The grandeur of the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail

Interstate 80, Truckee River and the railroad tracks share this narrow, steep canyon with the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail. | Tim Hauserman

On Oct. 3, a new section of Tahoe-Pyramid Trail was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting. Now through a combination of paved bike trail, bike lane and single track, a rider or hiker can make his or her way all the way from Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City to Sparks.

The Trail
Hiking, mountain biking & road biking

23 miles | Tahoe City to Hirschdale

16 miles | Hirschdale to Verdi, Nev.

20 miles | Verdi to Sparks (no current connection to Mustang)

10 miles | Mustang (no current connection to Wadsworth)

24 miles | Wadsworth to Pyramid Lake

This last segment, the Floriston Trail, was the most challenging to build because of a combination of tricky factors: the Truckee River, a steep and narrow canyon, Interstate 80 and railroad tracks, all vying for limited space. The trail was late to the party — all the prime real estate was already spoken for. Given those parameters, the trail builders did an amazing job of constructing a narrow trail on the steep slope. They used rocks, wood bracing and some guide rails to build a gently descending trail in a location that had seemed impossible to use.

For the next several miles, the trail parallels Interstate 80 along the top of the steep canyon. The views of the river and ridge are quite spectacular.

I began my ride of the new segment at the end of Hirschdale Road outside Truckee. The first mile was on a narrow, lightly used paved road with lots of potholes — a nice warmup. Then I reached the trail itself, a single track. For the next several miles, the trail parallels Interstate 80 along the top of the steep canyon. The views of the river and ridge are quite spectacular even though I was close to the interstate. I even got a good gander at that log home at the bottom of the canyon that I have always been curious about.

The Hogback, a section of wood trail hanging on to the side of the mountain. | Tim Hauserman

A big challenge for me was the height — I have a fear of heights, so I was spending less time looking at that view and more time wondering what in the heck I was doing on this trail. The next 2 miles were a continuous traverse across a steep slope with a drop off just below the trail with what seemed like nothing but air between me and the railroad tracks and river far below. Yeah, I know — hard to catch your breath reading that last sentence, just like it was for me on this trail. I ended up walking my bike a good portion of the next 2 miles.

Eventually, the trail rounded the bend and reached the edge of the Truckee River where I took a deep breath in, exhaled loudly and marveled at the grandeur of the area. Next, the trail began a series of switchbacks up to the top of a mound just before Floriston. It was great to be riding again, even if it was a steep and challenging section. Once this obstacle was conquered, it was time to dismount because the trail reached a steep set of stairs that dropped about 65 feet to The Hogback: a boardwalk hanging onto the steep slope just above Jaws, a popular rapid on the Truckee River. The next segment to Farad began via an underpass of Interstate 80.

At The Hogback, I ran into Richard May who has been project foreman for this new trail for the last three years. He was finishing up the final details including trying to get rid of a recalcitrant rock leaning up against the trail. Just a few minutes later at the underpass, I met Janet Phillips, the president of the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail, who has been spearheading this dream into a reality for more than 15 years.

Tahoe-Pyramid Trail reaches the Truckee River, south of Floriston. | Tim Hauserman

Riding from Tahoe City to Sparks
Tahoe-Pyramid Trail begins at Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City and follows bike paths and lanes along Highway 89, connects to West River Street in Truckee and the Truckee River Legacy Trail, then continues to the end of Glenshire Drive.

Trail map. | Tim Hauserman

For the next 15 miles, the trail is more suited to mountain bikes than road bikes. After Floriston, the trail follows an old road bed turned to trail and dives under the interstate to a gentle roll on a double-wide dirt tread close to the river. Along the way, dismount and walk up some stairs to cross over a pipe leading to the Farad powerhouse.

At Farad, the trail narrows and continues to follow the river downstream. Eventually, the trail returns to double track and crosses the Truckee River at Fleisch Dam and Bridge, a visual highlight of the trip.

Rest up because next the biggest climb of the route heads up steeply. From the top, a dirt road continues, mostly downhill, passing old flumes, a waterfall and the Fleisch power station to Quilici Ranch Road, which is pavement and leads into Verdi.

From here, the trail becomes more suitable for road bikes again. It is all pavement via road and bike lanes into Reno and on to Sparks. Future sections will connect Sparks to a 10-mile section completed in Mustang and finish the missing link between Mustang and Wadsworth to complete the trail to Pyramid Lake. The Tahoe-Pyramid Trail will be 114 miles when complete. |