Serene cycling to Blue Lakes

Just 11 miles south of Meyers, at the intersection of State Routes 88 and 89 is Hope Valley. Here begins one of my favorite road bike rides in the Tahoe region. Hope Valley and the 12-mile ride from the valley to Blue Lakes are a biker’s dream: smooth roads, doable climbs and spectacular alpine scenery. Oh, and just for kicks, there is a lake at the end. It’s a lot of goodness packed into 28 miles of riding.

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Top of the pass on Blue Lakes Road looking toward Freel Peak.

While the ride is awesome, the drive to the start is pretty dang nice, as well. From Meyers, take Route 89 south over Luther Pass. If you wait until fall to take on this ride, you are in for a treat because there are aspen groves all along the drive, especially on the descent into Hope Valley from Luther Pass. At Route 88, turn right and take another quick right into a small, unsigned rest stop with restroom and access to the Carson River. Park here to begin your ride.

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“The ascent is steady through a mostly Lodgepole forest,
with a few scattered junipers to add dimension to the
stunning vistas of the high peaks, the alpine meadows
and the granite outcroppings.”

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From the parking lot, turn right and ride on a gentle uphill across Hope Valley. The high peaks of Carson Pass lie straight ahead while Hope Valley sits peacefully on your right, bordered by aspen groves. Route 88 can be a relatively busy road with a smattering of big trucks, so stay well to the right, on your toes and pedal hard. In 2 miles, take a left turn onto Blue Lakes Road.

Blue Lakes Road is a recently resurfaced, smooth ribbon of asphalt with little traffic. It is used for snowmobiling and skiing in the winter with several improved and informal campgrounds along the route for summer. In the fall, after the campers have dwindled, the road is a bikers’ Shangri-La.

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Blue Lakes

The ride starts out mostly level until you pass the Hope Valley campground where it begins to ascend. It doesn’t look that steep, but you find yourself huffing and puffing and looking down and wondering where that extra gear is. The ascent is steady through a mostly Lodgepole forest, with a few scattered junipers to add dimension to the stunning vistas of the high peaks, the alpine meadows and the granite outcroppings. At one point, you are riding through Faith Valley; Charity Valley has to be around here somewhere.

Eventually the climb reaches an almost treeless pass at more than 8,000 feet with a panoramic view showing you the way you came. The last mile to the pass can get windy and cold, so dress in layers.

A several mile descent rolls past hemlock, western white pine and a few more meadows before crossing the Pacific Crest Trail just before the first of the Blue Lakes. A quick jaunt through a campground brings you to the end of pavement and the edge of the shore. It’s a charming mountain lake that seems the prefect place to swim, if you don’t mind riding another 14 miles with wet shorts.

Now, the riding really shines. You have a mile of climbing to the unnamed pass. For there, it’s 10 miles of glorious downhill. Some of the descent is a bit fast, but most is a blast — a chance to pedal hard on a gentle downhill feeling like a super hero because you got back to your car so fast.

 

ALTERNATIVES

  • Start at the Tahoe Rim Trail Big Meadow Trailhead on the way to Luther Pass and ride down to Hope Valley for a longer ride. On the return, you could take the rough paved road at the back of the rest-stop parking lot. It climbs up to the top of Luther Pass. This adds about 8 miles to the round trip.
  • The truly energetic (or crazy) can start back at Fallen Leaf Lake and ride on lightly traveled roads most of the way. This turns it into a 66-mile route with 4,600 feet of climbing. Google Fallen Leaf Lake to Blue Lakes Road ride for directions.
  • If Route 88 is too crowded, start at the beginning of Blue Lakes Road and drop off 4 miles of riding.
  • Hike it instead of biking it. Catch the Pacific Crest Trail near Blue Lakes and hike south to Tamarack Lake and the Sunset Lakes or hike north toward Carson Pass.

 

READ MORE

Alpine awe in Hope Valley

 

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