Gift Guide for Women Mountain Bikers

Mountain Bike Gift Guide // tahoefabulous.com

If you’re looking for something to give the lady mountain biker in your life, I have a few recommendations (Though most of these gifts are unisex, to be fair). These are all things I own and use or would be excited to get as a gift, and I’ve the prices range from cheap stocking stuffers to pricey dream gifts, so there’s something for every budget.

Stocking Stuffers for Lady Mountain Bikers // tahoefabulous.com

Stocking Stuffers
Back up tubes: even if she’s got a tubeless set up, back up tubes are always important, and be sure to get the right size – 29er or 27.5.
Tubeless Repair Kit: speaking of flat tires, a tubeless repair kit will eventually come in handy. I have the Genuine Innovations Tubeless Tackle Kit ($20).
Portable Tire Pump: Yet another in the flat tire series, a portable pump is critical. There are frame mounted pumps like the Master Blaster by Topeak ($22) or a mini pump like this Planet Bike one ($10) to go in a pack.
Good Socks: Socks can be a great gift, especially with the rate most bikers wear theirs out. SmartWool is my favorite brand of cycling socks, and they come in a variety of thicknesses (Ultra Light to heavy) and height (micro to tall) and patterns ($10 – $20).
Gloves: I like to have at least three pairs of gloves, both so I can be sure to find at least one matching pair and so they get disgusting more slowly. I’m still a big fan of the Giro LA DND ($25) and Giro Xena ($20 – $35).
Anti Chafing Stuff: All bikers know the benefit of chamois cream, but did you know that they make Chamois Butt’r Her’ ($14)? I honestly don’t know how it’s different, and I’ve used regular chamois cream without my lady parts falling off. What’s important is some kind of chafing protection. I also like to have a stick of Body Glide to use to prevent sports bra chafing, as the stick is less slimy than chamois cream.
Grips: It’s always nice to have an extra set of grips on hand, since they wear out fairly often. I’m a recent convert to foam grips, specifically Odi F-1 Float grips , but if foam isn’t her thing, I’m a long time user of Ergon GA2 grips ($20)

Mid Range Gifts for Lady Mountain Bikers // tahoefabulous.com
Mid-Range
Phone Case: I take my phone with me for safety (and selfies) and I like having a heavy duty phone case to protect my phone during crashes or precipitation. I’ve had the Lifeproof Nuud case on my last couple of phones and have been super happy with it. I like that the screen is bare, and my phone has survived several large drops and heavy precipitation situations. ($99)
Sunglasses: I generally like my sunglasses super dark, but I’m coming around to rose lenses for riding in filtered forest light. I have the Suncloud Cookie , but lots of the Suncloud glasses come with a rose lens ($50).
Goggles: For dusty or wet days, I break out my Smith Squad MTB goggles ($48). I actually have two pairs, one with clear lenses and a pair with darker lenses so I don’t even have to bother switching lenses (#lazy). These are the most comfortable goggles I’ve ever had – I’ve climbed in them on warm days and they haven’t been too uncomfortable. They do fog up a little on really wet days, but I think some fogging is unavoidable in any goggles.
Tires: Another product we go through quickly is tires, and nice mountain mtb tires are pricey! Classic tire choices include Maxxis Minion DHR and DHF ($80+). For a cheaper but still good option, I am switching to the Specialized Butcher ($70) and Purgatory ($60).
Hydration Pack: I have written several times about my love for the CamelBak Solstice ($100), and I still highly recommend it for a do-it-all hydration pack. This year, though, I’m asking for a smaller pack to wear on shorter rides, specifically the Dakine Hot Laps 2L Hip Pack ($40). This pack comes highly recommended for its ability to stay put and to hold a surprising amount of gear.

Splurge Gifts for Lady Mountain Bikers // tahoefabulous.com
Splurges
Helmet: The most important piece of mountain bike gear is your helmet, and having a well fitting, comfortable one can literally mean the difference between life and death. I’m a huge fan of the Bell Super R series series, which have a detachable chin bar and are light, well ventilated, and comfortable to wear ($160-$230). While you should always replace your helmet after a serious crash, the protection wears down on its own after years of use. My awesome Giro Feather is 5+ years old at this point, and I’m looking to replace it. While Giro doesn’t make the Feather anymore, the Giro Cartelle ($100) and the Giro Montara ($150) are equivalent designs.
Dropper Post: One of the best value improvements you can make to your bike is adding a dropper post, so it would be an amazing gift to receive! I already have a 150 mm dropper, but I’m looking to get a longer one the 175 mm version of the KS LEV that I have and am very happy with performance wise. Be sure that whatever dropper post you’re gifting will fit her bike!
Wind Shell: Most of the rides in the Tahoe area seem to be a long, sweaty climb to the top, then a rowdy and cold ride to the bottom. Because of this, a packable windproof shell is essential. I love my Patagonia Houdini jacket, which packs into its own chest pocket and easily fits in a hydration pack. It’s also great for hiking and trail running.
Floor Pump: Once you’ve got a tubeless tire set up, you need something with more power than your typical floor pump. I have and use the Bontrager Flash, and it’s worth the steep price tag ($120).
Wrist GPS: Since I love data and tracking, some kind of GPS tracker is essential to me. I have a big, bulky multi-sport capable Garmin Forerunner 910 (which has been great), but if I was buying a new one today, I’d get the Garmin Forerunner 235 ($235), which has a built in heart rate monitor and smart watch features in addition to its workout tracking capabilities.
Bike Skills Clinic: The number one thing that I want this year is to attend a women’s mountain bike skills clinic. I’ve heard amazing things about Liv’s Ladies Allride Clinic in Bend, which is what I’m leaning towards, but there are others all over the country, from major mountain bike destinations to small clinics on your local trails. Some other women-only clinics and camps that come highly recommended are VIDA MTB, Trek Dirt Series, and Roam Retreats.

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!

Hiking in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz, Ca

Greyson and I went down to Santa Cruz last weekend to hang out with our niece and my sister in law and brother in law. Usually, we bring mountain bikes when we head to Santa Cruz, but Greyson was between bikes, so we had a bike free road trip. This opened us up to do some activities we normally skip in favor of bike rides, like hiking. We decided to check out a park I’d never been to before – Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park // tahoefabulous.com

“Imagine a time when the whole peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose shall become one great city; then picture, at its very doorstep, this magnificent domain of redwood forests and running streams, the breathing place of millions of cramped and crowded denizens of the city.”
– Carrie Stevens Walter, Sempervirens Club, 1901

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest state park, and contains the largest continuous stand of redwoods south of San Francisco. The trees are huge and old – some are more than 300 feet tall and over 1,000 years old. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore, and the Skyline to the Sea trail meanders through Big Basin on its way to Waddell Beach. There are also lots of campsites in the park, but I imagine they book up quickly due to the park’s proximity to Santa Cruz and the Bay Area. Big Basin is about 40 minutes from Santa Cruz – it’s only 20 ish miles, but the road is windy and narrow.

When we got to Big Basin, we checked in with the visitor’s center to ask for hiking suggestions. We wanted a pretty easy hike, and the ranger suggested the hike out to Sempervirens Falls, which is about 3.5 miles round trip and has the option to tack on additional miles if we wanted to. We ended up taking Sequoia Trail to Sempervirens Falls, continuing on Sequoia Trail to Skyline to the Sea Trail, and then following Skyline to the Sea Trail back to the visitor’s center, which was 5 miles and almost 800 feet of climbing.

Big Basin Trail Map // tahoefabulous.com

Big Basin Elevation Profile // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

The Sequoia Trail to Sempervirens Falls is pretty easy. It doesn’t have much elevation gain, probably around 150 feet in ~1.7 miles. The trails in Big Basin are very well marked – every intersection has a sign. This section of our route had the most impressive redwoods, and there were a few that were hollowed out that we climbed inside. Sempervirens Falls is not a huge waterfall, and it was running pretty low in October. I imagine it’s more impressive in the winter and spring, but I’m glad we checked it out.

Sempervirens Falls // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Almost directly after Sempervirens Falls is the hardest part of the trail. We climbed basically straight up a steep, sandstone slab. We gained 200 feet in ⅓ of a mile! It was a cool rock outcropping, and we found some grinding holes in the area. This part of the park is really interesting. The trees are a mix of redwoods and oaks, and the oaks seemed like they were attacking us with acorns! We didn’t get hit at all, but there were a couple of close calls with falling acorns. I love hiking in the trees, and this trail is great for that, though not really a route for sweeping views. The redwoods are just too tall and thick.

As we got closer to the visitors center, the trail started to get more crowded. For such a popular park, most of the route was pretty deserted. We saw more people when we got close to parking areas and trailheads, but it wasn’t overly crowded, even on a sunny Saturday. The hike ended up taking us about an hour and 45 minutes, including photography time at the waterfall. If you’re looking for a moderately easy hike in the Santa Cruz area that gets you in the redwoods, I’d highly recommend this route. See my Strava route here.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park // tahoefabulous.com

After our hike, I was starving. I wasn’t in the mood for state park cafeteria food, so we headed 15 minutes down the road to the small town of Boulder Creek. I voted for pizza (like always), and we ended up at Boulder Creek Pizza & Pub. It wasn’t anything incredible, but the pizza was pretty good and they had a decent local beer selection. Which is exactly what I want after a hike.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a really neat wilderness park in a heavily populated area. If you’re in the Santa Cruz area, I’d highly recommend checking it out. I’m excited to get back and do some more exploring in that area! If you want other recommendations for things to do in Santa Cruz – check out my blog post here.

Hiking Gear Recommendations
Here are a few of my favorite pieces of gear for hiking!
Shoes: I like light weight, low profile trail runners like Salomon XA Elevate.
GPS Watch: I am a data and numbers nerd, so I like to track my hikes, bikes, and runs with the Garmin Forerunner.
Hydration Pack: My CamelBak Solstice is technically a mountain bike pack, but it does double duty and works great as a hiking pack as well. This version is from 2016 and is a great deal at $75!

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!

Truckee Brewing Company

There’s a new brewery in Truckee – Truckee Brewing Company. It’s located a little off the beaten path – I first noticed it because it’s across the street from my gym. Greyson and I got a chance to check it out a couple of weeks ago, and I really liked it.Truckee Brewing Company // tahoefabulous.comLike many breweries these days, it’s pretty industrial inside. You can see the brewery equipment and watch the brewers in action. The seating area is pretty small, but we were able to find seats at the bar. The guy tending bar when we went was super knowledgeable and answered all of our questions about the beer, which is always nice.  I did an all IPA tasting flight – I tried their West Coast IPA (4/5 stars), Brut IPA (4.5/5), East Coast IPA (3.5/5), and the Truckee Brewing Session (4.25/5). I genuinely enjoyed all of the beers that I tried!

Truckee Brewing Company doesn’t have a full kitchen, but they serve some food from the nearby Sierra Bakehouse. We split a stromboli and a stuffed pretzel, and they were both delicious. All in all, I really enjoyed Truckee Brewing Company, and I’m looking forward to going back in the future.

Hood River: Post Canyon Mountain Biking & Beer

The second to last stop on the #toasterroadtrip was Hood River, Oregon. I was born (and lived until I was five) just down the Columbia River from there in The Dalles, but a lot has changed since 1989! The drive along the Columbia was incredibly windy, and the toaster + rocket box was blown all over the place. We finally arrived, hot and windblown, and headed straight for Double Mountain Brewery. Overall, this brewery had great beer and delicious food – I would highly recommend!

Here’s what I tried (descriptions by Double Mountain Brewery):

The Vaporizer Pale Ale (4/5): Challenger hops, Pilsner malt, and our house yeast strain are the headliners in this easy pale. The result is agile, alluringly herbal, and supremely refreshing. The dry hop really makes this one sing.

Hop Lava IPA (3.75/5): Our flagship IPA glows with substantial amounts of Cascade and Centennial hops grown right here in the Northwest. A clean, resinous citrus aroma and a sturdy grain bill create a splendid symmetry in the Northwest IPA tradition.

Hop Lion IPA (4.75/5): Tropic resin, tangerine, evergreen, and the earthy scent of Northwest petrichor leap from the nose of this proud IPA. Tangelo and fresh bread stalk closely behind, finishing with orange and dank pine.

Pilsner (4.25/5): This is Matt’s own “Bohemian Rhapsody”, fermented with a Czech Pilsner yeast and lagered for two months. The distinct fresh melon apple character comes from the courtship between Sterling hops and yeast, dancing over a malt profile of fresh baked bread. Crisp, light, and delicious. Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

Mountain Biking Post Canyon
We knew that we wanted to ride in Post Canyon, so Greyson found the perfect location to camp – Kingsley Reservoir. This is a pretty primitive campground – just pit toilets and no services, but it’s also cheap and you can ride from your campsite to a pretty awesome trail network. Note: some of the trails around Kingsley Reservoir are closed until Spring 2019 due to a construction project, so be sure to do research before you ride.

We started with a pretty tough fire road climb – it was pretty steep and hot and so washed out in sections that we had to push up. Trailforks calls it Kingsley to 170 Dirt Surfer. We then rode down Dirt Surfer for about 1.2 miles until we decided to turn around. I loved Dirt Surfer! It was a fun, flowy trail with just enough rocky drops to keep things interesting. I could have ridden down it forever, but we realized that we’d eventually have to climb back up, hence the early turnaround. We rode back up Dirt Surfer for about 0.6 miles when we came across a fire road that seemed like it would take us back to camp. That turned out to be the right decision and we were able to cut across near Green Point Dam and take a flat, easy route back to the car.

I really enjoyed the ride we did in Hood River, and I wished we had more time to spend in that area. After that, we got on the road to Bend for a quick overnight at Smith Rock State Park. We caught an amazing sunset there, and after that we were off to Truckee and the #toasterroadtrip was over!

Smith Rock State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Flashback Friday: Getting SCUBA Certified

Back in the fall of 2015, I got certified for SCUBA diving. I wrote this shortly after, but never got around to publishing it. Hope you enjoy!

Getting SCUBA Certified // tahoefabulous.com

I’ve loved the water since before I could walk. My mom likes to tell stories about how, if there was a body of water around, I was in it (despite any signs or instructions to the contrary). Most of our family vacations growing up involved a lake, river or ocean for swimming, fishing, tide pooling, exploring, kayaking and snorkeling. On a couple of these snorkel outings there were a few people SCUBA diving off the boat, but we stuck with snorkeling. My mom and I occasionally talked about getting SCUBA certified “someday,” but we never did. Fast forward a few years, and I started dating Greyson. His family is super into SCUBA diving, and they have been taking dive vacations all over the world since he was a teenager. With my love for the water, he encouraged me to get certified, but with all my other hobbies, SCUBA certification got pushed to “someday” again.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

Fall 2015 came along and “someday” came sooner than I was expecting! Greyson’s parents planned a SCUBA diving trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia, and they invited me along. This combined with the fact that my parents got me the SCUBA certification class and gear for my birthday meant that it was time to get certified. Greyson and I spent a few afternoons in Donner Lake practicing in snorkel gear to prepare.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

I finished my classroom sessions, pool dives and open water dives in September, and I’m now officially a certified open water SCUBA diver! For those of you who are interested in SCUBA diving but haven’t taken the plunge (no pun intended), I thought I’d write a little about what it was like to get SCUBA certified. Going into it, I was super nervous. I was worried about the classroom part, being able to pass all the skills in the pool, not being able to handle the open water portion, etc. It turns out that all my stressing was for nothing, and I found SCUBA certification to be a breeze.

The first step of getting SCUBA certified is the classroom portion. I did my certification through Sierra Diving Center based in Reno, Nevada, which is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certified center. PADI is the main diving certification worldwide, and many diving resorts and destinations will only let you dive if you have a PADI certification.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

When I signed up for my diving class, I was given a packet of materials that included a DVD, a workbook and a special diving calculator. I spent a couple of hours watching the DVD while going through the workbook and finishing all of the practice problems. The problems are simple math problems to help you understand important diving safety concepts like pressure groups, volume, water pressure, dissolved gases in your body, etc. I thought the concepts were fairly straightforward, but there were definitely some in my class who struggled. Your mileage may vary.

The classroom session took place over a few hours on a Friday evening and Saturday morning. We covered the topics that were in the workbook, like equipment, safety and dangerous situations that can arise while diving, air chemistry, volume and pressure, what to do in case of emergency, and other diving related topics. We did practice problems using our diving calculators and had the chance to ask lots of questions. We also practiced setting up our SCUBA gear – tank, buoyancy control device (BCD), regulator, and computer. The SCUBA instructors I had were great – really funny, responsive to questions, thorough and knowledgeable.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

After we passed all of the required quizzes and tests and asked our final questions, we headed to the pool for our confined dives. The dives in the pool were where we were tested on our physical fitness and learned and practiced the skills we’d have to complete in our open water dives in order to pass. The physical fitness tests were pretty easy for me – we had to swim 300 meters using our mask and snorkel and float/tread water for five minutes.

We got out of the water, and now it was time for the hard part – getting into our SCUBA gear and getting properly weighted. It was in the high 80s in Reno that day, so I didn’t bother with a wetsuit, figuring that I’d be fine in a heated pool in just a rash guard and two piece, so I was weighted accordingly. We started off standing the shallow end, before I knew it, it was time to take my first breath underwater. It was definitely a weird feeling, but really cool! Our instructor had us practice breathing through the regulator while standing and without our masks, to prove that we could. Once everyone was satisfied that it was, in fact, possible to breathe underwater, we sunk slowly under the surface.

There is lots of sitting around and waiting during the confined and open water dives, and I eventually got pretty cold and added a shorty wetsuit. One of the instructors threw a five pound weight in one side. This would turn out to be both not enough weight and made me way uneven underwater.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

 

At this point, we graduated from the shallow end and swam to the deep end of the pool. It was so cool to float slowly down to the bottom; I was able to clear my ears quite easily and didn’t have too much problem with the pressure. I did have a problem floating gracefully to the bottom, though! I didn’t have enough weight on my belt, and one of the instructors had to pull me down. Once I was actually on the bottom, the extra water pressure squeezed the air and I was able to somewhat settle on the bottom.

Even though we were all in a small pool, we followed SCUBA best practices and stuck close to our buddy. I totally lucked out with my buddy, Tessa. She was great – and super strong which is nice when you’re getting in and out of the heavy SCUBA gear. We learned how to put our masks back on while under water, how to clear water out of our masks, how to share air with a buddy and other important skills. We did more sitting around while other people practiced their skills, though I was stuck in more of a bumping around, semi-kneeling position, listing to my left. This movement + short wetsuit + rough pool bottom meant my knees were super scraped up by the end of the day. This was really my only complaint about the whole class though.

I got smarter, and wore my ankle-length triathlon wetsuit for day two in the pool. The second day involved practicing and perfecting more complicated skills, like taking off your BCD and tank and putting them back on, slowly kicking to the surface with no air (but not holding your breath!), buoyancy control, and sharing air with your buddy while dragging them to the surface. I had the hardest time with buoyancy control! It’s apparently a tough skill to learn, and you can take an entire separate class just to practice. We also went on some “exploratory dives” which was mostly just trying to not accidentally pop to the surface or get kicked in the face while we swam around a fairly small pool. After two days in the pool, I was feeling ready for our open water dives, which happened the next week.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

One thing that was super awesome about Sierra Diving Center’s certification class is that we got to do our open water dives in Lake Tahoe! Lake Tahoe is at 6,224 feet, so we got to do our first dive at high altitude. This added some complications to our calculations and set some stricter limits on how deep we could go, but it was a fun experience for our first dives.

The open water portion consisted of four dives across two days – three where we practiced our skills and a fourth “exploration dive.” We dove at Sand Harbor State Park in Nevada. While I’d been to Sand Harbor a few times for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, I’d never actually swam there before so I was excited about the opportunity. Plus the water is crystal clear and littered with interesting boulders and rock features.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

We started out learning how to navigate with our compasses in the parking lot – I’m sure the other people at the park thought we were hilarious. We hauled our gear to the water (much further than usual due to the drought!), and before I knew it, my dive buddy and I were following an anchor line under water. We bottomed out at about 12 feet, and started demonstrating the skills we’d learned and practiced in the pool. I won’t list off everything we did, but, if you’re interested in diving, you can check out a generic list of open water skills here.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

Tessa and I passed everything pretty much on our first try – my one exception was underwater compass navigation. I kicked too much and ended up on the surface on my first try. I remembered to watch my depth on my second try and it was fine. So there was more sitting around on the bottom, but it was definitely more interesting than the pool. We saw a ton of crawdads, which I knew lived in Lake Tahoe, but I’d never actually seen. After the final skills dive and a lunch break, it was time for our final exploration dive.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

 

Our class had started out with both men and women, but, by the time of our final dive, all the men had dropped out and our class was all women (and one 13 year old girl!). We came up with a dive plan (where we’d go, how deep we’d get, when we’d turn around, etc.) and headed out. While being underwater and practicing skills had been cool, nothing prepared me for how awesome actually diving was! Our small group got deeper than we’d been before, swam around and over incredible underwater rock formations, and swam through a school of thousands of minnows.

When we popped up at our designated meeting spot, we all had huge grins on our faces. The instructors told us, “Congratulations! You are all certified SCUBA divers.” We had a quick debrief session and the instructors signed our diving logs, and that was it. We were done!

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

Getting SCUBA certified with Sierra Diving Center was a great experience, and I’d highly recommend them for anyone looking to complete a SCUBA certification. I haven’t been back in the water in quite awhile, but Greyson and I are hoping to do some diving this year.

Sausalito Afternoon

I was in San Francisco for work a couple of weeks ago for a conference that ended early Friday afternoon. I had hours to kill before my flight, so I headed over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.

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I grabbed a delicious iced coffee from Cibo of Sausalito and headed down to walk around the marina. I didn’t try any of their food, but what I saw other people eating looked amazing.

It was a gorgeous Friday afternoon, and the sidewalks in the main part of downtown were extremely crowded. I started getting hungry, but there was a line out the door for pretty much every restaurant downtown. I headed back towards the marina, where I had seen some less crowded places. I ended up getting a burrito at Salsalito Taco Shop. Honestly, the burrito wasn’t the best, and I’d definitely try the tacos if I ever came back. Great homemade salsa though!

Sausalito Afternoon // tahoefabulous.com

Finally, I grabbed a cold Ninkasi Tricerahops IPA at Smitty’s Bar, a true dive in the best ways, a block or so off of the main street. Smitty’s wasn’t anything like the other places I visited in Sausalito, but I loved the local feel!

Sausalito Afternoon // tahoefabulous.com

Sausalito makes a great day trip from San Francisco, and there’s definitely enough to do to spend a few days exploring. I can’t wait to come back and spend more time!

Gardiner, Montana

We started the next leg of our journey (spoiler! my favorite part) in Gardiner, Montana. Gardiner is a fun little town that seems to be mainly populated by river rats and tourists heading in to Yellowstone. The Gardiner entrance is Yellowstone’s only year round entrance, and the Yellowstone River flows right through town.

Gardiner describes itself as

“…located in the heart of Yellowstone’s Northern Range, at the junction of the Gardner and Yellowstone Rivers. We are surrounded by the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to the east, the Gallatin Wilderness to the north and west, and the world’s first and most famous national park, Yellowstone National Park, to the south. This area is home to the most diverse herds of large wildlife species in the lower 48 states including bison, bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, and deer.”

Gardiner, Montana // tahoefabulous.com
Gardiner, Montana on the banks of the Yellowstone River.

The town obviously caters to the visitors who stop on their way to the National Park and to recreate on the Yellowstone River, but the town doesn’t feel overly “touristy”. Definitely get dinner on the huge deck at Iron Horse Bar & Grille. I drank a delicious Montana beer (that I immediately forgot the name of!) while watching the sunset over the mountains and the river flow by.

Gardiner, MT // tahoefabulous.com

There are a ton of things to do in Gardiner! While we mostly used it as a base to head into Yellowstone National Park, there are plenty of activities centered in or around the town. You can raft the Yellowstone River – we saw plenty of individuals and guided groupsprime fly fishinghorseback tours, and much more!

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park // tahoefabulous.com
Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

As far as Yellowstone National Park goes, you get to enter through the Roosevelt Arch, dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt. Gardiner is only a couple of miles from the Boiling River, a great spot for swimming where a hot spring pours into the Gardiner River. This is also a great spot for wildlife. We saw bighorn sheep on the hillside almost as soon as we drove in to the Park! You’re also only about five miles from Mammoth Hot Springs, and can venture further into Yellowstone from there.

Yellowstone National Park // tahoefabulous.com
Those blurry brown dots are bighorn sheep.

I would highly recommend the place we stayed in Gardiner – the Riverside Cottages. Our set up was a condo-type studio with a full kitchen. They also have a communal hot tub with a river view! After a great night’s sleep in the comfy beds we grabbed a quick breakfast at Tumbleweed Bookstore & Cafe (coffee + breakfast sandwiches + books = my 3 favorite things), and headed out on the road. Stay tuned for Lamar Valley, Beartooth Pass and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway!

Trail Report: Mountain Biking Powerline Trail, South Lake Tahoe

Powerline Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Powerline Trail is a well established, popular trail right in the midst of South Lake Tahoe. This is a great trail for beginning mountain bikers who are ready to start challenging themselves, but is enough fun that intermediates and up won’t get bored. More advanced riders can use Powerline as a warm up and to access more challenging and technical trails like Cold Creek and High Meadow.

powerlines 2
Photo via Google Maps

The trailhead is at the dead end of Saddle Rd. 

Powerline Trail can be accessed at a few points, the most popular being at the end of Saddle Road, a few blocks west of its intersection with Ski Run Boulevard. While there is no parking on Saddle Road, there is parking on Mackedie Way. (This is a residential neighborhood, so please respect the people who live there with your parking!) You can also access the trail from the High Meadow Trail parking lot.

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

The trail is well marked right from the start. There are two options to begin the trail which meet up about halfway through. I recommend following the more obvious trail up to the left, not up the more gravel road-like section to the right.

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com
Map and elevation profile via Strava

There is a pretty steep and short climb almost immediately, but don’t worry, that’s the most difficult climb on the whole trail! Powerline Trail is pretty unique for the South Lake Tahoe area, as it tends towards rolling and doesn’t require a long slog of a climb. Not that there’s no climbing involved! You’ll gain about 600 feet over the 6.6 mile trail.

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Most of Powerline Trail travels through shaded forest, making for good trail conditions. There are some sections of that famous South Lake decomposed granite, resulting in some short, but intense, sandy sections by mid-to-late summer. However, if you happen to time it right with some summertime afternoon showers, Powerline has some of the best dirt I’ve ridden in South Lake. I rode it last week after a couple of days of intense rain, and it reminded me of riding in Washington. There are a few spots along the way where the trees open up, and offer incredible views in every direction.

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Thunderheads building earlier this week.

After about 1.25 miles, the trail comes to a tee, where heading straight will keep you on Powerline Trail, and going right will take you down to Al Tahoe Boulevard, if you want to bail out. You can access Powerline Trail at the intersection of Pioneer Trail and Al Tahoe Boulevard, and, after an exposed, sandy climb, this is where you’ll connect with the trail.

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Al Tahoe Blvd bail out intersection

After this, you’ll head down to a bridge that crosses a small stream, climb out of that small valley and be on to my favorite part of Powerline Trail. The trail gets really flowy with small rolling hills, great dirt, and banked turns so you can fly! Just watch out for hikers and dogs, as this is also a popular trail for walkers and trail runners!

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Handmade “Powerline Trail” signs point you in the right direction.

Powerline Trail essentially hits the turn around point at the bridge over Cold Creek. More advanced riders can add a climb to your route by heading up Cold Creek Trail which follows the creek up for about 1,400 feet of climbing over 5 miles (or go up even further on the new and extremely steep Star Lake Trail). You can also continue a little further up the trail, which will end at High Meadow Trail parking lot, and connect with a dirt road that will take you to the Corral area trails.

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The back half of this out-and-back trail is even more fun than the first part! While there are still a few (short) climbs, Powerline Trail trends more downhill in this direction. Enjoy the momentum, and have fun! Before you head back to your car, climb up the little rise to the south that you ignored on your way out. The views of Lake Tahoe and the mountains are incredible!

Powerlines Trail South Lake Tahoe // tahoefabulous.com

Trail Stats:
Location: Saddle Rd, South Lake Tahoe, California
Mileage: 6.6 miles
Elevation Gain: ~600 feet
Difficulty: Beginner