Trip Report
Super Rose to Toads - Dreaming of Singletrack Around Lake Tahoe
Monday September 10, 2018 10:05am
Not climbing related. But it is adventure related. And considering Mike. just did a bike packing show for Santa Rosa RIM club, i'm guessing there is some climber MTBr overlap here...

Anyway, while putting up Tahoe new routes if still an ongoing an fun activity, I realized in 2016 that one of the BIG "first ascents" in Tahoe would require a bike... creating the first legal singletrack around The Lake. Today 115 of 130 miles is in and we are chipping away at the permitting for the last 15.

You can read a story about a ride of the existing stuff here we did last week.

Key gear - moving fast and light:
 Canyon Exceed 7.0 23-pound hardtail
 Katadyn BeFree water filter (usually only had to carry one water bottle)
 no backpack or fanny pack (just little bags on the frame)

Credit: Chris McNamara

And see the mega trails around the lake here and see how The Lake Trail concept lines up with The Tahoe Rim Trail and other trails.

On a side note, a great resource for this has been climbing and MTB legend Max Jones who owns Tunnel Creek Cafe, Flume Trail bikes and led the creation of the Flume Trail. So i'm just part of a strong tahoe lineage of climber/bikers.
Credit: Chris McNamara

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Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on Earth had been spent on the face of El Capitan – an accomplishment that left friends and family pondering Chris’s sanity. He has climbed El Capitan more than 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, “Why?”

Outside Magazine called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He is the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 5000 dangerous anchor bolts. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and serves on the board of the ASCA and the Rowell Legacy Committee. He has a rarely updated adventure journal, maintains, and also runs a Lake Tahoe home rental business.

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4 Corners Area
  Sep 10, 2018 - 10:07am PT
Hell yeah!
A mountain bike bump . . .
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
  Sep 10, 2018 - 10:58am PT
Quite a feat on your around-the-lake ride! And thanks for advocating for all MTBers on getting an all-dirt trail around the lake. That would be a dream...
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Lassitude 33
  Sep 10, 2018 - 11:09am PT
Inspiring to say the least.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Sep 10, 2018 - 11:23am PT
We're holding a fundraiser with Rebecca Rusch for another section of the trail this Thursday in South Lake Tahoe. Stop by if you are around.

Or you can always donate to the project here

Credit: Chris McNamara

  Sep 10, 2018 - 11:53am PT
Nice work, Chris, Kurt, and everybody helping to make the route a reality. A worthy addition to the legendary recreation opportunities in the area.

  Sep 10, 2018 - 05:09pm PT
Someone gave me a nudge to piggyback on Chris and Kurt. Here's my report on the Lake Trail, done in a little different style a couple of weeks ago:

An old friend, Chris, local to Lake Tahoe, has been working on a new bike-able, all-dirt/ST circumnavigation of the Lake. The concept mimics some through-trails in Europe; resupply points not far off the trail and frequent enough for hikers. A couple of brief conversations gleaned some info, most notably, that the route mapping was complete but the trail work for some sections (all in conjunction with USFS) had not been done.

Close enough for me; I’m in the area temporarily and so, made due with a .gpx file and sparse description. 130 miles in 3-5 days is what the route reputes to require. The route (a version of it), according to Chris, had been biked seven times, but not in a push with bikepacking gear.

I travelled in the recommended counter-clockwise direction, beginning at position three o’clock on the Lake at Spooner Summit. Chris offered to ride with me for the “sketchy” section at position 1:30, which averts the Wilderness near Mount Rose. Once he mentioned the word “guide,” I had to decline, stating that tricky navigation and terrain was part of what I was looking for. He understood and propped me to “go for the onsight.”

Day 1

From Spooner Trailhead north, the Tahoe Rim Trail (which the Lake Trail uses in a couple of spots) heads right into one of the most famous and photographed trails in the area – The Flume Trail.

[Click to View Linked Image]

Once on the Flume, it’s fast riding until the Mount Rose area. The route finding and terrain then turned “interesting,” traveling on decreasingly used trails, until, finally, the track just went off into the woods. No signs of travel, no trail. Eventually, weaknesses and signs of previous passage emerged. Heading into a thickly vegetated, sandy drainage, one eventually reaches a waterfall.

[Click to View Linked Image]

The far side of this drainage (from which the photo was taken) held a weakness which looked like scrambling over large rocks. The “six feet of fourth class” that I was warned about. I recon’ed it without my bike and saw this was the way. Getting my bike up it proved NTB, with only one unexpected drop in elevation with no consequence aside from getting dirty. The rawness of this area kept coming – new and barely-used sections of trail and sheer XC travel through beautiful and rugged country.

Eventually I hit more normal sections of trail, and finally threw down a bivouac after 40 miles, not far from Tahoe City (position 10:00 on the “Lake clock”).

Day 2

This day I hoped to meet the Weezl at Meeks Bay to swap out a phone battery pack, as the navigation sucked up my phone juice pretty quickly. The trail utilized some TRT, but also many other trails. The climbs and drops were more distinct here on the west side, which I felt by the time I arrived at Meeks. Said goodbyes and headed up to see what the Wilderness bypass in this area looked like and to find a bivy site. The route turned southeast off the trail in a place that looked committing to hike, let alone drag a bike, and this was a very long bypass. Yea, no thanks!

I retreated to lower Meeks Creek and flopped near some small pools with fish darting about them.

[Click to View Linked Image]

[Click to View Linked Image]

Day 3

I worked my way back toward the Lake for the road bypass and reconnected with Lake Trail down at Bayview Trail, which ascends aside Cascade Lake to Cascade Falls. This trail is super rugged, and thankfully, riding it was not a question since I was going uphill.

[Click to View Linked Image]

The trail (a very smooth part).

At one point I stopped to decipher the way. An elderly hiker with a dog pointed me in the right direction. He also stated that there “used to be” a trail that continued on beyond the Falls, swinging around the opposite side of Cascade Lake. Said he and friends “tried to” hike it last weekend, but it was now overgrown, and with tree fall, so the route was impassable. I didn’t even bother to mention that I planned to go that way…

The navigation and HAB I had done the previous day made for a good warmup for this section. Giant slabs of rock, drop-offs and much overgrowth were visually intimidating. Another WTF moment…but, WTF. I was too gripped to take my phone off the mount to take pics. Here’s what it looked like:

[Click to View Linked Image]

(Direction of travel goes out the right side of the photo)

[Click to View Linked Image]

After that I decided I would do what I could to stay on at least partially developed trail. I had slid off a talus boulder and was feeling the familiar discomfort of a rib bruise, as well as a biff to my left thigh that made itself known with every step and pedal stroke for the rest of the ride. Glad I was wearing my helmet, because it also contacted granite during the bumble.

Back near the south end of the big lake I encountered more bushwhacking and obscure route finding. The route ahead dipped away from the Lake, and I suspected at least some of this was also undeveloped. (Where no existing trails showed on the GPS app was a good clue it was new or yet-to-be-built trail.)

So I made the decision to stick nearer the Lake and cruise through South Lake Tahoe to where the trail looped back up toward the lakeshore. Part of my rationale for this was that I had a hard date to be finished, and didn’t want to endanger that. I probably missed a half day’s riding/hiking; I’ll know more about that area once I de-brief with Chris.

The remaining trail worked its way back up to the TRT, in an area I’m familiar with. It started looking feasible to finish this day, so I moved forward with that in mind. Once at the Lake Overlook, I knew it was five miles of ripping DH to Spooner TH, the official end of my loop. A rider chugging up made for some nice conversation. So, with the usual late-day second wind and sun starting to drop, I gave the DH my standard risk-mitigation pace (less than all out). My bike handled so well, it was one of those magic moments. A point of vindication. After previous tribulations, what a way to finish. Words truly fail.

At Spooner I turned west on the new Clear Creek Trail extension for the 15-mile ST mostly-drop to Jacks Valley. Stopped at the creek to fill a bottle without treating the water. The fading light made things slightly slower down low, but a bright moon picked up where twilight waned. Chugged the remaining 2.5 miles through the desert and, boom, it was over.


What would I suggest to anyone thinking he wants to do this route (or a version of it)? Do it for the scenery, position, environment and trails. Do it because you love the Lake Tahoe area. Biking was somewhat incidental for me. I did loads of HAB and climb-a-bike. Sometimes your bike is just way to keep from hefting your gear. Sometimes it’s a liability. All the colors of off-road bike adventure are displayed vividly on the Lake Trail.

Social climber
North Conway, NH
  Sep 10, 2018 - 05:39pm PT
Thank you, Chris, for your work on this project! I did a number of sections of the TRT many years ago and was always intrigued by the possibilities squelched by the Wilderness areas. Very cool to see this link up around the lake.

Equally as impressive is that you've only been MTBing for 3 years?!
Stewart Johnson

Gym climber
top lake
  Sep 11, 2018 - 06:37am PT
Very nice!
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
  Sep 11, 2018 - 06:58am PT
Boffo performance, Chris, and thanks for that kind of service to the community. Mike, very nice story and pics. Mtn bikes and climbing are totally sympatico.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
  Sep 11, 2018 - 08:43am PT
Very nice. Thanks for all your effort Chris!

And Mike O. You beast!!

Sonoma County
  Sep 11, 2018 - 08:52am PT
Great trip reports Chris and Mike. It is really cool to see all that you and TAMBA are doing up there.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Sep 11, 2018 - 11:15am PT
Jody, That would be an awesome challenge. Also would be cool to to road bike around, MTB on single track, then hike/run the Tahoe Rim Trail. That will be quite the Trifecta. See map below

Road in Orange, Tahoe Rim Trail in Yellow and proposed MTB trail in Blue

Road in Orange, Tahoe Rim Trail in Yellow and proposed MTB trail in Bl...
Road in Orange, Tahoe Rim Trail in Yellow and proposed MTB trail in Blue
Credit: Chris McNamara
Flip Flop

Earth Planet, Universe
  Sep 11, 2018 - 12:29pm PT
All is forgiven. Supertopo is God

  Sep 11, 2018 - 03:36pm PT
Huge thanks Chris for putting in the work for a western connector trail. We looped the lake a couple of years ago by way of pony express- wrights lake rd- rubicon. A singletrack option replacing the Rubicon will truly make the route world class!
Our route:
Credit: t-bone

Mountain climber
Terence Wilson greeneck alleghenys,ny,
  Sep 11, 2018 - 03:52pm PT
Good work all,looks like quite a loop.

Hope I get there someday.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Oct 2, 2018 - 02:31pm PT
Epic ride, t-bone!

  Oct 2, 2018 - 06:12pm PT
Looks like a full value route, t-bone. Well done, TFPU 👍🏽
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