Seven Best Intermediate Mountain Bike Trails in Truckee-Tahoe to Build Your Skills

Truckee and Tahoe are full of amazing mountain bike trails, ranging from easy beginner options to incredibly challenging choices. I think it is especially a perfect place to develop for intermediate riders to develop their skills. Over the last few years in Tahoe-Truckee, I’ve moved from an intermediate rider to someone who feels confident on most black diamond trails in this area. 

Here are my recommendations for trails in Truckee and Tahoe that are great for intermediate riders who are looking to challenge themselves. Some of these trails are completely rideable but challenging to ride fast and smooth, some have sections that I still need to walk and all have features that are great for sessioning and skills development.

Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Big Chief Upper & Lower, Sawtooth Trails, Truckee, CA: Big Chief is one of the newer trails in the Truckee area, just being finished in 2019. While the lower segments of the trail are much easier than the top third, all segments have technical features and impressive rock work that you can challenge yourself on. I’m still a long way from clearing all of the features on the top third, and the middle section has optional rock rolls and jumps to session. Check out my in depth trail report here and watch my video of Big Chief here.

Tyrolean Downhill Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Tyrolean Downhill, East Shore, Incline Village, NV: This super fun, super sandy and shuttle-able trail has great Lake Tahoe views and lots of optional features to practice jumps and rock rolls. It’s also a great route to take a group with mixed abilities on, since almost every feature has a fun and smooth ride around for beginners. Click here and here to watch my videos of the Tyrolean Downhill.

Animal Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Animal Trail, Prosser Trails, Truckee, CA: This is a new favorite! It’s really rideable, with no major technical features. The challenge is to ride it smooth and fast, even in the steep, tight switchbacks. Click here to read my trail report for the Animal Trails and click here to watch my YouTube video.

Kingsbury Stinger Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Kingsbury Stinger, Kingsbury Grade, Stateline, NV: Thanks to the hard work of TAMBA, Kingsbury Stinger feels like a classic South Lake Tahoe mountain bike trail! It’s got great views, fast flowy berms, and natural and built rock features to test yourself on. Here’s a write up of my experience on the Kingsbury Stinger, and you can watch the video here.

DLRT Castle Valley // tahoefabulous.com

Donner Lake Rim Trail: Castle Valley, Truckee, CA: Eventually the Donner Lake Rim Trail will be a 23-mile, fully bike-legal route around Donner Lake. Currently, the Truckee Donner Land Trust has completed 12 miles of trail and it already has something for everyone. The Castle Valley segment is what I think is the most challenging section. It’s full of natural granite features like steps, rock rolls, steep climbs and sharp turns. You can ride this as a shuttle and include the Wendin Way Trail for a fun and flowy downhill. Click here to read my trail report for Castle Valley and click here to watch my YouTube video of this ride.

Lower Corral Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Armstrong Connector to Upper and Lower Corral, South Lake Tahoe, CA: I have a special place in my heart for the Corral Trail Network. This is where I spent a lot of time riding and improving as a new rider when I lived in South Lake. Armstrong Connector has great views of Lake Tahoe and features like granite slabs that don’t show up on a ton of other trails in the area, Upper Corral is still a challenging trail for me – steep rock gardens and sharp corners in loose decomposed granite, and, of course Lower Corral is an excellent place to practice your jumps (all rollable tables still as far as I know) and lean into the berms. Click here for my route recommendations at the Corral Trail Network.

Mustang Sally Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Mustang Sally, Tahoe Donner, Truckee, CA: I’ve just started exploring the fairly vast network of trails in Tahoe Donner. There are enough trails in that area that you could put together a fairly epic ride, plus they connect to the Donner Lake Rim Trail and the Prosser Trails! Mustang Sally is definitely worth seeking out. It’s on the easier side for a black diamond trail, and the tight switchbacks are great for working on your turns. Click here to see my Strava Route and here for my video of some of the Tahoe Donner trails, including Mustang Sally.

I hope these recommendations are helpful, and you get to spend some time out on the trail this summer! For some hot weather mountain biking gear, check out my recommendations here.

If you’re looking for some great beginner mountain bike trails in the Tahoe-Truckee area, click here!

Mountain Biking the Animal Trails, Truckee, California

Even though the COVID-19 outbreak has required that we stick close to home, I’ve still been exploring new to me mountain bike trails. I’ve just been trying out trails in Truckee and Tahoe that I haven’t ridden before. The Animal and Animal Crackers trails in the Prosser Trail Network, just north of Truckee off of Highway 89 quickly rose to the top of my favorite trails in the area.

Animal Trails Truckee // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

Greyson and I rode these trails as a loop starting from the parking lot at the Donner Party Picnic Area. We parked on the west side of Highway 89 in the gravel parking area, so we could avoid having to cross the highway to get the trailhead. The trails start right from the parking area, so are easy to find. We headed up Emigrant Trail, taking it for about 0.35 miles before making a right turn onto the Lower Prosser Traverse, which is more of a decomposed fire road than a single track trail. At just before 0.9 miles, look for a left turn onto the Lower Prosser Crossover Trail, a short connector climb.

The crossover trail dead ends at Lower Animal Crackers, where you’ll want to make a left to keep climbing up. From here, Lower Animal Crackers climbs about 375 feet in ~0.9 miles. Here, you’ll come to a trail intersection. From here, we decided to make the climb up to the top of Prosser Hill on Upper Animal Crackers, which is a right turn. We started climbing up, but accidentally took the left fork at one point and ended up on the moto primary Prosser Hill DH. We almost immediately had to start pushing up over the loose rocks and steps, and after about 0.5 miles we thought to check where we were on Trailforks and noticed we were on the wrong trail. Ooops! We quickly headed back down the technical (but rideable) trail and got back on Upper Animal Crackers.

Animal Crackers Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Upper Animal Crackers climbs just under 600 feet in about 1.2 miles, and I don’t think it has a single switchback. It is a pretty unrelenting climb, and we ended up pushing up some steep sections before finally making it to the top of Prosser Hill. After hanging out and enjoying the view for a bit, we headed back down the way we came, for a fast, but kind of uninteresting downhill. While the view from Prosser Hill is great, Upper Animal Crackers isn’t a super fun trail, up or down. I think it’s worth doing at least once for the view, but I don’t think I’ll be revisiting this segment. Also, on the way down (at about mile 1.3 from the top, we accidentally took a left fork onto an unnamed moto trail and had to backtrack and then cut a little cross country to get back on Upper Animal Crackers. Having Trailforks on our phones was a life saver on this ride – I’d highly recommend!

After a bit back on Upper Animal Crackers, we made it to the trail intersection and took the right turn onto Animal Crossover, a short connector trail. Trailforks was useful here, too, to make sure we didn’t get on yet another moto trail nearby. The real downhill fun begins on Animal Trail, which Trailforks ranks as a black diamond. I thought it was on the easier side for an advanced trail, but could see it getting more challenging later in the season as it gets blown out. When we rode it in late May, it was still in great shape. I thought the downhill was all rideable, with the biggest challenges being some steep and tight switchbacks. There aren’t really any mandatory jumps or built features, but the trail is a great example of trail building that uses natural contours and features to make a fun and challenging trail. Animal Trail drops 635 feet in about 1.2 miles with hardly any climbing. It dead ends back at Lower Prosser Traverse for a right turn before a quick left back onto Emigrant Trail and then back at the parking area.

Animal Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Like I said, I had a great time and really enjoyed this loop which was 9.15 miles and 1,757 feet of climbing, including our wrong turn detours. Next time, I’ll just do a shorter loop and skip Upper Animal Crackers, while paying closer attention at trail intersections. The trails aren’t super well marked, so I’d recommend having Trailforks on your phone and checking every so often, so you don’t end up on moto trails by accident. 

Check out my video of the Animal Trails here.

Trail Stats
Mileage: ~7.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,550 feet
Difficulty: Advanced Intermediate
Wašišiw Ɂítdeh (Washoe) Land
View my Strava Ride Log Here

Hiking Castle Peak: Truckee, California

Last week, I climbed a new-to-me peak in the Truckee area – Castle Peak. If you’ve driven east into Truckee on I-80, you’ve probably seen this unique peak jutting into the sky. It’s noticeable mainly because of the distinctive south facing cliffs and turrets, leftovers from an ancient volcano. In the winter, Castle Peak is a popular snowshoe and ski destination and in the summer it’s great for hiking. When I went in mid-July, it was snow free and the wildflowers were incredible.

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Castle Peak is a doable, but challenging summit off of the Pacific Crest Trail. There are a couple of different ways to access Castle Peak, and the route I took was around ~1,900 feet of climbing in just over 7 miles. While this hike doesn’t require any technical climbing, it’s a tough, steep hike at altitude with uneven, loose terrain, exposed to the heat of the sun and there are spots where a fall would result in serious injury. Plus, to get to the actual summit there is some class 3 scrambling. You should be in pretty good shape and have some technical hiking experience. Be sure to bring lots of water and the 10 essentials.

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

I started my hike at the parking area for the Donner Summit trails, just north of I-80 off of exit 176 for Castle Peak/Boreal resort. (For a longer hike with more time on the PCT, you could park on the south side of the freeway by Boreal Resort and get on the PCT right away.) From the parking area, head up the Castle Valley Fire Road. Pretty quickly past the gate, there’s a great view of Castle Peak to the right, but it’s kind of intimidating to see how far you’ll have to climb!

After about 0.56 miles, look for a double track trail to the right. There should be a trail marker for the Donner Lake Rim Trail, where you’ll head down for a bit before beginning to climb. After about 0.4 miles on the DLRT, the Pacific Crest Trail intersects the DLRT, and you’ll turn left and start heading north. Here the climb is pretty mellow and shaded – enjoy it while it lasts! When I hiked it, there were a ton of corn lilies in this section. At about 1.2 miles on the PCT, there is a sharp right uphill to a signed intersection. 

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Follow the signs to Castle Peak and take the trail on the right, Castle Peak West Trail. Now this is when things get challenging! The trail climbs 1,100+ feet in just over a mile, and much of the trail is loose and sandy, making footing a challenge. I took a ton of breaks in this section, stopping to catch my breath, check out the unique rock formations, drink water and enjoy the views. Unfortunately, it was a little hazy the day I did the hike with smoke from a fire near Susanville.

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

There’s a steep climb to a small saddle before the final push to the summit – be sure to take advantage of this relatively relaxed section to take it easy. There are lots of little social trails to the summit from here. It seemed to me that they all reconnected fairly quickly, as long as you keep heading towards the summit. The trail is steeper on the last push, but at least there are some shady spots. If you want to get to the true summit of Castle Peak, you’ll have to scramble down past the west summit and back up again with some class 3 climbing up to the top.

Once you’re there, enjoy a snack break, soak in the 360 degree view and get mentally ready for the hike down. Honestly, I struggled more on the hike down than the climb up. The loose, sandy steep sections took nearly constant attention not to slip and fall. It was stressful! I didn’t bring trekking poles, but I wished I had, especially on the sketchy downhill. However, the hike down gets a lot easier as soon as you’re back on the PCT, and then it’s easy sailing back to your car.

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava
Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Trail Stats:
Location: Truckee, California (parking here)
Mileage: 7.12 feet
Elevation Gain: 1,917 feet
Difficulty: Advanced
Nisenan & Wašišiw Ɂítdeh (Washoe) Land
Strava Route here

Things to do in Truckee when the Snow Sucks!

Let’s be real. The winter of 2020 has not been a great one for Truckee-Tahoe. It started out strong, but we haven’t gotten real snow in what feels like months! While a powder-filled winter vacation in Truckee might be preferable, there are still lots of fun things to do here, even when the snow isn’t great.

Outdoors:
While we haven’t gotten much snow lately, the early season snow put down a nice base layer and the resorts are still going strong. On sunny days, that means a fun day for skiing and riding groomers. Here are my tips and tricks for having a great day of spring riding or skiing.

If the resorts aren’t your speed, there’s still enough snow for snowshoeing in a lot of the higher elevation, like Chickadee Ridge near Incline Village. For something snow free, the Truckee River Legacy Trail is a paved, class 1 bike path that currently connects downtown Truckee with the Glenshire neighborhood. The trail parallels the Truckee River and is plowed in the winter, making it a great place to walk, run, or bike year round. Eventually, the Truckee River Legacy Trail will connect across all of Truckee and down to Lake Tahoe! Another great paved trail is the Trout Creek Trail, which connects the Tahoe Donner neighborhood to downtown.

Peavine Mountain // tahoefabulous.com

My favorite upside of a crappy winter? I don’t have to travel as far to go mountain biking. While the Truckee and Tahoe trails aren’t rideable yet, there’s plenty to ride within an hour of Truckee! I’d recommend the Foresthill Divide and the Culvert & Confluence Trail Loops in Auburn, Hoot Trail in Nevada City and Peavine Mountain in Reno. Here’s a post I wrote with my recommendations and favorite gear for spring riding.

Treat Yo Self:
While Truckee isn’t known for it’s amazing cuisine, we’ve got some good options, especially if you want to eat outside and enjoy the warm weather. Grab out front at Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats or on the deck overlooking the Truckee River at 1882 Bar & Grill in downtown Truckee. At Donner Lake, you can have an amazing BLT at The Pub at Donner Lake and get the best ice cream in all of Truckee-Tahoe at Little Truckee Ice Creamery. Both of these places have outdoor seating too. 

Little Truckee Ice Creamery // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via truckeeicecream.com

If the weather isn’t great, I’d highly recommend getting a massage! There are a bunch of great spas and masseuses in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe. I’ve had excellent massages at Zenergy Massage & Wellness, and Aloha Massage comes very highly recommended as well. For the full spa experience, you can’t beat the Spa at the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe. Trilogy Spa in Olympic Valley is great, too!

Ritz Carlton Spa // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via RitzCarlton.com

Best Breakfast & Brunch Places in Truckee

Who doesn’t love a dank breakfast burrito, flaky croissant, or amazing bagel sandwich? I am a huge breakfast person and will happily eat breakfast foods at any time of day. While I love a good, long brunch, sometimes you just need a quick meal on your way to the mountain, whether you’re snowboarding, biking or hiking. These are my favorite places to grab a quick and delicious meal when I’m in a hurry (in no particular order).

1. Truckee Bagel (11260 Donner Pass Rd. in the Safeway shopping center)
Truckee Bagel has been around since 1994, and they know what they’re doing. The bagels are great, and they have a wide variety of spreads and sandwiches. Tip: Get there early, they often run out of their most popular bagels by early afternoon. What to Order: The Castle Peak (Smoked Turkey, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Onions, Capers, Sprouts, Cream Cheese & Larrupin’s Mustard-Dill Sauce) on a combo bagel.

Best Truckee Breakfasts, Truckee Bagel // tahoefabulous.com
Photo from Truckee Bagel

2. Full Belly Deli (0825 Pioneer Trail Rd. Ste 103)
Full Belly Deli might be better known for their lunch sandwiches, but their breakfasts are incredible too. They serve the best breakfast burritos in town. Breakfast is served all day, and be sure to check their Facebook for the daily special – sometimes it’s a biscuits and gravy burrito! What to Order: GNAR Burrito (dry rubbed tri-tip, pepperjack cheese, green chilies, hash brown, southwest sauce and a fried egg)

Best Truckee Breakfasts, Full Belly Deli // tahoefabulous.com
Photo from Full Belly Deli

3. Wild Cherries Coffee House (11429 Donner Pass Rd.)
Weekdays or weekends, Wild Cherries is packed and busy, but the service is usually fast and always friendly. It’s a great place to pick up breakfast for a crowd. There are bagels, pre-made breakfast burritos, pastries, smoothies – something for everyone. What to Order: Cranberry Bagel Sandwich (Turkey, Cream Cheese, and Cranberry Sauce) on a whole wheat bagel.

Best Breakfast in Truckee, Wild Cherries Coffee House // taheofabulous.com
Photo from Tahoe.com

4. Coffeebar (10120 Jibboom St OR 12047 Donner Pass Rd.)
If you’re looking for excellent pastries, Coffeebar has what you want in two locations. Their menu is frequently changing, but usually has great standbys like several croissant varieties, energy bites, and seasonal muffins. The downtown location has a larger menu, with options like breakfast bowls and avocado toast. What to Order: At the downtown location – Ricotta Toast, At the bakery location – a savory cheese twist pastry.

Best Breakfasts Truckee , Coffeebar// tahoefabulous.com
Photo from Coffeebar

5. Dark Horse Coffee Roasters (10009 W River St)
If I want the best coffee combined with the best vibe, I head to Dark Horse Coffee Roasters. While they do have breakfast options, bagel sandwiches and scones, the coffee is the star of the show. They roast the coffee in house, the owners are incredibly nice, there’s always interesting art on the walls, it’s right next to the Truckee River – what’s not to love? What to Order: Cold Brew Latte with House Made Vanilla Syrup.

Best Breakfasts in Truckee // tahoefabulous.com
Photo from the San Diego Reader

VIDEO: Jackass Trail, Truckee, California

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.

Five Awesome Fall Mountain Bike Rides in Tahoe-Truckee

Tahoe Truckee Fall Mountain Bike Rides // tahoefabulous.com

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.

Fall Riding Donner Lake Rim Trail // tahoefabulous.com

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.

Fall Riding Corral Trail Network // tahoefabulous.com

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.

Fall MTB Riding Royal Gorge Rim Trail // tahoefabulous.com

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.

Fall MTB Rides: Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com

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.

VIDEO: Mountain Biking Royal Gorge, Truckee, CA

I did my first ride on the Royal Gorge trails on Donner Summit in Truckee. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to ride these trails – they’re so close to home! I rode the Royal Gorge Rim Trail and up Rowton Peak. The views are incredible and the wildflowers are still going off. If you’re looking for a fun climb with payoff views and a fun downhill, check out Royal Gorge.

Mountain Biking Big Chief Trail, Truckee, CA

Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Check out my Big Chief Trail video here!

There’s a new mountain bike trail in Truckee, the Big Chief Trail, and it is awesome! While mountain bike/keyboard warriors may complain on the internet that the Forest Service only builds boring, easy trails, that’s absolutely not true of the Big Chief Trail. Ridden from the top down, the trail descends about 2,175 feet over ~8.5 miles, but it’s a pain to shuttle and involves a lot of driving. If you’re riding up, you can either ride up the Big Chief trail or up the 06 fire road, which I prefer. The Big Chief trailhead is about 3 miles up the 06 past the Sawtooth Trailhead. If you are shuttling from the top, the Upper Big Chief Trailhead is near the intersection of the Fiberboard Freeway and the 500 road. There’s limited parking, but the drive in is all paved. (Strava route for the shuttle here and Strava route for the fire road ride here.)

Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com
Trail map & elevation via Strava

Big Chief Trail is split into two main sections, the top third (which was just completed this summer) and the bottom two thirds. Big Chief Upper is the most technical part, earning its advanced rating. At this point there are several large features that I couldn’t ride and didn’t have ride arounds, though I was able to walk them fairly easily. (I’ve heard, though, that eventually all the features will have ride arounds.) This section is pretty rocky overall in addition to the several technical features. After about 2.15 miles and ~850 feet of descent, the upper section crosses the 06 fire road and Big Chief Lower begins.

Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com

The lower section of Big Chief begins with a tiny climb that opens into expansive views and impressive rock work. The lower segment is easier overall than the upper section, but there are still challenging sections and lots of features like drops, rock rolls, wall rides and more. There’s also a fair amount of climbing on this section, with about 550 feet of climbing overall. Most of the climbing comes in a half mile section at about 1.3 miles into the lower section.

Big Chief Trail // tahoefabulous.com

After the climb, the trail flattens out and gets bumpy with rock rolls, drops, wall rides, wooden features, and more. All the features have ride arounds, and this is a good spot to session and practice. After the techy features, it’s mostly a fun, flowy, downhill ride to the bottom. There are great jumps and berms, and the trail is mostly smooth, though there are a few rock gardens and roots to keep you on your toes.

The Big Chief Trail is a fun, challenging trail that I’d recommend for intermediate or better riders. There are definitely advanced features on the Big Chief Upper and lower sections, but the trail is totally doable as an intermediate rider as long as you’re paying attention and prepared to walk or ride around when available. That said, riding just the Big Chief Lower section is less challenging than doing the whole thing, and a great option for an easier ride.

Trail Stats
(from the top of Big Chief Upper down)
Mileage: 7.85 miles
Elevation: 2,178 descent, 675 feet of climbing
Difficulty: Advanced Intermediate
Washoe Land

PS: Check out my lists of things to do in Truckee here and here for after your ride!

Even More Summer Things To Do In Truckee

I recently shared a bunch of Truckee summer outdoor adventures that I love, and I’m back to share more fun things to do! While not all of these activities take place outdoors, they still take advantage of the nice summer weather and beautiful environment of Truckee!

More Summer Truckee Activities // tahoefabulous.com

Food & Drink
Beer: It’s no secret that I love beer, and our beer options in Truckee have been getting better and better! My #1 local brewery is still Alibi Ale Works, but the newer Truckee Brewing Company is quickly becoming a favorite. Mellow Fellow is a tap house in downtown Truckee with dozens of beers on tap (they recently had Pliny the Elder!). They’re also the northern California’s tasting room for Modern Times Beer, so they always have those beers on draft as well.
Alibi Ale Works // tahoefabulous.org

Wine: The best place to buy a bottle of wine is The Pour House on Jibboom Street in downtown Truckee. The owners put a lot of thought and effort into their wine choices and they have a huge selection. They’re always tasting something interesting and they have an excellent cheese selection as well. Though it’s not located on the river, Truckee River Winery is worth stopping by. They not only have good wine, I love hanging out in their outdoor space. Get snacks and a bottle of wine and play some bocce in the sun.

The Pour House // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via truckee.com

Happy Hour: There are some great happy hour deals in downtown Truckee, and my favorite is at Pianeta, an excellent Italian restaurant. Happy hour is only at the bar and it’s best to get there a little before 5. They have $6 house wine, $5 beers, $7 for certain cocktails and a great price on appetizers. I love the Bruschetta Two Ways and the Mozzarella Fresca. Best Pies has happy hour every day from 2-6 pm. It’s $5 for a big slice of pizza and a beer!

Pianeta Ristorante // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via pianetarestaurant.com

Outdoor Dining: When the weather is nice, I want to eat outside. My favorite restaurant patio is hands down Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar. It’s location on a hill, looking down at the Truckee River and downtown, means it has the best view. The food and drinks are great too, though on the higher end price-wise. For a cheaper option downtown, I like El Toro Bravo. Their patio is covered, so it’s a great option for really sunny days. I like their chile relleno best. Also downtown is Old Town Tap, which has great cocktails, and excellent beer selection and interesting toppings on their wood fired pizza. On the other side of town is Red Truck, which is located in the Truckee Airport. Red Truck is my favorite spot for vegetarian food in Truckee, and they have delicious breakfast bowls too. It’s a lunch counter style place, and you can take your food outside to picnic tables. This is a great spot to bring kids, as there’s a play area, big grassy spot to run around, and you can watch the small planes take off and land.

Photo via ediblerenotahoe.com

Coffee: I like coffee just as much as I like beer, and Truckee has some good spots. I work within walking distance of Coffeebar and Dark Horse Coffee Roasters and I’m a frequent visitor to both. At Coffeebar, I like the iced coffee and any of the baked goods and sitting outside on their patio. At Dark Horse, I HIGHLY recommend their cold brew latte with their homemade vanilla syrup. Pacific Crest Coffee Co. has been roasting and selling coffee for awhile, but their coffee shop is fairly new. It’s tiny, so not really a place to hang out for long, but the coffee is delicious and they have a selection of food to go.

Dark Horse Coffee // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via darkhorsecoffee.com

Dessert: Self serve frozen yogurt is a great way to cap off a long hike or hot bike ride, and Summit Swirl has great options. It’s also open til 10 pm, which is late by Truckee standards. If you’re hanging out on Donner Lake, walk over to the Little Truckee Ice Creamery and have some of Truckee’s only locally made ice cream. I love the Truckee Trails flavor, which is sweet cream and pinenut brittle!

Little Truckee Ice Creamery // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via truckeeicecream.com