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Aug
25

Planning a bike ride at the Flume Trail in Lake Tahoe

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The Flume Trail in Lake Tahoe is regarded one of the best mountain biking trails in the U.S., if not the world. It runs along the northeast side of Lake Tahoe, hugging the ridge between Mt. Rose, the region’s highest mountain pass, and Marlette Lake near Spooner Summit. Depending the route, riders enjoy approximately 13 miles of intermediate singletrack (the flume section) and dirt road, with a modest 1,200 feet of elevation gain and – if you finish at lake level – more than 1,800 glorious feet of descent.

Based on your skill level – and the number of breaks you take – the total ride time will take anywhere from 2-4 hours. Although many riders go out and back, this is not a loop trail. If you are uncomfortable with a 9-mile ride back to your car along a busy road, plan ahead by shuttling a car or pay $10 per rider for a shuttle ride.

Getting There

You can access the Flume Trail multiple ways but the most popular is the one-way Spooner-Marlette-Flume-Tunnel Creek ride. The trail starts at Spooner Lake, where a 4-mile uphill dirt road climb awaits. This section can be strenuous, especially for riders that are used to sea-level riding, but worth it. There is little shade on hot days, but plenty of places to rest and take breaks. Riders who make the crest are rewarded with awesome views of Marlette Lake and a short walk in its cool waters where the trail dead-ends. Stop – grab a snack and a few pictures. You are now officially at the start of the 4.4-mile Flume Trail.

Hitting the Trail

A sign at the trailhead greets you as you start your ride with dire warnings of narrow trails, steep drop-offs, and landslide areas. They aren’t kidding. While this part of the trail is relatively flat, a 1,600-foot drop to the rider’s left makes for a thrilling traverse. The sometimes-narrow paths are partnered with rock overhangs that are waiting to knock you out of your seat if you aren’t paying attention. And speaking of paying attention, there is a shimmering sapphire-colored lake just waiting to swallow you up. Scared? Don’t worry – this ride is worth every white-knuckle grip and teeth-jarring bump.

Nearing the End

The last portion of the Trail is about 3 miles of steep downhill on a dirt road with some sandy switchbacks. Take your time, especially later in the riding season when the dirt is especially loose. The ride ends at the intersection of Tunnel Creek Rd and Highway 28, or, more commonly, the old Ponderosa Ranch. Take a deep breath and enjoy a job well done.

What You’ll Need

1. A Good Breakfast:

The Flume Trail is not the place for a hangover – trust me. Make sure you are well hydrated and well fed before tackling this beautiful beast of a ride. Tunnel Creek Café – does a great Breakfast Burrito.

2. A Map:

Download a map here and don’t leave your car without it. 

3. Bike:

If you don’t have your own, you can rent mountain bikes at the shop at Spooner Summit or Tunnel Creek . Both offer shuttle rides.

4. Fuel for the Journey:

Water. Make sure you fill your hydration pack – especially if it’s a hot day. And snacks. Of course, Tahoe Trail Bars are my favorite when I hit any trail. www.tahoetrailbar.com

5. Camera:

Not only will you want to capture the views along the way, but you need proof for the bragging rights.

6. Humor and Determination:

Enough said.

Here’s hoping you find some awesome rides this season!

Written by Wes King, Tahoe Trail Bar owner

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