Bike to the beach | New trails ease access to popular beaches

The Tahoe East Shore Trail. | Tim Hauserman

In June, Tahoe East Shore Trail opened extending from Incline Village, Nev., to Sand Harbor State Park. Earlier this spring, the West Shore Bike Trail opened extending beyond Sugar Pine Point State Park to Meeks Bay Resort. The two trails combined add only 4 miles of paved multi-use trails to Tahoe’s extensive network of trails. However, they are key connectors and game-changers for locals and visitors because now two of Tahoe’s favorite beaches are accessible via bike or foot.

Where the trail ends at Meeks Bay. | Tim Hauserman

Tahoe East Shore Trail

Tahoe East Shore Trail is 3 miles long, but it was a monumental undertaking to plan, finance and construct. Most of it was built on a rocky, steep slope in the narrow area between the highway and one of Tahoe’s most spectacular shorelines.

One way the planners dealt with the challenging terrain was to include six bridges, including one that is 810 feet long — the longest bridge in the Tahoe Basin. There is also a tunnel under State Route 28 eliminating the need to cross this busy road, 23 separate view pullouts, a restroom facility and numerous lake access points with bike racks. There is even a bike maintenance station at the key tunnel intersection.

The result is a trail that provides incomparable views of the lakeshore. While Sand Harbor is certainly one of the prettiest locations on the planet, the journey to get there is just as nice as the destination. And for many, the purpose of the trail will not be to reach Sand Harbor, but just to explore a few miles of stunning scenery away from the highway.

Users of the trail can begin their ride from one of a series of parking lots lined up along State Route 28 in front of Tunnel Creek Café. Long-time locals will remember this as the location of the Ponderosa Ranch of “Bonanza” TV fame.

Tunnel Creek Cafe is also at the end of the famous Flume Trail mountain-biking route that starts at Spooner Summit. Amy Berry, CEO of Tahoe Fund, which helped raise more than $1 million toward the construction of the trail, envisions many Flume Trail riders wanting to end their ride by taking a dip in the lake via Tahoe East Shore Trail.

“I think the most remarkable thing I have witnessed on the path so far is the huge diversity of people who are walking and riding it: from the very young to the aged and across many ethnicities. It is so inviting to everyone and giving so many new people wonderful access to the East Shore for the first time,” she said.

The new West Shore Bike Trail. | Tim Hauserman

West Shore Bike Trail

The 1-mile extension from Sugar Pine State Park to Meeks Bay allows folks to safely access the lovely sand at Meeks Bay and the busy Meeks Creek trailhead into the Desolation Wilderness. Before completion of this segment, Tahoe Trailways Bike Path, which begins in 64-Acres Park in Tahoe City, ended at the edge of the road at the southern border of Sugar Pine Point State Park. This left riders and walkers enticingly close to Meeks Bay, but on the busy, narrow and curvy State Route 89.

West Shore Bike Path parallels the highway on the lakeside for about a half mile, giving users a few glimpses of Lake Tahoe and then it switchbacks several times, easing the grade, before rolling right to the entrance of Meeks Bay Resort’s Wa-She-Shu Grille. The 10-mile-long Tahoe Trailways Bike Path from Tahoe City now has a truly world-class ending to all that pedaling or walking.

Tips for trail blazing

Bring plenty of water and food, sunscreen, a bike lock, a towel and a swimsuit — and you are set for the day. Park the car and hike it or walk it— and take one more car off the busy highways.