogus Basin. After about 0.3 miles, you’ll hit a trail intersection where you want to take the middle trail with lots of switchbacks, Razorback Reroute. Razorback ends at a bench with awesome views, so check it out.
Razorback turns into the Royal Gorge Rim Trail (RGRT), but be sure not to miss the Rowton Peak Spur, which is a short climb rewarded with amazing views. After riding back down, hop back on the the RGRT Bogus Basin to Razorback segment which descends a fun and flowy 230 feet in about 0.75 miles. At the intersection, take the left trail on to RGRT Tiny Tim to Bogus Basin for another 300 feet of descent interspersed with some short climbs that dead ends on a very short section of access road. Go left on the access road, and almost immediately RGRT Soda Springs to Tiny Tim, the final bit of trail on this route will be on the left. The Royal Gorge Rim Trail ends on Soda Springs Road, which will take you back to the parking area.
This route is just a part of the Royal Gorge Trails, and I’m excited to explore more of this area before winter arrives!
Location: Soda Springs, Donner Summit, California
Mileage: ~6.25 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,000 feet