Connecting Tahoe’s bike trails

The East Shore Trail will be completed this fall from Incline Village to Sand Harbor. | Courtesy Tahoe Fund

The Tahoe Basin offers a plethora of bike trails from a gentle ride along the Truckee River, to a tour past South Lake Tahoe’s beaches. But what we don’t yet have, is a bike trail network that circles Lake Tahoe.

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In fact, only about 32 of the lake’s 72-mile shoreline is served by a bike trail. A group of public and private organizations is making a Herculean effort to change that.

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Three important bike-trail segments are under construction now that will narrow the gap. Most dramatically, a 3-mile multi-use trail is being built from Incline Village to Sand Harbor. The East Shore Trail is set to be completed this fall. It will begin at a large parking lot in Incline near the Tunnel Creek Cafe. From there it will travel along the lakeshore through a tunnel and across a 900-foot-long bridge. It will be one of the most beautiful and expensive trails ever built. Hopefully it will not only serve as a popular bike and walking route, but as a way to reduce the number of cars making the trip to busy Sand Harbor.

Adding to this is a new bike trail segment from Dollar Hill outside Tahoe City that will connect behind neighborhoods in Carnelian Bay that will one day connect to Kings Beach and on to Northstar and then Truckee.

The East Shore Trail will be completed this fall from Incline Village to Sand Harbor. | Courtesy Tahoe Fund

“The Dollar Creek Shared Use Path is set to be completed this summer. This will be 2.2 miles of new-paved path through the woods toward Old County Road. One day it will connect all the way to North Tahoe Regional Park in Tahoe Vista. This will be a great trail to teach kiddos to bike, as it is off the road,” said Amy Berry, chief executive officer of the Tahoe Fund, an organization which was a key link in funding the trail to Sand Harbor.

The bike trail along Tahoe’s West Shore goes from Tahoe City to the southern edge of Sugar Pine Point State Park, just an enticingly short distance from the lovely beach and trail into Desolation Wilderness at Meeks Bay. But the road is narrow with no shoulder, making an on-the-road jaunt a sketchy one. A three-quarter-mile extension to Meeks Bay will enable beachgoers to safely ride to the popular sandy paradise. It is scheduled for completion by the end of the summer.

What are the next steps in completing the loop around Lake Tahoe? One proposed addition is the area between Sand Harbor and Spooner Summit on the East Shore.

The East Shore Trail will be completed this fall from Incline Village to Sand Harbor. | Courtesy Tahoe Fund

“There is a wastewater export line that runs along there. The sewer line needs repair, so the plan would be to piggy back the pipeline project and a bike trail together,” said Tom Lotshaw, public information officer for Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. This segment would be about 8 miles. “There is broad support for that vision — as funding allows,” said Lotshaw.

According to Tahoe Transportation District manager Carl Hasty a shared-use path around the lake is “a really desirable thing to provide safe access for everyone.” He says that the proposed path to Spooner Summit would be combined with more off-highway parking areas in an effort to alleviate the dangerous conditions that prevail when hundreds of cars park precariously along the steep, narrow highway.

Several other small sections on the South Shore are in the works including in Stateline, Nev., from the Edgewood Golf Course to Round Hill Pines. The next steps include connecting Edgewood to downtown Stateline and to connect Round Hill Pines to northward to Zephyr Cove.

“We are really trying to connect to the major public beaches, so people have an alternative mode to get where they want to go to,” said Hasty.

The biggest challenges to completing the around-the-lake vision are Emerald Bay and Crystal Bay. In both places the highway is narrow and travels through extremely steep terrain, which may never allow construction of a separate bike trail. But the trail extensions currently being built allow for new opportunities for people to ride to some of their favorite Tahoe destinations.

Tahoe bike trails to ride

South Lake Tahoe trail: The 11-mile Forest Bicycle Trail passes a string of beaches from Stateline, Nev., to the Taylor Creek Visitor Center on State Route 89.

Tahoe City to Olympic Valley: This gentle journey from 64 Acres in Tahoe City to Olympic Valley follows the Truckee River.

Tahoe City to Sugar Pine Point: This continuous path runs 10 miles along the lakeshore and through forested neighborhoods. It’s an easy route with just a few hills. It passes several beaches and parks along the way.