Greyson and I went up to Graeagle yesterday to ride one of our favorite trails – Mills Peak Trail. A lot of the trail is still buried in snow, but the lower parts are open. We climbed up the bottom third and rode back down. The trail is in great condition and it was a super fun ride. Here’s a video we made of some of what we rode yesterday!
Last month, Greyson and I took our new-ish gravel bikes down to Point Reyes and rode a ~20 mile loop. I had taken my Diamondback Haanjo Trail (full review coming soon) on a few road rides and on one trail ride, but they were all pretty short and I was excited to see how the bike did on a longer route with a mix of road, trail, and gravel riding. I can’t take credit for this route, Greyson did all of the research and put it together. It was challenging (especially the road climb!) but fun, and it had amazing views.
We started from the Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore, which is on Sir Frances Drake Blvd, near Chicken Ranch Beach. We turned left onto Sir Frances Drake and headed west, immediately uphill and climbed about 350 feet in about 0.75 miles before heading down again. I’m not a huge fan of riding with cars, and Sir Frances Drake is pretty narrow and highly trafficked on the weekends. That said, cars seemed to expect to see bikers and gave us plenty of space. After about 2.3 miles, we turned left onto Mount Vision Road for another section of climbing. I spent a lot of time on the trainer this winter, so I wasn’t entirely out of bike shape. That said, this climb was really hard, especially as my first long, outdoor ride of the season. The climb is more than 1,200 feet in about 4.5 miles. Part of the road is currently washed out, and passable by bikes but not cars. It was awesome to ride without worrying about vehicles, but we did have to hike a bike through the landslide section.
Mt. Vision Road dead ends at a trail at the top of Mt. Vision (after quite a few false summits!) and there’s an awesome view of the whole point. Greyson and I took a break here to have a snack and rest our legs. The road ends and turns into the Inverness Ridge Trail about 4.5 miles from the Sir Frances Drake turn off. It starts as a fairly wide double track, but quickly gets pretty narrow and on the steep side. While it’s definitely doable by a competent rider on a gravel bike, I think it would be pretty challenging for someone with beginner bike handling skills. However, that’s a pretty small percentage of the Inverness Ridge Trail section, and the rest of it is much more rideable. There’s a mix of single track, double track and fire road, which was really fun on our gravel bikes. This section is multi use, so watch out for hikers and equestrians! The Inverness Ridge Trail section is about 2.7 miles and drops 450 feet with a couple of short climbs sprinkled throughout.
The trail ends at Limantour Road, which we turned left on for a long, fun downhill road ride. This road had a nice wide shoulder for the most part and less traffic than other sections. Limantour Road actually parallels a couple of trails, but, unfortunately, they’re not open to bikes. Limantour Road dead ends at Bear Valley road after about 4.5 miles and ~770 feet of descent. We turned left on Bear Valley Road, which turns into Sir Frances Drake after less than 0.5 miles, to head back towards the Cottages. This section is almost entirely flat, and I was glad to get out of the drops on my bike and stretch out my back. It was a little unnerving to be so close to cars again after being on trails and empty, wide roads for so long, but again cars were great about giving us space.
We arrived back at the Cottages at almost exactly 19 miles, so I rode around the property until I hit 20! All in all, this was a fun, challenging ride, and I’m excited to try it again when I’m in better shape. Maybe mid-summer? If you’re in the Point Reyes area and looking for a ride with a nice mix of road, gravel, and single track, I highly recommend this loop. Click here to check out my Strava Route.
Location: Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Mileage: 19 miles
Elevation: ~2,300 feet
Coast Miwok & Graton Rancheria Land
While another snowstorm is barreling towards Truckee (urgghhh, I’m ready for Spring!), I’m dreaming about mountain biking. While we’re still buried in snow in the higher elevations, the Sierra foothills will be ready for riding soon. Last year, when we had a pretty mild winter, Greyson and I found a couple of fun loops to do less than an hour away at Peavine Mountain in Reno, Nevada.
The first route we did was a lollipop that involved a chunky climb up and a smooth ride down. It was fun, but for my style of riding I think I’d ride it the other way next time. We covered about 7.2 miles and ~880 feet of elevation in a moving time of 1:17.
For this loop, we parked off of Kings Row (which is a residential neighborhood, so be polite if you park here!) and hopped on to Halo Trail and started climbing. We didn’t take the full Halo Trail, but took the left fork on to Curt’s Cut Off at about 3.8 miles. At about 4 miles, Curt’s dead ends into another branch of Halo Trail, turn left, and the climbing is over at that point! At about 4.2 miles, we took the left fork on to Bacon Strip for another short, flat section. Coming from Truckee, I love riding at Peavine because of the wide open views!
At about 4.4 miles, we started on the real downhill section by taking the left fork on to Crispy Bacon. We descended just over 200 feet in almost 1.5 miles – the descent was pretty mellow. Honestly, it was a little on the boring side. I’d climb up it, if I did this route again. The next section of the descent, starting at mile ~5.8 back on Halo Trail, does get a little spicy! This part of the trail is rocky and little exposed, which to me seems a lot more noticeable on the downhill, versus when we were climbing up. This segment is about 1.4 miles and drops ~380 feet. With that, we got back to the car.
On the next loop we did, we took a group with a wide variety of mountain bike experience, from total beginners to experts. Everyone seemed to have a great time! It was easy enough that the beginners could handle everything, but had enough features of interest that the experts weren’t bored. This loop was about 5 miles with just under 1,000 feet of climbing, with a moving time of 48 minutes. This route was much smoother than the previous loop, with very little rocky or technical riding.
This loop started from the East Keystone Trailhead, a paved parking area with lots of parking. We headed up Keystone Trail, a fairly mellow climb. We were looking for a left turn on to Total Recall at about mile 1.7, but we turned too early on to a fire road – don’t make that mistake. We figured it out pretty quickly, hopped back on Keystone, and found the correct left on to Total Recall pretty quickly. At about 2 miles, there’s a fork in the trail, and we went left on to Poedunk Trail. The first mile of Poedunk is the last bit of climbing on this route, rising up about 260 feet.
At about mile 4, Poedunk forks, and we needed to make sure that we got back to the correct parking area. We stayed right and stayed on Poedunk (though you can also take the left fork on to P Drop Trail). When Poedunk ended about 0.1 miles later, we went left on Rancho Connector until it re-crossed P Drop at about 4.4 miles. We turned right on P Drop, which dead ends back on Keystone Canyon, at about mile 4.8. From there, it’s just a short bit back to the car. This was a fun loop, but next time I do it, I’ll just take the left fork onto P Drop, as it’s a simpler route back to the car.
Peavine Mountain is an awesome trail network where you can build routes for all ability and fitness levels. I found it was pretty easy to navigate – many trails have signage, but not all. Having an app like Trailforks to help navigate was nice for that reason. Since Reno is such a quick drive from Truckee-Tahoe, the Peavine trails are a great option when the weather isn’t cooperating up higher. Some of the Peavine trails don’t drain especially well and get think, tire clogging, peanut butter type mud when it’s wet, so be sure to pay attention to the trail conditions. Greyson and I learned the hard way once, and had to turn back after less than a mile!
I’m excited to explore more of what Peavine Mountain has to offer this spring, and I plan to write up some more, longer routes.
This weekend, Greyson and I checked out a couple of awesome, new to us mountain bike trails in the Auburn, California area. We’ve spent a fair amount of time on the Foresthill Divide Loop trail, which is a fairly easy cross country oriented trail, but had yet to ride any other trails in the area. Internet research led us to a loop featuring Culvert and Confluence trails, which looked awesome from the videos we’d seen (like this one by BKXC).
There are a few different ways you can ride these trails, including shuttling or starting at the top, but we decided to get the climb out of the way first. To access this trailhead, which is in the Auburn State Recreation Area, a little north east of the city of Auburn, you can put “Lake Clementine Trail Auburn” into Google Maps and follow the directions – here’s a link. We were there on a beautiful, sunny Sunday and we ended up having to park fairly far up on Old Foresthill Rd. Parking is $10 in the Auburn SRA, but if you have a California State Parks Pass, that covers your parking.
We started by heading up Clementine Trail which is south east of the bathrooms/payment kiosk just across the little bridge. Clementine starts as a wide double track that parallels the American River that narrows down into single track. At about 0.2 miles in, there’s a Y in the trail, with the fork to the right heading up steeply. Don’t take it, stay left! (Greyson and I did – oops.) During the singletrack section, Clementine is pretty mellow, thought there are a few small rocky sections and optional drops and there’s some exposure on the narrow parts. The trail turns back into double track, and you’ll get to ride under the famous Foresthill Bridge, the highest bridge in California. After the bridge, the trail starts climbing steadily upward, gaining ~340 feet in about 1.1 miles.
Clementine Trail peters out on Clementine Road, which we continued climbing for another 540 feet of climbing. After about 1.4 miles on Clementine Road, there’s a gated trailhead to the right. Fuel Break Trail heads uphill on the right. Fuel Break is between a fire road and double track, and it’s the last bit of climbing on this route. The trail is about 0.7 miles and ~140 feet of climbing. It tops out at a gorgeous meadow, which is a perfect spot to stop for a snack, then heads downhill for about 0.1 mile.
Here we broke off from Fuel Break onto Culvert Trail on the left. Culvert is a fun flow trail, that drops through open oak woodlands. The trail is on the easier side of intermediate, with small berms and optional drops and jumps and a few small rock gardens. You’ll ride through a large culvert under Foresthill Road (hence the name), where you should probably take your sunglasses off, if you want to be able to see! Culvert Trail ends at Old Foresthill Rd. after about 1.2 miles at the sign for Mammoth Bar.
Head straight down the paved road, looking right for the Confluence Trail sign, which is at about 0.2 miles after the intersection. The Confluence Trail is definitely the most technical part of this loop but is completely rideable by a confident intermediate rider. There are some rocky sections and narrow parts with significant exposure – but everything is walkable if necessary. Early on, there was a short, slid out section that we needed to get off and walk across. The steep drop off into the American River Canyon is a little nerve wracking, but the incredible river views are the highlight of the route. Confluence is about 1.8 miles and ends back at the trailhead where we started. Including riding from where we were parked and a short, steep detour, this route was about 8.25 miles and 1,300 feet of climbing, which we did in two hours including breaks.
I had a great time on the trails in this area, and I can’t wait to head back for more exploring. This area is pretty popular, not only with mountain bikers, but also with hikers and dog walkers, so be aware of your surroundings and practice good trail etiquette. One of the best things about riding in the Auburn area are the opportunities for awesome post ride beers. This time, we hit up Knee Deep Brewing Co., but Moonraker Brewing is another favorite.
Location: American River Confluence, Auburn, CA
Mileage: ~7.25 miles
Elevation: ~1,100 feet
If you’re looking for winter mountain biking, Hoot Trail is a fun little flow trail just outside of Nevada City, about an hour drive from Truckee or Sacramento. Nevada City is low enough that it stays snow free (most of the time), and it’s a great trail to ride in the winter when it’s too wet or snowy to ride elsewhere. It can get pretty hot and dusty in the summer, and I think November through April is the best time to ride for trail conditions and temperature. The best place to park for the Hoot Trail is at the parking lot by Harmony Ridge Market, 5 miles east of Nevada City on the north side of Highway 20. Don’t park in the market’s lot, but there is parking available on either side.
From the parking, head east on Pioneer Trail, a wide double track. At about 0.7 miles, you’ll make a left onto a fire road and then an almost immediate right onto Hoot Trail. After <0.1 miles of pedaling, you’ll come to a trail marker showing that Hoot trail goes down to the left. Drop in here, and get ready to have fun. Hoot is a true flow trail, there’s not any rocky or rooty sections, but there are jumps, berms, and whoops. None of the jumps are mandatory – the tables are rollable and the doubles have ride arounds. This is a great trail to practice jumping, as a lot of the jumps have clear, visible landings. Plus, if there’s been rain recently, the dirt is as close to hero dirt as we get in the Sierra, so I love getting a little faster and rowdier than normal. The trail is definitely doable by beginners, and intermediate and advanced riders can challenge themselves by riding the optional features. It’s a good trail to take a mixed ability level group on, for sure.
The Hoot Trail itself is only about 1 mile, so you’ll get dumped out on Rock Creek Road at about mile 2. Turn left on the road and start heading uphill. The road climb is never too steep, and is nicely shaded for warm days. At mile ~3.7 take a sharp and steep left onto a trail. This short and steep section is the worst part of the climb, but it flattens out a lot after less than 0.1 miles. You’ll ride this single track for ~0.3 miles, with one more short punchy climb that ends back in the parking area. One lap is ~4 miles and ~450 feet of climbing. Hoot Trail really feels like a lot of down for the amount of climbing, which is one of the things I love about it, and you can lap it pretty easily. See an example Strava route here.
There are several other trails you can access from this parking lot, like Scotts Flat across the street and Dascomb and Zipper further east on Pioneer. I rode Scotts Flat a couple of years ago, and there’s been improvements since then. I’ve never ridden Dascomb or Zipper, but they’re on my list! Another awesome thing about Hoot is that there’s an awesome restaurant/brewery, Ol’ Republic Brewery literally across the street (Check out my Ol’ Republic Taphouse review). I recommend the vegetarian biscuits & gravy, challah bread french toast, Cosmic Fly By IPA, and Dead Canary Lager.
This winter, I’ve been getting more and more into snowshoeing. If you don’t want to by a lift ticket or a season pass, snowshoeing is a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter. There are a bunch of great places to snowboard in and around Truckee, and here are some of my favorites:
1. Donner Summit Train Tunnels
This is not your typical Truckee snowshoe! This route takes you into the abandoned Transcontinental Railroad tunnels. Don’t worry, the tracks have been pulled out so there’s no chance you’ll get hit by a train. The appeal of the tunnels is the natural ice sculptures and graffiti that collects in the tunnels. Click here to read my blog post with more details, and don’t forget your headlamp!
2. Donner Memorial State Park
This state park commemorates the site of the ill-fated Donner Party, who spent the winter of 1846-47 in this area and famously resorted to cannibalism to survive. Park at the Visitor’s Center ($10 parking or use your California State Parks Pass) and explore the east end of Donner Lake. During the summer, this park is packed, but it’s much emptier in the winter. Be sure to check out the giant statue memorial to the men, women, and children of the Donner Party (the base of the sculpture is the height of the ’46-’47 snows!) and head into the recently remodeled museum when you’re done with the hike.
If this visit gets you interested in the story of the Donner Party, read the book The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown. I just finished it, and it’s amazing!
3. Donner Summit Canyon
Donner Summit Canyon is a moderately strenuous hike with beautiful views of Donner Lake, Donner Peak, and Shallenberger Ridge. It doesn’t get a ton of sun, so it’s a great option when snow has melted off of other sunnier trails. Check out my blog post with more details here.
4. Coldstream Canyon
For a mellow, flat snowshoe, I highly recommend Coldstream Canyon. It has more widely spaced trees than a lot of the snowshoe hikes in the area, so it gets great sun on a bluebird day. It’s a perfect hike for a sunny day after some storms, and it’s close to both downtown Truckee and Donner Lake. It can be a pretty popular area on busy weekends, so get there early if you don’t want to have to park too far away. Check out my blog post with more details here.
5. Commemorative Overland Emigrant Trail
So there were actually two Donner Party camps, and the eponymous Donners didn’t actually camp at Donner Lake! They set up their shelters a few miles away by Alder Creek, which is now the home of the trail most locals just call “Emigrant”. This is a great place to explore via snowshoes. You can stick to the flatter areas, or climb up the small hills for a view of Prosser Creek Reservoir. To get here, head north on Highway 89 to the Donner Party Picnic Area. The actual parking lot is closed in the winter, but there are plowed spots across the road. Click here to see my Strava route.
A few weeks ago, my friend Erin was in town visiting from Seattle, so Greyson and I took her on a snowshoeing adventure up Donner Summit Canyon.
Donner Summit Canyon was purchased by the Truckee Donner Land Trust in 2010, and it’s now part of Donner Memorial State Park and it’s a great place to snowshoe or cross country ski in the winter and hike or bike in the summer. To access the Donner Summit Canyon Trail, there is a small parking area on the south side of Highway 40, about a third of a mile up from the intersection with South Shore Drive.
This is a great snowshoe that’s pretty safe (but check avalanche conditions before you go) and not overly difficult. It’s not so steep that you’ll be sliding backwards, but there’s enough of an elevation change that you’ll work up a sweat. On our route, we gained ~300 feet in ~2.75 miles. The canyon also doesn’t get a lot of sun in the winter, so it holds snow well. It’s a good option for snowshoeing when the snow has melted off more exposed trails.
We went up on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday, and though we had plenty of tracks to follow, we only saw a couple of other people the whole time we were out. A lot of the trail follows the old Dutch Flat/Donner Lake Wagon Road, which was used to ferry supplies up to the transcontinental railroad construction site and was later used by auto traffic until Highway 40 was built in the 1920s (more history here). The canyon has views of Donner Peak, Donner Lake, and Shallenberger Ridge that are different from the usual angle that the more popular lookouts see. One thing that I really enjoy about snowshoeing, especially when the snow is deep, is the ability to go cross country, away from the normal trails and see familiar sights from new vantage points. Here’s a link to my Strava track, if you want to check out this awesome snowshoe!
Like other winter sports, having comfortable, effective snowshoeing gear is critically important for enjoyment. I used to think that I hated snowshoeing, but it turns out that I just didn’t like the snowshoes I was using! I’ve never had my own, and I’ve always borrowed Greyson’s, which are similar to the MSR Evo Trail. This style is a little too wide for me, and I was always walking a little bowlegged, which was uncomfortable. For this trek, I borrowed a longer, narrower pair that let me walk with a gait closer to my natural one, which was much more comfortable, like these Tubbs Women’s Wilderness snowshoes. I enjoyed snowshoeing so much more with this style! When I buy snowshoes, this is the style I’m getting, but I plan to try on a few different pairs to get a feel for what I really want.
I usually work up quite a sweat snowshoeing, so I like to wear lighter, breathable clothes and pack along a windproof layer just in case. I usually do a wool baselayer (like this SmartWool Women’s Hoody and these Stoic merino bottoms), with light, waterproof pants (I got a pair of amazing Arc’teryx Beta pants on super sale a few years ago. They’re pretty pricey at full price, but if you can find them on sale, they’re great!). I top things off with my trusty Marmot Aruna down vest and pack my Patagonia Houdini Jacket, which is packs down to a tiny size but is a great wind barrier. For my feet, I wear my thickest Smartwool socks and either my LL Bean boots or my KEEN Targhee boots – something waterproof and warm.
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!
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!
Maybe I’m biased, but I think the Corral Trail Network in South Lake Tahoe, California is one of the best backyard trail networks in the world. When I lived in South Lake, I rode these trails at least once a week during mountain bike season. Now that I’m up in Truckee, I try to make it down at least once or twice a year to ride my old favorites. TAMBA keeps expanding the trail opportunities, and I haven’t ridden everything there is to ride, but here are a few of my favorite routes.
You can access this route from the main Corral Trail Network parking lot, on Fountain Place Rd., which is just off Oneidas St. outside of Meyers. Click here for a Google Map link to the first gate and parking area. During the spring and late fall, this gate might be closed but you can usually drive another mile up the road to a large gravel parking area. (Note: as of summer/fall 2018, the road is closed and you must ride up. Fountain Place Rd. should hopefully be open again by summer 2019).
This can be ridden as a shuttled ride, but if not, get ready to climb! Depending where along Fountain Place Road you park, you’ll climb about 1,500 feet of pavement in 3.4 miles. This is a killer climb (which is why I usually shuttle!), but I feel so accomplished when I actually do it. A little before the end of the pavement, look for the Armstrong Connector sign on the left.
Here, you’ll get on Armstrong Connector, a techy trail with gorgeous views. Trailforks rates this trail as intermediate, and I think it’s definitely on the hard side of intermediate, with a few slabby technical sections that I still end up walking. Connector is about two miles, with 750 feet of descent and just a little bit of climbing.
Connector pops out at the parking area you passed on the pavement climb. From here, get on the trail and go about a tenth of a mile and turn right to get on Sidewinder. Sidewinder is full of tight switchbacks, but they’re all very rideable. There are a few natural features – rocky and rooty sections. Everything is rollable and the harder sections tend to have easier and harder lines – it’s a great trail to progress on. There is one rocky, steep section that it took me years to be able to ride. You really have to pick your correct line on it (ask me about my huge bruise from a recent crash that came from a bad line choice there!), but it’s a good challenge. Sidewinder is ~1 mile and drops about 290 feet.
Sidewinder merges with Lower Corral, and the entry in to this trail can get really beat up and choppy – it was when we rode it earlier this month. Lower Corral starts out with a bit of a false flat, but pretty quickly drops into a really fun jump and berm line that was entirely rebuilt by TAMBA a few years ago. The jumps are all tabletops, so they’re rollable and there are go arounds on the bigger ones. It can get pretty sandy though, so watch your speed and be ready for deep sandy spots. The trail is about 1.2 miles with 400 feet of descent, and pops out on Power Line Road, and old fire road/double track. Turn left on Power Line to get back to the parking area. Click here to see my route on Strava. Total Route: ~11 miles, 1,680 feet of climbing and descending.
Railroad/Incense Cedar Uphill/Lower Corral
For this route, park at the end of Columbine Trail Road in South Lake Tahoe (click here for Google Maps link). This trail is in a neighborhood, so be sure to pay attention to no parking signs and be courteous! Railroad Grade Trail begins in where Columbine Trail road dead ends, and is well marked with a sign. This route starts with a nice warm up, rolling climb, Railroad Grade is a pretty easy trail – just be on the look out for a few bridges that seem to come out of nowhere. This trail is about 1.5 and 170 feet of climbing and takes you along Trout Creek.
Railroad Grade ends on Power Line Road, where you’ll turn left and start climbing. This climb can suck, especially when it gets sandy in the late summer. It’s over in less than a mile though! Just after a short, steep downhill around mile 2.3, look right for a trail – Incense Cedar. You’ll keep climbing, but it’s a much more pleasant, shaded single track climb. The trail is pretty beginner friendly – there are just a few natural rock features, but it’s mostly smooth singletrack. Incense Cedar is 1.8 miles and a little over 500 feet of climbing. It ends with a short downhill on to Lower Corral (see more detailed description above), where you’ll turn right and head downhill.
At the end of Corral, turn left onto Power Line, and make almost an immediate right back onto Railroad Grade. It’s pretty shortly after Corral, so don’t ride by, like I did in the map above, and then you’ ll follow Railroad Grade back to your car. Click here to see my route on Strava. Total Route ~7 miles and ~600 feet of climbing and descending.
This is the most challenging route of the three – there are some serious rock gardens and drops on this route and I definitely don’t ride everything! If you start from the Fountain Place parking area (details in the first route) you’ll climb up Fountain Place Road for two miles and 750 feet of elevation gain. (If you want to tack on a few miles and start with a more gentle climb, you can park at Columbine Trail Rd. and ride up Railroad Grade Trail). Stop at the paved parking area just past the cattle grate.
From the parking lot, go about 0.1 miles and take the left fork, following the signs for Corral. Upper Corral is definitely advanced riding – there are long, technical rock gardens, stone steps, tricky corners, and large drops. It can also get reallly beat up, adding to the difficulty. There are features that I have to walk, but the technical stuff is all very visible and as long as you pay attention you’ll be able to stop in time to walk. I wouldn’t recommend this trail to anyone who isn’t a fairly strong intermediate rider, though, just because you’ll end up walking a ton of stuff. You’ll drop about 380 feet in just under a mile on Upper Corral, and I always feel like I’m dropping elevation really quickly on this section.
You’ll merge on to Lower Corral for just under a mile, then look to the right just after the bridge for the Incense Cedar turn off. Incense Cedar starts with a steep but smooth climb, but starts going downhill pretty quickly. Cedar is a fun trail to ride in this direction, mainly smooth and flowy, but with a few rocky and rooty sections. There are some fun whoops at the beginning, and it’s a good place to practice popping off small features. Like all South Lake trails, it can get sandy thought. While the trail is mostly downhill, there’s one punchy climb a little more than a mile in. The trail ends at Power Line Road, descending about 500 feet in ~1.8 miles. Turn left on Power Line to head back to your car. Be sure to save some energy for this one mile section – there are some steep climbs that can really sap your legs when it’s sandy in late summer. Click here for my route on Strava. Route Total ~6 miles, ~940 feet of climbing and descending.
Those are just a few of my favorite routes at the Corral Trail Network. There are lots more trails to ride here and in the South Lake Tahoe area, thanks to TAMBA. If you enjoy riding these trails, consider throwing a donation their way or help out on a trail building day.
If you’re following my Instagram, you might have seen that Greyson and I were in Oregon last week. We drove up from Truckee and my parents drove down from eastern Washington, and we met in the middle! Our first destination was Bend, Oregon, one of my favorite towns. It’s got climbing, hiking, river floating, amazing beer, and awesome restaurants. It’s also known as a popular mountain biking location, and Greyson and I have ridden there a couple times before, checking out a section of the Deschutes River Trail and riding a bit in the Phil’s Trail network. While I had fun riding on those trails, they didn’t seem “mountain bike destination” quality, and I wanted to check out the best of what Bend has to offer.
From our research (internet based and talking to the super friendly staff at Crow’s Feet Commons), riding up Funner and down Tiddlywinks was the most highly recommended. The trailhead was pretty easy to find – we followed directions from MTB Project to the parking area at the green gate, located here, about 9 miles from downtown Bend.
From the parking lot, we headed up on Storm King, which we only rode a small section of. After about 0.7 miles, the trail forked and we took a sharp right on to Funner. Funner has sections that are two way, and parts that are split into uphill and downhill only. Those are clearly marked, and it’s important to stay on the correct side, as people come bombing down the downhill sections, not expecting to see someone climbing up. The climb from the gate to the top of Funner (including the Storm King Section) is about 5 miles and 1,000 feet of climbing. It’s never super steep on the climb, but it can be sandy and leg sapping and there are very few breaks from the uphill grind. The trail is rated as intermediate, but it followed a trend I noticed in lots of the trails I’ve ridden in Bend – long, long stretches of easy riding, punctuated by very occasional volcanic rock gardens that are difficult-to-impossible for me to ride.
At mile 5, we hit the top of Funner and a parking lot. From here, the start of Upper Tiddlywinks isn’t super obvious but isn’t too hard to find. The first part of Tiddlywinks is a fun mix of bermed downhill stretches, short punchy climbs, and flat-ish rock gardens. That goes for about 1.1 miles, and then we started to climb again. We climbed about 200 feet in 0.8 miles, but at that point the climb felt pretty rough after so much time in the saddle climbing. Even though none of the climbing was very steep, 8 miles of riding that was mostly climbing or flat really wore me out!
With that, we were finally at the top and ready to descend Lower Tiddlywinks. The trail immediately launches into big, bermed corners, table top jumps and other man made features, with a few natural rock drops built in. I had a blast on the trail – it reminded me a lot of Freund Canyon in Leavenworth with the style of trail building. As for difficulty, all of the tabletops and rock features are rollable, though it’s a great trail for practicing getting some air. There are a few doubles and more complicated features, but everything has a very obvious ride around. We descended ~1,100 feet in just over four miles, and I had a smile on my face the whole time. At mile 12.3, we hit the intersection with Storm King and headed back to the car. Total, we rode just over 13 miles with almost 1,400 feet of climbing and a moving time of 2:12.
I had a great time on Tiddlywinks and it was absolutely worth the climb up – this is the kind of riding I was hoping for in Bend. Additionally, the trails are very well maintained and very well marked. The only thing that was a little confusing to me at first were “Y” marker signs when the trail split. We figured out that this meant the fork was going to come back together soon, and often the “Y” sign delineated an easier and harder route for that short section. If you’re an intermediate or higher rider, I’d highly recommend this route. I think it would be doable for a more advanced beginner, but you’d have to walk quite a few sections and the downhill part might not be worth the climb to the top. If you’re more on the beginner side, I’d recommend Ben’s Trail in the Phil’s Network or the Deschutes River Trail for scenery.