By bike & boat | Touring South Lake Tahoe

Crossing Taylor Creek bridge along the bike path with Freel Peak in the distance. | Tim Hauserman

Interested in exploring South Lake Tahoe this summer but want to avoid the traffic? Park your car on the outskirts of town and ride a bike. An easy 13-mile bike route leads from Baldwin Beach on State Route 89 to Round Hill Pines Resort Beach on State Route 50 a few miles into Nevada. Want to make this adventure more fun and relaxing? End your trip by hopping on Action Watersports of Tahoe’s Water Taxi for a beautiful boat ride back to the dock at The Beacon Bar & Grill at Camp Richardson.

Explore the waterfalls at Van Sickle State Park

This life-long North Tahoe resident has always been curious about South Lake’s network of bike trails. I’ve often caught a quick glimpse of trail through the trees while on my way to hike up Mount Tallac, but I’d never ventured out on a long ride. On July 1, armed with the Tahoe Bike Map from the Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition, I was ready to explore the trails.

I parked at Taylor Creek Visitor Center and was on the trail by 8:30 a.m. I began by riding away from my final destination so I could go to the end of the trail past Baldwin Beach. Here I passed over the Taylor Creek bike bridge, which is a favorite spot for Kokanee spawning in the fall. It was a pleasant ride through the forest, with filtered views of Mount Tallac’s cross popping up through the trees. I passed busy Camp Richardson and near several campgrounds before crossing over a beautiful bridge spanning a meadow area; then I was suddenly on a residential street. When you ride, keep your eyes open for Bike Route signs from here on out because the route takes some twists and turns as it makes its way across the city. I had to refer to my map a few times, but in general the signs are pretty clear.

The route continues on Eloise Street, which parallels usually unseen State Route 50. It’s a mix of residential use with some light commercial and industrial, but with a lot less traffic. After crossing Tahoe Keys Boulevard, the route alternates between short bike-trail jaunts across pretty marshy areas with glimpses of the mountains, to sections on residential streets. Eventually, the trail merges with State Route 50, but stays off the busy highway. A highlight here was a several-hundred-yards section along the lake shore.

The Lake Tahoe Water Taxi. | Tim Hauserman

The next mile or so was a ride alongside State Route 50 on a bike trail/sidewalk that can be a bit congested. When you reach Heavenly Village Road, take that right turn and head up toward Van Sickle Park. At the park turn left on Lake Parkway, which circles back around the casinos. This road meets State Route 50 where you turn right. Now comes the only sketchy section of the ride, a several hundred yards ride on the busy highway to Kingsbury Grade. There you cross the road and traveling on the left side are now back on a bike lane.

In just a short distance you reach Kahle Drive and my favorite part of the ride. A trailhead with restrooms begins a separated bike trail romp through meadows and forest to two amazing beaches: Nevada Beach and Round Hill Pines Beach Resort. Both beaches are more easily and cheaply accessed via bike than car. There is no bike entrance fee and the bike trail goes right to the beaches.

I arrived at Round Hill Pines an hour before my scheduled Water Taxi, so I lounged just above the water at Nevada Beach for a half hour, then returned to Round Hill Pines to ponder the world from under an umbrella at the resort’s outdoor restaurant. They also have an enticing looking bar right on the sand, as well as kayak rentals.

The view along the bike trail near Lakeview Commons. | Tim Hauserman

The Water Taxi holds about 50 passengers and slices gently through Tahoe’s waves. The staff was friendly, and the boat ride was relaxing and beautiful as we traversed off the shore heading toward Mount Tallac. You can get on and off the boat at any of their four stops. The taxi allows you to avoid the traffic and get out on the lake. An adult one-way ticket is $15 and a one-way child ticket is $10. There are bike racks on board, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this bike and water taxi thing is the way to do the South Shore.

To complete my excellent South Lake Tahoe adventure, I got off the boat at Camp Richardson and strolled right off the dock into The Beacon Bar & Grill. The food was great, but so was the setting. The outside seating is right on the beach, about 30 feet from the lake.

A few tips for your journey: Start early and bring a bike lock, bathing suit and towel — and you are ready to make a day of it. |,