Arguably one of the most scenic trails in the nation, The Flume Trail is something that should be on everyone’s Tahoe bucket list.
Named for the water flumes that once carried lumber from the Tahoe Basin into Virginia City to provide wood for the Comstock Mines during the 19th century, the Flume Trail is a narrow path that hugs the upper slopes of the Carson Range along the East Shore.
The Flume Trail
14 miles | strenuous
Shuttle, Bike Rentals
Flume Trail Bike Shop | (775) 298-2501 | flumetrailtahoe.com
The Flume Trail is a 14-mile ride that most people choose to shuttle from Spooner Lake Day Use area at the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park to Tunnel Creek Café in Incline Village to start. There is an entrance fee of between $7 and $12 to park at the recreation area. Alternatively, Flume Trail Bike Shop offers a shuttle service from the Tunnel Creek Café for $15 daily through Oct. 31.
The ride begins with a hefty climb, so be prepared. Signs for the Flume Trail will direct riders to North Canyon Road. The dirt fire road winds through beautiful aspen groves while climbing 1,000 ft. in the first 4 miles. Get acquainted with the granny gear on your bike as the last half-mile of climbing toward Marlette Saddle is a real butt kicker. Take comfort in the fact that this is the last major climb of the ride.
Once past the saddle, it’s a quick cruise downhill to Marlette Lake for a break, a snack and maybe a quick dip in the cool water before continuing.
Marlette Lake was built in the late 1800s and the water was conveyed through flumes. Today, the lake is stocked with Brook, Brown, Rainbow and Lahontan cutthroat trout, according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Fishing is catch and release only. Fall is a fantastic time to take in the sights and snap a few photos as the trees around Marlette Lake will be bursting with color.
After relaxing on the shoreline, trying to spot a few fish and taking some photos (don’t forget to post them on Instagram and tag #tahoetime) get back in the saddle and start pedaling around the east side of the lake until you hit the single track. The next part of the ride will is relatively mellow, but some sections feel exposed as the steep hillside drops away on one side of the narrow trail.
For the next few miles, riders are rewarded with stunning views of Lake Tahoe as they ride south along the East Shore. There may be a few sections where riders will have to get off the bike and carry it around places where rockslides have blocked the trail. Be sure to watch your speed on blind corners, as hikers and bikers riding the opposite direction are often encountered. The most difficult part of this section is keeping your eyes on the narrow trail while admiring the scenery.
At the end of the Flume Trail, the route descends 1,500’ in 3-miles ending behind the Tunnel Creek Café. Parts of this section may be a little loose and sandy, but it’s a fun coast to the finish line. The cafe offers a variety of snacks and beverages to reward and refuel after a great ride.