Tahoe Rim Trail South - Mountain Biking

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Summary

This 23.2 section offers riders a challenging mountain bike ride on the southern portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Written by

Aaron Hussmann

Distance

23.2 miles

This is the distance from the Kingsbury South trailhead to the Big Meadow trailhead.

Destination Distance From Downtown

12.2 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

This is a long, sun-exposed trail with persistent climbs.

Time To Complete

5 hours

This assumes an average pace of around 4.5 miles per hour, giving plenty of leeway for the hot climbs on this route.

Seasonality

Summer and Fall

This is best accomplished when high elevation snow has fully melted out.

Dog Friendly

No

The considerable lack of water sources make this one bike ride to leave your dogs at home.

Fees Permits

No

No parking fees are required at either trailhead and no permit is necessary.

Review

Intro

This 23.2 mile segment of the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail to Big Meadow is one of the most scenic single-track mountain bike trails in the region, but it certainly makes you “earn your turns.”  If attempted in one shot, this long but worthwhile adventure provides ample opportunity for thigh-burning climbs and flowing downhill singletrack. This is a long, mostly sun-exposed mountain bike ride with limited opportunity for water, so bringing H2O -- carrying a small water filter is a good idea. 

What Makes It Great

Starting from the Tahoe Rim Trail Kingsbury trailhead at Heavenly’s Stagecoach lodge, your thighs quickly get a workout with a 5.1 mile, 1,300 foot up and down climb to Monument Pass. This section traverses through Heavenly’s Mott Canyon, allowing ample opportunity for you to dream about steep powder days during this hot climb. Interestingly, the trail also passes by the largest Western White Pine in Sierras, and this sucker is huge. 

Monument Pass is somewhat of a misnomer for this trail, as the route continues to gain slight elevation for 3.7 miles to the appropriately named Star Lake at 9,100 feet. Star Lake acts as a welcome oasis on this otherwise dry and sun-exposed segment of TRT. This is a great place for a quick snack and water refill if bringing a filter. Bikers also have the option of descending the fun and flowing single track down to High Meadows and Cold Creek to make a big loop back to the base of Heavenly (a bus or car shuttle may be needed). 

Continuing past Star Lake, the trail keeps the thigh burning going with a 2.0 mile, 500 foot climb to Freel Pass with stunning views dropping to High Meadow with Lake Tahoe in the distance. Your thighs can breathe a sigh of relief as the trail descends 900 feet over 2.9 miles to Armstrong Pass, cruising through a few lush wildflower and waterfall grottos. 

From Armstrong Pass the trail climbs a steep 800 feet to Freel Meadows with huge swaths of blooming Mule’s Ear. From Freel Meadows, the trail begins its fun, twisting, and mellow descent to Big Meadow, dropping an awesome 2,100 feet over approximately 5 miles.

Who is Going to Love It

This is a perfect long single-track trail for intermediate to expert mountain bikers looking for a backcountry touring challenge. With more than a dozen miles of grueling, sun-exposed climbs, this is certainly not a mountain bike ride for beginners. However, the flowing down hills and stunning vistas make this a worthwhile ride for those willing to put in the effort. Mountain bikers should bring plenty of food and water, along with the typical tools, repair kits, and first aid kits necessary for a long day spent away from easy access.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Parking is free at both the Kingsbury Trailhead and the Big Meadow Trailhead. If seeking to do this as a point to point ride, it is recommended to leave one car at each trailhead or arrange a ride with friends. 

No permits are required for this portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail. However, because the Tahoe Rim Trail is also heavily used by hikers, mountain bikers and hikers alike should be aware of trail etiquette. Ideally, mountain bikers should always yield to hikers. Respect between all user groups is always the best option. For more information about Tahoe mountain biking and trail stewardship, visit the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association at tamba.org.

Location

Kingsbury South Trailhead

38.960722, -119.88622

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