Mountain Biking the Deschutes River Trail

Mountain Biking the Deschutes River Trail, Bend, Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

Greyson and I brought A LOT of gear on this road trip to Bend, because we weren’t sure how the weather was going to be. We brought skis/snowboards, camping gear, hiking gear, snowshoes, mountain bikes, climbing gear and swimsuits! We ended up not using all of it, but we made the most of what we could do.

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One thing I was really looking forward to was mountain biking in Bend. It’s one of the (many) outdoor activities Bend is known for, and I was excited to give it a try. As I’m feeling fairly out-of-shape bike wise, I wanted to try a trail that wasn’t going to be too difficult technically or exertion wise.

We stopped in an awesome bike store/beer & wine bar/coffee shop, Crow’s Feet Commons, and picked up a Bend bike trail map to add to Greyson’s “map library” (aka the overflowing side pockets in the Toaster). We decided on the Deschutes River Trail, as it was easily accessible and close to town and rated as beginning/intermediate in both terrain and exertion.

Map via Google Maps
Map via Google Maps

We jumped on the trail a few miles out of town (directions here) from a dirt parking lot right next to the river. After a few minutes of fire road riding we found ourselves on a gorgeous dirt trail that paralleled the Deschutes. Unfortunately, despite the supposed “beginner/intermediate” nature of this trail, we fairly quickly arrived on some technical rocky sections. I consider myself a strong intermediate rider, but I had to get off and walk a couple of these sections, especially as I was not expecting them! However, the rocky sections were over in less than a quarter mile, and the rest of the trail (that we rode) was smooth sailing – definitely beginner.

Trail Map and Elevation Profile via Strava
Trail Map and Elevation Profile via Strava

For me, the best feature of the Deschutes River Trail was the awesome packed dirt. I’m used to the decomposed granite that turns to sand that the Tahoe area trails are “famous” for, so this forest soil was a welcome change! I felt like I couldn’t slide out if I tried (note: I am sure that is not true). The trail meanders along with the Deschutes, giving gorgeous views of the river and the strange lava beds the area is famous for. The Deschutes is also a popular whitewater kayaking destination, so I’m sure that in certain times of year, you can watch people shooting the rapids.

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The trail heads south from Bend and travels about thirteen miles south to Sun River, so you could definitely make a day of it for a longer, 26 mile ride. We ended up just riding about a 9 mile out-and-back section of the trail, but I imagine most of the trail is similar. It was muddy in spots, so be sure to check conditions and practice good trail etiquette if you’re riding in the winter or spring. Additionally, the trail is mixed use, and used considerably by hikers and bikers, so be sure to keep your speed under control to avoid user conflicts.

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Overall, I enjoyed this trail. Though I didn’t experience the whole thing, I’d rank the section we rode as “beginner” with a short “intermediate to advanced” but easily walkable section on the technical side of things, and definitely “easy” for exertion. I can’t wait to get back to Bend and ride the whole Deschutes River Trail, as well as trying out some of the harder trails.

 

Trail Report: Tahoe Mountain Trail – South Lake Tahoe, California

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Tahoe Mountain Trail is a great trail that was completed in the fall of 2013. While there has been a trail in that general area for quite some time, the new Tahoe Mountain trail is a fun piece of single track with a hard but rewarding climb, incredible views, and a speedy downhill. In the fall of 2015, an off-road bike path was completed in that area, so you can ride to the trailhead from Meyers or South Lake Tahoe on a really nice, off-road paved bike path, making for a perfect warm up. If you drive, you’ll want to park at the Sawmill Pond parking lot, just a little ways up Sawmill Road, which is across from the trail head.

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Photo via Google Maps

The trail is accessed via the trail head at the intersection of Lake Tahoe Boulevard and Sawmill Road in South Lake Tahoe, California.

All photos by Lynn Baumgartner
All photos by Lynn Baumgartner

There’s a nice map of the trail system at the trailhead. I’d recommend checking it out, as there are a bunch of social trails spurring off the main Tahoe Mountain trail, and it can be easy to head off on one of them. Most of them quickly dump you off on a road, so don’t worry too much about them, just follow the main trail and head in an uphill direction.

What much of the single track looks like.
What much of the single track looks like.

After about 100 yards on a single track trail, you’ll come to a gravel fire road. Turn right to go to the new trail. Going left will take you to the old trail, which I DO NOT recommend. The old trail is no longer maintained and fairly overgrown, and I thought that the climb up was much more difficult.

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After you’ve turned right onto the fire road and ridden about a quarter mile, start looking for the trail off to the left and uphill. Get ready to work hard on the climb! You end up climbing almost 900 feet over three miles, which requires some hard work, but isn’t so difficult that you can’t enjoy the amazing views!

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Pyramid Peak peeks out about halfway up.

The Tahoe Mountain trail takes you through the Angora Fire burn area, and the burned out trees result in eerie but stunning views.

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The 880 foot climb up is mostly on fairly smooth dirt single track, but because this is South Lake Tahoe, there are some sandy spots of decomposed granite. A couple switchbacks were sandy enough that I had to push through in June, and it gets worse throughout the summer. The only really technically challenging spot is about halfway up the climb, with a tight rocky turn through some close together boulders. Speaking of boulders, there are dozens of huge boulders scattered alongside the lower sections of the trail, making for striking and unique scenery.

Tahoe Mountain trail isn’t far from Pie Shop, a famous South Shore bouldering area
Tahoe Mountain trail isn’t far from Pie Shop, a famous South Shore bouldering area

The last third of the trail is much rockier than the rest of the trail, but still very rideable. I’ve ridden it on a hardtail bike with no problem at all, and technical, rocky climbing is my weakest area. It just feels jarring after two miles on such smooth dirt and sand. Once you’ve finally climbed to the top you’ll be rewarded with a 360 degree view of Tahoe and beyond. Lake Tahoe is visible from one side and you’ll see Desolation Wilderness off to the other. You’ll know you’ve reached the “true” top when a tall striped tower comes into view.

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At the top, I recommend that you take a break from your ride and explore the area. The views are amazing and, depending on the time of year, the wildflowers may be going crazy!

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June wildflowers

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Looking south-ish towards Desolation Wilderness
Looking south-ish towards Desolation Wilderness
Looking north-ish toward Lake Tahoe
Looking north-ish toward Lake Tahoe

After you’ve soaked in the view and rested a little, it’s time to enjoy the most fun (downhill!) portion of the ride. The well designed Tahoe Mountain trail is a dream to descend, just watch out for those sandy corners and the one tricky boulder section. Once you get towards the bottom, pay attention and stay on the main trail to avoid the social trails! You’ll eventually get where you’re going (the fire road) but unplanned detours aren’t very much fun. In practically no time at all, you’ll be back to the trailhead with a huge smile on your face!

Trail Report: Tahoe Mountain Trail in South Lake Tahoe, California // tahoefabulous.com
I hope you enjoy the trail as much as I did!

Trail Stats:
Location: Sawmill Road and Lake Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe, California
Mileage: 6.3 miles
Elevation gain: 881 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

Note: This is an updated version of a trail report I wrote in June 2014.

Flashback Friday: Point Reyes Weekend

Back in April, I headed to Point Reyes with some friends to do my Dirty Thirty Birthday right. Coincidentally, my good friend Becky also turned 30 on April 19th, so we did a co-birthday weekend filled with friends, hikes, laughter, mountain biking, wildflowers, sea mammals, birds, beer and cheese!

A Weekend in Point Reyes National Seashore // tahoefabulous.com

Greyson and I headed down from Tahoe early on Friday so we could get a quick mountain bike ride in. We ended up riding Estero Trail, which, aside from dodging cows and cow pies, was a beautiful, easy little ride.

 

Mixed use in #Marin County. #mountainbiking alongside cattle grazing. #pointeyes #esterotrail #ag

A post shared by Lynn (Tahoe Fabulous) (@tahoefabulous) on


Note: the trail was SUUUUPER rutted in sections, to the point where I had to push my bikes up a couple of hills. It had rained fairly recently, so it might be in better shape now. (Note: As of 2017 the trail has been graded and graveled in a lot of sections, so it’s pretty smooth cruise.)

Estero Trail // tahoefabulous.com
Trail map via Strava

We grabbed a snack at Station House Cafe (I had the delicious mac and cheese) and headed back to the Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore to wait for the rest of the group. Everyone else arrived that evening, and we went to bed fairly early in order to get an early start on the day. Much of the group, including me, had never been to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, so we drove there for our first stop. The park ranger stationed there told us they’d seen a bunch of whales the day before, so my hopes were high! Unfortunately, we saw zero whales. But we did see a sea lion or seal. The day wasn’t too foggy, so we could see the Farallon Islands off in the distance.

Point Reyes Light House // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Kelly Miller

We headed back to Point Reyes Station to grab some Cowgirl Creamery cheese and called ahead to our (hopefully!) next destination – Heidrun Meadery. We were luckily able to book the last tour of the day, so we scarfed our lunches, piled in the cars and made the short drive to the old dairy farm where Heidrun Meadery is located. Here’s what they have to say about themselves:

“Located in Point Reyes Station, California, Heidrun Meadery produces dry, naturally sparkling varietal meads using the traditional Méthode Champenoise.

Mission: Our goal is to be involved in the meadmaking process from the flower that provides nectar for the honey bee to the flute from which we drink.

Company Overview: Heidrun Meadery was founded in 1997 in Arcata, California. In 2008 we purchased a slightly funky and defunct dairy farm in the agricultural and culinary oasis of Point Reyes Station, Marin County, California, with the ambitious objectives of relocating the meadery nearer to the Bay Area, expanding our mead production, setting up a commercial beekeeping operation, starting a bee forage cultivationprogram and establishing a modest visitor’s center and tasting room.Visitors are welcome on a reservation-only basis Monday-Saturday, 10am to 4pm. You can join us for a tour and tasting, just do a tasting and skip the tour, or enjoy a glass or bottle of mead while soaking up the sun on the patio. Call or email to make reservations.

Our trademark Champagne-style of mead is light, dry, delicate and refreshing, with subtle exotic aromas and flavors found only in the essence of honey. We pride ourselves on producing our mead in the most sustainable manner and supporting beekeepers around the country.”

This place was phenomenal! The mead was delicious, and I could hardly believe that the only difference between each variety was the type of flowers the bees visited. My favorites were a sweeter Orange Blossom Honey Mead and the almost beer like Carrot Blossom Honey Mead. One thing that we learned from our tour guide was that the Meadery is trying to make mead from honey they cultivate themselves, but have been having issues with colony collapse each year.

Heidrun Meadery // tahoefabulous.com
Our tour guide walks us through the process of making champagne style mead.
Heidrun Meadery // tahoefabulous.com
Enjoying the tasting outdoors.

That night we played some tennis and HORSE on the tennis/basketball courts back at the Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore and explored the property (watch out for poison oak!) We finished the night with a birthday barbecue back and soaked in the hot tub.

After a leisurely Sunday breakfast and Easter egg hunt, we  decided to check out the Tule Elk Reserve and Tomales Point Trail. Tomales Point Trail is an easy, fairly flat 9 mile round trip hike to the end of Tomales Point. Here’s how Bay Area Hiker describes it

“The Tomales Point tule elk reserve is not only a great place to watch wildlife, it’s one of the quietest trails on Point Reyes.  The single trail drifts north away from the trailhead, eventually reaching Tomales Point, nearly 5 miles from the nearest road. Squeezed on three sides by water, the only sounds are wind, surf, and bird cries. At a bluff overlooking the ocean you can spy on pelicans, cormorants, and seagulls, while elk bellow in the distance.”

Tomales Point Trail, Pt. Reyes National Seashore // tahoefabulous.com

While the elks, bird, and ocean views were beautiful, the mid-April wildflowers were incredible! My pictures in no way do them any justice. The whole Point Reyes area was stunningly green. I would highly recommend mid-April as a wonderful time to visit.

point reyes 07 point reyes 08 point reyes 09 Tomales Point Trail, Pt. Reyes National Seashore // tahoefabulous.com

Tomales Point Trail, Pt. Reyes National Seashore // tahoefabulous.com

I would highly recommend Point Reyes as a quick weekend away from the Bay area or Sacramento, or even as a destination by itself if you are traveling from further away.

Where: Point Reyes National Seashore

When to Go: Anytime! The weather is fairly mild, though it can get foggy and cold and wet, so bring appropriate layers. I loved how green it was in mid-April!

Where to Stay: Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore in Inverneess

What to Do: Visit the Heidrun Meadery, Hike or bike Estero Trail, hike the Tomales Point Trail, visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse for whale spotting, birding at Abbott’s Lagoon

What to Eat: Cowgirl Creamery for cheese and good coffee, Station House Cafe for beer and mac & cheese, Inverness Park Market for picnic supplies and sandwiches

Gear Review: Giro Women’s Feather Mountain Bike Helmet

After years of mountain biking in either a road biking helmet or a full face helmet, I finally purchased a mountain-bike-specific helmet. Specifically, the Giro Feather Women’s MTB Helmet.

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Giro’s website describes the Feather:

The Featherprovides a little more coverage than traditional trail helmets, with vents that draw heat up and out of the helmetperfect when youre climbing at lower speeds. In-Moldconstruction keeps it light, and when the trail drops, our rugged In Formfit system offers one-handed fit and stability adjustment, so you can dial in the perfect feel and stay focused on the trail ahead. 

I’ve worn this helmet on every mountain bike ride I’ve been on this year, and so far – I love it! I was a little worried that the fewer vents + fuller coverage would = an overly hot head, but so far so good! I even wore it on an 81-degree ride this week, and it didn’t seem any hotter than my more ventilated road bike helmet and obviously much cooler than a full face helmet.

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Visibility is the same as the traditional helmet and I had more peripheral vision than in a full face helmet. Range of motion is not impacted, though I did have to slightly adjust where I wear my hydration pack. When I stood up on the downhills, the part of the helmet that covered the lower head bumped into my hydration pack, pushing the helmet forward. I just had to adjust my hydration pack so it sat a touch lower on my back, and that solved the problem.

3The only other (extremely small) downside of the helmet is that it limits how I can wear my hair. The low back, close fit of the helmet prevents any sort of high ponytails or buns. I’ve found the only hairstyles for long hair that work with the helmet are two braids (as pictured), hair down or extremely low ponytail (like base of the neck low). As someone who tends to run extremely hot when exerting myself, hair down and low pony are too hot on my neck.

I haven’t yet put this helmet to the ultimate test of a major crash (and hope to avoid doing so!), but I’ve had great experience with Giro helmets in the past. Another thing I appreciate about Giro is that they have this to say about this “women’s specific” helmet

“Although there is no difference between male and female head shapes other than a smaller average size, we offer women’s specific models to keep up with the fashion forward kit found on the mountain. Finishing details and a sophisticated color palette set these models apart.”

I appreciate that they admit there isn’t really a difference between men’s and women’s helmets, and this helmet cost the same as the men’s version. All in all, I highly recommend the Giro Women’s Feather MTB helmet as a great option for a fuller-coverage, mountain-bike-specific helmet. You can purchase the Giro Feather Women’s MTB HelmetNote: As of 2019, Giro isn’t making the Feather anymore, though you can still purchase past years’ versions on Amazon. The current equivalent is Giro Montara MIPS Helmet .

I’ll leave you with this picture of the gorgeous trail I rode this week, Tahoe Mountain in South Lake Tahoe. Trail Report available here!

Giro Feather Women's Mountain Bike Helmet Review // 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!