North Tahoe: Mountain Bike Mecca

As his mountain bike spun forward in mid-air all I could see was the black rubber of its wheels as they went over my friend’s head and I had just one thought “has he fully recovered from that ski injury a year ago?”


We were at the trailhead about five minutes before and this was supposed to be the tame, coasting part of the ride. We casually passed hikers and little kids then before I knew it my buddy was doing high-speed yoga right in front of me. He got up with a dumbfounded look on his face and said, “Uh, I guess I didn’t see that” as he pointed to a little water drainage ditch in the trail. Laughing, we continued the ride which is one of the best in all of Tahoe. It doesn’t have a proper name but it winds down the East Shore from the Mt. Rose Meadow all the way to Chimney Beach, a distance of about 21 miles.


The beauty of mountain biking here is that you can transport yourself from the really pretty thoroughfares of Tahoe to the incredible backwaters and unbelievable backcountry that’s all around. As a full-time resident it’s easy to get caught in a routine but I have been absolutely blown away by simply pedaling up and out into the slightly remote sections of this place. As tourists others have the luxury of unplanned days and can get out to these spots if the mood strikes. And it is in these varied places that you see the funkiest of trees, hear the strangest of sounds, and sometimes get the peace of mind that only exists out in the wild.


There are two major networks of trails around the North and West Shores. One is at the Nordic Center by Dollar Point. The other starts near Granlibakken Resort (Tahoe City) and is generally referred to as Paige Meadows. This is a classic riding zone with awesome single-track trails, tough uphills, some man-made bike bridges and features, and also enough options that it’s fun to just poke around and see where you end up.

The highlight is the number of interconnected high-alpine meadows that link up to frame the most beautiful views of snowy peaks and quiet marshes. Right now the wildflowers are blooming and the lupine are just beginning to come into their own.  With tacky ground it’s like a moderate powder day for skiers and when your crossover sport reminds you of your favorite sport, well that’s always a good thing!

There are two easy ways to get to this immense network of hiking and biking trails. One is to pedal to the back of Granlibakken and you’ll see a light-blue sign for the famous Tahoe Rim Trail. The other is to go up Rawhide Drive – when it dead ends you’ll see a double-track trail heading up. You get a helicopter view of  Granlibakken after about 15 minutes of huffing. 15 more and you’ll be in sublime Paige Meadows.

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