Corral Trail Network, South Lake Tahoe, California

Corral Trail Network // tahoefabulous.com

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.

Connector/Sidewinder/Lower Corral
Connector Sidewinder Corral Map // tahoefabulous.com

Connector Sidewinder Corral Map // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

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.
Armstrong Connector Trail // tahoefabulous.com
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.
Armstrong Connector // tahoefabulous.com
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 StravaTotal Route: ~11 miles, 1,680 feet of climbing and descending.

Railroad/Incense Cedar Uphill/Lower Corral
Railroad Cedar Corral // tahoefabulous.com

Railroad Cedar Corral // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

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.

Beautiful day for a morning ride! #railroadgrade

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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.
Lower Corral Trail // tahoefabulous.com
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.

Upper Corral/Cedar
Upper Corral Cedar Map // tahoefabulous.com

Upper Corral Cedar Map // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

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.
Corral Trailhead // tahoefabulous.com

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 StravaRoute 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.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Despite being born in Oregon, I had never been to Crater Lake National Park before our trip this September! Since it was only a little out of our way, we decided to make the detour on our way from Oakridge to Truckee. Since it was just a quick trip, we didn’t do much more than pull over at the viewpoints and poke around at some of the exhibits. The day was absolutely gorgeous, and I’m glad that we stopped. Here are some of my favorite pictures!

IMG_5723

Crater Lake National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Crater Lake National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Crater Lake National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Crater Lake National Park // tahoefabulous.com

 

Things to Do In Oakridge, Oregon

Things to do in Oakridge OR // tahoefabulous.com

After a couple of days in Bend, we headed west to Oakridge. Bend and Oakridge aren’t too far apart as the crow flies, but, the route isn’t super direct, due to the Cascades being in between the two. You can make the drive in under two hours by heading south on 97 then west on 58, but we decided to take a slightly more scenic route.

Bend to Oakridge Map // tahoefabulous.com
Map via GoogleMaps

After a delicious breakfast at Rockin’ Dave’s Bistro & Backstage Lounge, we went north on Highway 20 towards the town of Sisters, taking in the beautiful mountain view of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, the Sisters, and Mt. Washington. We regrouped with my parents and decided our destination was going to be Metolius Springs, where the Metolius River pops out of the ground. It’s pretty incredible – the river just appears out of nowhere.

Metolius Springs // tahoefabulous.com
Metolius Springs, Oregon

From there, we detoured to tiny Camp Sherman where we tried to spot fish in the Metolius River, but were unsuccessful. We headed west from here, climbing up Santiam Pass and watching the forest quickly change as we went from the eastern slope of the Cascades to the western slope.

This drive took us along the Mckenzie River, which both Greyson and I were excited about. There are some gorgeous views along the drive, though several of the places we tried to pull over to explore were already full of cars. Eventually, we found an empty spot and climbed down to the river. There’s a 26 mile hiking/mountain bike trail that follows the Mckenzie River. We just walked along a tiny bit of it, but it gave me a taste and I’d love to come back and ride it someday.

Mckenzie River // tahoefabulous.com
Mckenzie River, Oregon

Finally, we got on 58 and headed back east towards Oakridge. This part of the drive was also beautiful – lots of deciduous trees mixed in among the firs and cedars, and some of the leaves were already starting to turn. Greyson and I visited Oakridge in 2016, but my parents had never been before and we were excited to show them around.

After a couple of visits to Oakridge, I’ve found a few awesome spots that I wanted to share.

Lodging
This time we stayed in a really great vacation rental – Jasper Lodge. It was really nice, inside and out, with 3 bedrooms/2 bathrooms and a garage for bike storage, located close to everything in Oakridge. I’d highly recommend it – especially if you’re coming to Oakridge to mountain bike. Having the garage to store and a place to wash our bikes was amazing.

Salmon Creek Falls Campground // tahoefabulous.com
Salmon Creek Falls

On our last trip, we stayed in one my all time favorite campgrounds, Salmon Creek Falls Campground. The spots are all first come-first serve, so your best shot is probably if you’re arriving mid-week. There’s a creek with a falls and a swimming hole that run right through the campground, which was awesome after a hot, July mountain bike ride. There are a few motels in Oakridge and other AirB&B and VRBO options as well.

Food & Drink
There aren’t a ton of restaurants in Oakridge, but there are definitely a few worth checking out. On both trips, we hit up Brewers Union Local 180, which is definitely the hippest spot in Oakridge. All their beers are cask aged (so not carbonated), but they have beers from other regional breweries if that’s not your style. The food is really good, and portions are large. I got vegetarian poutine and it was better than a lot of the poutine I’ve gotten in Canada.

Be sure to visit Lee’s Gourmet Garden, which Greyson and I went to after riding the Alpine Trail shuttle this time. The food is delicious and the owners were super friendly, plus we got a ton of food for under $30. It really hit the spot after a cold, wet morning of riding. Another delicious surprise was Cedar Creek Meats – I got the best Cuban sandwich of my life here.

For a throwback, there’s an A&W in Oakridge that’s still a functioning drive in! We went there for dessert one night. Fun fact: I worked at an A&W for one summer in college, and I am excellent at making root beer floats. Double Trouble Espresso is a small roadside coffee stand that has pretty good coffee, when you need your early morning caffeine fix.

Things To Do
While mountain biking is probably the most popular reason to visit Oakridge, there are other fun things to do in the area as well. Just outside of town is the Willamette Fish Hatchery, which might seem like a strange thing to visit, but we had a great time. There are informational displays and signage, so you can learn about the hatchery, the fish raised there, and the larger ecosystem. There’s a short, interpretive loop trail (~0.5 miles), mini golf, and a small historical museum. My favorite part was feeding the rainbow trout and marveling at the large sturgeon in one of the ponds.

Office Covered Bridge // tahoefabulous.com
The Office Covered Bridge, Westfir, OR

The Office Bridge, a historic covered bridge built in 1944, is about 4 miles from Oakridge, in the even smaller town of Westfir. It’s the longest covered bridge in Oregon and has some really cool engineering. You can walk or drive through, and it’s a great place to take pictures. There’s a small park on the other side, with a picnic area and a playground. This is also the base of some local hiking trails, and the end of the Alpine Trail.

Salt Creek Falls // tahoefabulous.com
Salt Creek Falls, Oregon

pensivewaterfallwatching

The second tallest waterfall in Oregon, Salt Creek Falls, is less than a half hour east of Oakridge, just off of Hwy 58. The viewpoint is only 50 yards or so from the parking lot and ADA accessible. You can also take a short hike down to the falls, but the hike is steep and mostly stairs. The view from the top is gorgeous, and we took a ton of pictures.

 

Mountain Biking Bend, Oregon: Funner & Tiddlywinks

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.

Mountain Biking Bend Oregon // tahoefabulous.com

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.

Mountain Biking Bend // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

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.

Mountain Biking Bend // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

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.

Trail Stats
Location: Wanoga Trails, Bend, Oregon
Mileage: 13 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,390 feet
Difficulty: Intermediate
See my Strava route here.

Shoulder Season: Tahoe Bars for All Weather

Fall is definitely my favorite season in Tahoe. The crowds have died down, but there’s still stuff to do outside. The weather can be hit or miss – some days are rainy and cold, giving a preview of winter to come and some are a throwback to summer with clear skies and hot temperatures. After a long day on the trail or on the beach, it’s nice to wind down with a cold beer, glass of wine, or fancy cocktail.

Best Bars in Tahoe for Fall // tahoefabulous.com

Outdoor Venues
If it’s sunny out, I want to soak up what might be the last nice day for awhile, so here are my recommendations for places to grab a drink outside. In South Lake Tahoe, MacDuff’s Public House has outdoor seating when the weather is good. It’s not right on the lake, but they have a full bar and usually an awesome beer selection. If you’re looking for something on the water, the Beacon Bar & Grill at Camp Richardson is just a little west of South Lake Tahoe and has the best deck view on the shore. Riva Grill at Ski Run Marina is higher end, and to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of their food, but they’ve got a great deck and everyone should try their signature drink, the Wet Woody at least once. Sidellis Brewery is located slightly off the beaten path, but has a large, fenced in outdoor area that is dog friendly and features cornhole and great beer.

On the north shore, there are quite a few restaurants and bars that offer the outdoor drinking experience. On the Nevada side, Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village has an awesome outdoor seating area out back that has live music some nights, complete with fire pits for low temps.

Sunday funday at #alibialeworks #craftbeer #beer #inclinenv #tahoefabulous

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In Kings Beach, I love Jason’s Beachside Grille. This is a great place to get a delicious glass of wine while watching the sunset from their Adirondack chairs before dinner. Down the road in Tahoe City is Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co., which has a patio where you can eat & drink outside and enjoy lake views. (See my favorite Tahoe Mountain Brews here). In Truckee, 1882 Bar and Grill is right on the Truckee River and is located in historic downtown.

Indoor Bars
If the weather drives drives me inside, there are quite a few bars – from dives serving PBR to lounges with fancy cocktails that I enjoy. If you’re looking for a cheap place to get a beer in South Lake Tahoe, you can’t beat Turn 3 and  its two-for-one happy hour beer prices. For fancier beer, head to South Lake Brewing Company. It’s in a large, warehouse-type building with lots of table games – so it’s perfect for days when the weather is awful and you’re looking for something to do. They also allow well behaved dogs. I also love the Himmel Haus, near Heavenly Ski Resort. They have a great selection of Bavarian beer, German food, a foosball table and a cozy fire. They often host events like trivia, ski movies, and theme parties.

Sidellis Brewery
Photo by Sidellis Brewery

For something a little different, go see a movie at Tahoe Art Haus in Tahoe City. It’s an awesome locally-owned theater that serves beer, wine, and cider and has organic popcorn with a whole bar of toppings. They usually have the latest big releases, and show indies and local ski films during the slower season. For another off-the-beaten path option, the small bar in the very hip Basecamp Hotel Tahoe has a few beers on tap and wines available and the atmosphere is very different from your typical hotel bar.

#Beer and popcorn topping bar at Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema? I love you already.

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

In Truckee, wait out the bad weather downtown at Moody’s Bistro, Bar and Beats in downtown Truckee – the gorgeous ambiance, knowledgeable bartenders, and live music make the somewhat pricey cocktails worth it. Also in the historic downtown is the Truckee location of Alibi Ale Works which has a larger beer selection than the Incline Village location and also has kombucha and nitro brew coffee on draft.

#sundayfunday at @alibitruckee. #truckeelove #beer #tahoefabulous

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If you’re looking for somewhere to watch a game, The Blue Coyote Bar & Grill is the main sports bar in town and is located in an area of town that is less touristy, if you’re looking for that. It has tons of tvs, so whatever you want to watch is likely to be on – or just ask! Their staff is very friendly.

Tahoe Round the Lake Beer Tour // tahoefabulous.com

Or if you have a designated driver, tackle my Round the Lake Beer Tour, taking you from Truckee and around the lake, hitting up by favorite breweries and beer bars along the way!

Tahoe Round the Lake Beer Tour – Update

Back in 2016, I came up with a a round the lake route that stopped at my favorite beer destinations from Truckee to South Lake and back to Truckee. There’s been an expansion of the beer scene since then, and I just updated that post to include some of my new favorites.

Tahoe Round the Lake Beer Tour // tahoefabulous.com

Find a designated driver and check it out – Tahoe Round the Lake Beer Tour!

Fall Favorites Round Up

It’s no secret that Fall is an amazing time to be in Truckee-Tahoe – it’s definitely my favorite season, and it’s almost here.  The trails are less crowded, the weather ranges from stormy (Yay! It’s finally raining.) to hot & sunny (Yay! A little bit more summer.), and the general feel of the locals is just more relaxed. Over the years, I’ve posted a lot of my recommendations for the fall, so I thought I’d do a round up of previous fall favorites, and add some bonus new suggestions as well.

Sierra Fall Essentials:
Here’s a round up of some of my favorite products to help me get through the variable weather of fall in the Sierra.

Sierra Fall Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

Bonus Favorites:
An ultra-light, packable wind shell, like the Patagonia Houdini is perfect for cooler morning runs or to stick in your bike pack for a chilly downhill after a sweaty climb. It’s water resistant, so it will even keep you dry for a little bit in the event of a surprise rainstorm.

A mid-weight vest is the perfect fall layering piece. You can wear it under a raincoat or over a flannel, and your arms will be free while your core is warm. I think springing for a down version, like the Marmot Aruna is so worth it, for quality, packability, and warmth. The Aruna is a high quality – I own the vest and the jacket version and I love them both.

Fall In Yosemite Valley:
Fall is my favorite time to visit Yosemite – check out these photos of Yosemite Valley to see why!

Yosemite Valley Fall // tahoefabulous.com

Bonus Sierra Destinations if you want to see Fall Colors
June Lake, California: great beer, & fishing
Hope Valley, California:delicious pie & country charm
Nevada City, California: – incredible restaurants & the Yuba river

Whiskey Pumpkin Bread Recipe:
Nothing says fall like pumpkin, and this pumpkin bread recipe with a kick of whiskey is just about perfect, if I do say so myself.

Whiskey Pumpkin Bread Recipe // tahoefabulous.com

Round the Lake Beer Tour:
You’ll need a designated driver for this one, but check out my loop from Truckee, around the lake, and back, hitting up breweries and craft beer spots along the way. I just updated it for fall of 2018, so check out the new version!

Round the Lake Beer Tour // tahoefabulous.com

Favorite Fall Activities:
Sierra Fall Favorites // tahoefabulous.com
And here are some of my favorite things to do in Tahoe and the Sierra in the fall:
Go mountain biking. Often, we’ll get an early snowstorm that melts out and gets the trails in perfect condition. My favorite trails to ride in the fall are the Donner Lake Rim Trail to Wendin Canyon and Sawtooth Trail in Truckee, Mills Peak in Graeagle, and the Corral Trail Network in South Lake Tahoe.
Jump in the lake one last time. Often, the water is still warm enough for a quick swim in September and October. Or you could head to nearby hot springs, like Grover Hot Springs State Park in Markleeville or Travertine Hot Springs in Bridgeport.
Get in shape for snowboard season with some trail running. I like to get a few more trips up and down Donner Peak before the snow falls in Truckee. In South Lake Tahoe, Powerline Trail is my preferred trail running location.
Go on a road trip to the coast. Alright, that might be cheating for favorite Tahoe fall activities, but the California coast in the fall is amazing too! I especially like Santa Cruz, Point Reyes, Mendocino, and the North Coast during this time of year.

Mountain Biking the Donner Lake Rim Trail from Castle Valley

If you’re looking for a challenging and scenic ride you can shuttle in the Truckee area that is still mostly doable by intermediate riders, I highly recommend the the  Donner Lake Rim Trail (DLRT) from Castle Valley.

Donner Lake Rim Trail // tahoefabulous.com

To do this ride as a shuttle, leave one car parked at the Wendin Canyon Trailhead, located at the top of Donner Lake Road, in the dirt parking lot on the left. From there, get on the freeway westbound and take the exit for Boreal (Exit 176). Turn right off the freeway and you’ll be at the trailhead parking. This trailhead is access for the PCT and Hole in the Ground, so it can get busy on the weekends, but we’ve always found parking there, you just might have to park further down on the paved road.

Donner Lake Rim Trail // tahoefabulous.com
via Strava
Donner Lake Rim Trail // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map via Strava

Start up Castle Valley Road, a chunky fire road climb that’s a pretty nice warm up. A little more than 0.5 miles from the trailhead, you’ll make a right turn on to what TrailForks calls Castle Valley East OHV trail. There should be a noticeable sign, pointing right directing you for DLRT access. There’s also a great view of Castle Peak to the right here.

Donner Lake Rim Trail // tahoefabulous.com

After a short downhill, this trail climbs ~190 feet in just over 0.5 miles. There, the double track forks left for the PCT and right for the Castle Valley section of the DLRT. This trail feels very old school to me – it’s not in any way flowy, and there are lots of short steep sections, both up and down with tight, blind turns and rocky drops. It’s definitely the section that I still have to walk a fair amount of any trails I ride regularly. That said, it’s really fun, great for sessioning and skill building, and the views are expansive. It’s one of the best places to ride sustained granite in the Tahoe-Truckee area and while features may be difficult to clear successfully, they’re not exposed.

Donner Lake Rim Trail // tahoefabulous.com

After the rocky granite section, the DLRT goes back into the trees for the Summit Lake segment. This section I find slightly easier than the Castle Valley section, and tends more towards roots and narrow trees, though there are still rocky features. Summit Lake is really pretty, and a nice place to stop for a breather or a snack.

Summit Lake // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Just past the lake, stay left at the fork and get on Summit Lake Road. To me, this section seems something between fire road and double track, but I have seen jeeps on it, so keep an eye out for vehicles. After about 0.7 miles, you’ll take a sudden (and steep) left back onto the DLRT for the Negro Canyon segment. This section is a fun, smooth downhill, though it can get rather overgrown in the spring. The single track ends and spits you out for a left turn onto a short fire road climb. After about 0.1 miles, you’ll be back on single track, a short descent on the Wendin/Drifter Connector. When the connector ends, you’ll be on the Wendin Way trail, one of my favorite downhill trails in Truckee. By late summer, it can get fairly dusty, but the trail is well built enough that it never gets unrideable. There are a few rock gardens and rollable drops, but pretty much everything can be tackled by a confident intermediate rider. There’s one combo of features that’s a blind corner into a rocky drop that’s closely followed by a pinch between two boulders and then another tight rocky switchback that took me a long time to get confident on, though! After a little more than a mile of downhill and almost 500 feet of descending, you’ll be back at the trailhead where your car is parked.

 

Wendin Canyon Trail Truckee // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

These trails, along with many others in the Truckee area are built and maintained by the Truckee Donner Land Trust. The TDLT is an awesome organization whose mission is “To preserve and protect scenic, historic and recreational lands with high natural resource values in the greater Truckee Donner region and manage recreational activities on these lands in a sustainable manner.” This means, they’re not just protecting the land, they’re actively creating recreation opportunities on their properties, including for mountain bikers. If you enjoy recreating on these trails, I encourage you to help out with a volunteer trail day or donate to the organization if you can. Without organizations dedicated to preserving lands, our favorite trails are at risk to be sold off or shut down, so I encourage everyone to help out, however they can!

My Reno Favorites

While Reno has a reputation for being Las Vegas’s grimier, less fun little sibling, I think it’s an extremely underrated destination. It’s relatively cheap, has amazing access to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra, and has an increasingly good food and bar scene. There are two adjacent neighborhoods where the city is seeing a renaissance – Riverwalk District and MidTown and are my two favorite to visit.

Things to do in Reno // tahoefabulous.com

Riverwalk District:
The Riverwalk District in Downtown Reno is anchored by two things – the historic casinos and the Truckee River. While this is definitely where you want to be if you’re going to gamble, there’s a lot more to do here than play the slots.

For a climbing experience like no other, you can climb at Whitney Peak Hotel at Basecamp. You can boulder inside or climb outside next to the famous “Biggest Little City sign. Also at Whitney Peak Hotel is the concert venue Cargo. Cargo is my favorite size of venue – large enough to attract big-ish names, but small enough that you still feel close to the action. In addition to concerts, they also host events like Zombie Prom, Henry Rollins Slideshow, and wrestling!

Photo by Greyson Howard
Photo by Greyson Howard

The Truckee River runs right through downtown, and Reno has really begun to take advantage of it. In addition to parks, riverfront dining, and pedestrian bridges, there is the Truckee River Whitewater Park, a whitewater kayaker playground with man made and natural features. You’ll often see whitewater kayakers paddling through the rapids, and the Reno River Festival is held every May, with competitions, demonstrations, and a fun street fair.

The Riverwalk District has some great restaurants as well. My favorite Italian restaurant is located here – Campo. It has great pizza and pasta, focusing on local, seasonal ingredients. Their menu varies with what’s in season, but you can’t really go wrong. If the beet salad is on the menu, order that and be sure to check out what their barrel aged cocktail special is. It’s usually something delicious.

#negroni season

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For something less fancy, Pho 777 has the best veggie pho I’ve tried so far in Reno. For late night (or early morning!), greasy diner food the Mel’s Drive In in the Sands casino is cheesy, but perfect for what you’re looking for. Also, the Sands will give you a glimpse of the gritty side of Reno.

MidTown:
MidTown Reno is definitely the up-and-coming hipster neighborhood in the city. Greyson and I joke that every time we come there is some new Portland stereotype business that’s opened up – sushi burritos, dog aromatherapy, etc. Some of the original charm still remains. A cupcake shop will share a parking lot with a payday loan store and strip club.

My favorite things to do in MidTown are eat and drink, though there are tons of cute shops and one of the best thrift stores I’ve ever been to, Junkee Clothing Exchange, is located in this district. The Nevada Museum of Art is also here, and it is one of my favorite hidden gems in Reno. It’s only $10 to get in, and they frequently have incredible exhibits with renowned artists. If you’re visiting Reno and have a free evening or afternoon, I highly recommend it!

For breakfast, I frequent Great Full Gardens. This is a great restaurant to visit if you are feeding both vegetarians & meat eaters or adventurous eaters & pickier people – everyone will find something that they like. I almost always get the pupusas, but the liege waffles are a must try and they have the best vegetarian eggs benedict I’ve ever gotten. There are lots of other brunch places in MidTown that look great, but they almost always have long waits, while Great Full Gardens is (inexplicably) less busy.

Photo from Great Full Gardens.
Photo by Great Full Gardens.

For a different kind of breakfast experience, the Brewer’s Cabinet has a “Kegs and Eggs” special on Saturday and Sunday mornings. For $16.95, you get two beers and something off the breakfast menu. It’s a great deal, and I really like their breakfast food, especially the BC scramble.

Photo from The Brewer's Cabinet
Photo by The Brewer’s Cabinet

Moving on to lunch, I like to go to Pinon Bottle Company, a tap house with an extensive beer list that is a great mix of local breweries, less distributed western US breweries, and few beers from far away. After ordering your beer, you can wander next door to Noble Pie Parlor and order delicious pizza. They’ll even deliver it to you back at Pinon, so you can continue enjoying your beer. I love the T-Pane, which has caramelized fennel and onions, sausage, and granny smith apples, though they do have more “normal” pizzas as well.

Noble Pie Midtown
Photo from https://www.facebook.com/noblepiemidtown/

On to dinner and desert! When I want to go to a nicer dinner, I frequently go to Midtown Eats. Like many of Reno’s awesome restaurants, the menu is focused on local and seasonal ingredients, so it changes frequently, but everything I’ve had there has been delicious. They also make great cocktails. Though I am more of a savory treats person, my two favorite sweet things are donuts and ice cream. Simple combines both of these things into an amazing (and incredibly messy) desert. Simple gets donuts, cronuts, cookies, and ice cream from local businesses, and you can create your own ice cream sandwich. They are very messy, don’t get one to go!

Midtown Eats
Photo by Midtown Eats

That’s just scratching the surface of some of my favorite things to do, eat, and drink in just a couple of Reno’s neighborhoods. If you visit Reno, I hope you check out a couple of these places and enjoy them as much as I do!

Mendocino Recommendations: Mountain Biking & More

Last fall, Greyson and I took a spontaneous long weekend road trip to one of my favorite parts of the California coast – Mendocino. Fall is the perfect time to visit Mendocino, if anyone is planning any trips. The weather is warm, but not hot and we didn’t get any rain or fog while we were there. In the afternoons, it got pretty breezy on the coastal cliffs, but that was about the only thing that wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t crowded at all, and though it was the tail end of abelone season, we were able to get a campsite at Russian Gulch State Park on Friday night with no reservations.

I’d been to Mendocino a couple of times before, once during a road trip with Greyson and once with my friend Katie. Both of those times we did typical coast things – beach walks, looking for tidepools, stuffing myself with smoked salmon. This time we brought our mountain bikes with the goal of exploring some of the singletrack we’d heard a lot about.

Mendocino Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

Most of the mountain biking in Mendocino is in Jackson Demonstration State Forest, located between the towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg. When researching mountain biking in this area, one thing we heard over and over is that the trails are nearly impossible to navigate without a guide. They’re not signed, you won’t get any service on your phone so you can track using GPS, and then you’ll get lost and murdered by weed farmers. We found this to be a slight exaggeration.

Since we’d heard about the navigation difficulty, we started our Saturday with a visit to Catch a Canoe & Bicycles Too, a local bike shop that came highly recommended. The staff at Catch a Canoe were super great – really helpful, very friendly, and willing to share route recommendations. We ended up buying a guidebook put together by a local expert with maps and suggested routes. The proceeds from the book went towards local trails and we found the maps helpful, though the routes we’re all much longer than what we were interested in this trip.

Manly Gulch/Forest History/Cookhouse
We decided that for day one, we wanted to ride Manly Gulch, one of the better known trails in Mendocino. We parked at the top of Manly Gulch on Little Lake Road/408. We had a little difficulty finding the parking area, but figured it out eventually. Manly Gulch is about 2.2 miles with almost 900 feet of elevation loss. The trail isn’t super technical beyond some roots and blind corners, but is just about a perfect example of a flow trail. It’s fast and fun, and can be ridden carefully by beginners and more advanced riders can challenge themselves with speed and small, natural jumps.

Manly Gulch Forest History Map
Via Strava
Manly Gulch Forest History Map
Via Strava

After all we’d heard about the un-navigable forest and non-marked trails, we didn’t find this to be true. Maybe it was the specific trails we rode (or our recent experience bushwhacking in British Columbia), but we thought the trails were well signed and we were able to use Trailforks on our phones to help us navigate.

At the end of Manly Gulch, we turned right onto Thompson Gulch, a fire road. We could see another trail ( Marsh Creek Trail) paralleling us, but it peels off and wouldn’t have taken us back to our car. After about 1.2 miles on the fire road, Thompson Gulch bends right, goes for about 0.2 miles before a sharp switchback in the road. Right at that switchback is the entrance to Forest History Trail and the beginning of the climb back to the car. We stayed on Forest History for about 0.6 miles, before hitting a fork. At the fork, we went left and got on Cook House, as Forest History recommends no bikes at that point. Between those two trails, we climbed about 850 feet in 2.2 miles. There are some steep sections on both, and there were some spots I was definitely pushing my bike up, but the majority of the trail is quite rideable. We took quite a few breaks, but it isn’t the worst climb in the world, especially since it was decently shaded and cool. Exhausted and sweaty, we made it back to the car with 5.94 miles, 952 feet of climbing in 1:09 moving time.

Russian Gulch
On day two, we decided to ride something really close to our campground, Russian Gulch State Park. Theoretically, we could have ridden from our campground to the trails, but that would have involved a long road climb that I was not into, so we were lazy and drove the mile or so uphill to the trailhead. We hopped on North Boundary Trail, which was an interesting riding experience unlike anything I’ve ridden before or since. After the first half mile or so of wide singletrack climbing, we ended up on something between double track and fire road, that was a mix of hard pack and sand pits. This mix of terrain, especially the strength-sapping sand made for a ride that was more challenging that it looked.

Mountain Biking Mendocino // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava
Mountain Biking Mendocino // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava

At mile 2.7, we crossed Caspar Little Lake Road. Almost directly across from where North Boundary Trail comes out, there’s a break in the forest that signals the start of a fork with two trails. We took the right fork onto Parallel Action, which we rode for about 1.5 miles. There are lots of little offshoot trails in this area, but if you pay attention to your route, we didn’t find it hard to navigate here either. Also, most of the trails stick pretty close to Caspar Little Lake Road, so you could always jump back onto the main road fairly easily.

Parallel Action was a fun trail – it reminded me a lot of the BC style of trails (minus wooden features). There were lots of quick, little turns, the trails were narrow and heavily wooded and you have to pay attention and not go off onto social trails that go nowhere. After returning on Parallel Action, we got back on North Boundary Trail, but decided that we were going to try some of the offshoot trails we’d seen on our way up. There are some trails that are hiker only in this area, but they’re clearly marked and they’re not trails you’d even want to take a bike on, from what we could see when we walked a little ways down.

At mile 6.4, we took a left onto North Cutoff, a ~0.1 mile trail that took us to North Trail. We turned right on North Trail to head back to our car and were treated to the most fun section of trail we’d ridden all day. This trail only dropped 80 feet in about 1.1 miles, but whoever built it did a great job. It felt like a consistent downhill where you could really let go, go fast, and play on its natural features. At about 7.6 miles, the trail forked and we went right to get back on North Boundary Trail and back to our cars. We think that the trail to the left might have gone back to our campground, but we weren’t sure, and, since it isn’t listed on TrailForks, it might not be bike legal. In total, we rode 8.68 miles with 628 feet of climbing in 1:14.

Mendocino // tahoefabulous.com
Sunset from Russian Gulch State Park

Where to Camp & Eat
We camped in Russian Gulch State Park, which we loved! It was pricey – $40 a night, but that’s the going price for coastal state parks now, I guess. The location was gorgeous in the redwoods, there were nice, clean bathrooms that had hot water showers, and, though you can’t camp super close to the beach, there is one in the campground within easy biking distance. One of the nights we were there, a wedding was going on in the park’s small venue, but our campsite was far enough away that we weren’t bothered by noise at all. I’ve also camped at Westport Beach Campground, which is a private RV park and campground, which I usually try to avoid. However, if you’re tent camping here, you can actually camp on the beach and you’re far away from the RVs! Westport-Union Landing State Beach is a nice cliffside campground, though you’re fairly north of Mendocino at this point.

Mendocino Camping // tahoefabulous.com
The beach at Russian Gulch State Park. Photo by Greyson Howard

Over a few trips to Mendocino, I’ve tried quite a few restaurants. My favorite overall is a pizza place in Fort Bragg – Piaci Pizza. There’s really nothing better after a long day of riding. Also in Fort Bragg, is North Coast Brewing Company. I wasn’t super excited about their food, but their beer is great, so I’d at least go for a tasting, even if you eat somewhere else. For seafood, I like Noyo River Grill in Noyo Harbor. The view is the best, and there are lots of fish sellers nearby where you can buy fresh fish to take back to your campsite or bring home. In the town of Mendocino, we had a great dinner at Mendocino Cafe and a delicious breakfast at GoodLife Cafe & Bakery.

Mendocino // tahoefabulous.com
One of the many beautiful from Mendocino cliffs. Photo by Greyson Howard

I love Mendocino, and I had a great visit last fall. I’m excited to go back!