Astounding beauty on Tahoe Pyramid Bikeway

Story & photos by Tim Hauserman · 

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The Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway is a 116-mile pathway under construction between Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake. It began in 2003 with the vision of Janet Phillips, now president of the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway, the nonprofit that is bringing the vision to reality. With exciting additions to the route over the last few years, the trail is about 75 percent complete combining paved bike trail and bike lane, dirt roads and single track.

The Truckee River corridor is a challenging place to build a trail. Begin with an often-narrow canyon, add in a major freeway, busy railroad line, the Truckee River and a myriad of privately owned industrial water and power facilities, and there isn’t a lot of room left for a trail.

But the effort is being handsomely rewarded, as the trail brings the rider or hiker to a bucolic setting along the Truckee River. Those of us who have driven to Reno a thousand times, will be astounded with the beauty that can be found hidden below the roaring freeway.

It all starts at Big Blue
The route begins at Fanny Bridge and follows the Truckee River downstream. This year’s completion of the Truckee Legacy Trail makes it possible to ride your bike from Tahoe City to the edge of Boca, staying on bike trail, bike lane or neighborhood street almost the entire route (the exception being the somewhat sketchy mile on West River Street, which is scheduled for an upgrade to better accommodate bikes sin the future).

From East River Street, the gentle Legacy trail brings you along the river from Truckee to a series of switchbacks that ends at the edge of Glenshire. From there, a ride through the development brings you to the edge of Hirschdale. Unfortunately, from there to Floriston is not yet built. But from Floriston downstream, things are looking up.

Newly completed trail travels 2.5 miles from Floriston to Farad. From Farad, there is a 1-mile gap of that is scheduled to be built this year. Once that is complete, the trail will be 10 miles on single track, dirt roads and paved roads from Floriston to Verdi.

From Verdi, it’s smooth sailing along the river on road and bike paths. It passes a number of riverside parks before reaching downtown Reno. The path then continues through Reno, past Sparks to Vista. Between there and Pyramid Lake, there are several sections to be built, but the trail follows dirt roads along the river between Mustang and Clark, and the route from Wadsworth to Pyramid Lake is open. There is a fee to ride in the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation.

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Riding along the Truckee River between Floriston and Farad · 

Floriston to Farad
I set out on a Saturday morning with a mountain biking friend to explore some of the dirt highlights of the trail. This 4-mile round-trip is suited to any rider.

To access the trail, head east on I-80 about 12 miles from Truckee to the Floriston exit. At the off-ramp, drive under the freeway, and up onto the ridge high above the river, where the trail begins. It follows smooth, single track carved out of piles of talus, then passes by the remains of the Lincoln Highway, where stone walls and paved sections can be seen.

The trail leaves the old highway, and drops on dirt trail under the freeway, to the edge of the Truckee River. The dirt road wanders through lovely, riparian vegetation, with the river in view most of the time. Just before reaching Farad, a walking bridge crosses over a hydroelectric plant built in 1899. At Farad, turn around and return the way you came, or leave a second car.

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Falls from a flume between Verdi and Farad · 

Verdi to Puny Dip Creek
From Truckee, take I-80 to the first Verdi exit, across the freeway from Gold Ranch. At the stop sign, turn right, pass over the river and take the first right turn, which quickly brings you to the start of the ride at Crystal Peak Park.

Ride south on Crystal Peak Road to S. Verdi Road, which goes under the freeway to a right turn onto Quilici Ranch Road. Now, follow the paved road that is close to the railroad tracks. It becomes dirt and for the next several miles winds up and down, mostly up, often steeply, with the river in view much of the time.

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View from single track south of Fleish Bridge · 

The road passes waterfalls, ancient wooden and concrete flumes with swiftly flowing water, hydroelectric facilities and fields of wildflowers. About 3 miles in, a long, steep descent (that will hurt like a son of a gun on the way back) takes the rider to a small bridge crossing over a flume. A short section of single track leads to the Fleish Bridge, which is suspended over a huge pool with high rock formations above.

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A wooden flume high above the trail · 

After the bridge, dirt road and old highway climb nearly to the freeway, before leading to a mile-long section of single track carved out of a steep bank. The narrow trail dishes out spectacular views and a few cliff edgy sections before coming to a stop next to the river about 6 miles from the start in Verdi.

For detailed descriptions, maps, conditions and closure updates, visit tahoepyramidbikeway.org.

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Tim Hauserman
Tim Hauserman wrote the official guidebook to the Tahoe Rim Trail, as well as “Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children” and the children’s book “Gertrude’s Tahoe Adventures in Time.” Most of the year he writes on a variety of topics, but you will find him in the winter teaching cross-country skiing and running the Strider Gliders program at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area. He has lived in Tahoe since he was a wee lad and loves to be outdoors road and mountain biking, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking and cross-country skiing.