Bicycling in the Lake Tahoe area is a popular activity -- and for good reason. Between the alpine lakes, lush forests, and unique topography, the area is a bicyclist’s mecca.
There are an abundance of bike paths for riders of every skill level throughout both North and South Lake Tahoe. The Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition provides a detailed Tahoe Bike Print Map that makes it easy to plan a Tahoe cycling adventure. You can also consult their interactive mobile-friendly map, which offers the most accurate route finding and includes locations of bike shops and bike racks.
One popular leisurely route is the West Shore Bike Cruise, where you’ll ride past small lakeside communities and restaurants to end at Sugar Pine Point State Park. The route includes bike paths and neighborhood streets where you can stop to relax by the water or rent a watercraft for a few hours along the way.
Or enjoy a family ride along the level Historic Truckee River Bike Path. This relaxing bicycle route takes you alongside the Truckee River to the entrance of Squaw Valley. During summer months, you’ll often see people floating on the river. It’s a great ride to stop for a picnic and watch rafters drift downstream.
The Flume Trail, a challenging ride with spectacular views as you ride up Mount Rose Highway or around Marlette Lake, is world-famous. Voted one of the top 10 mountain bike rides in the U.S., you’ll see unparalleled vistas from different perspectives. The trail is narrow at times and caution is recommended. It’s best to get off of your bicycle to take in the views as it’s easy to veer off track while watching the lake. Caution is also recommended on parts of the trail that are soft, decomposed granite, which can cause a rider to lose control.
Bicycle the Pope-Baldwin Bike Path to the beach to skip the heavy traffic during peak season. The ride winds through pine forests near the lakeshore and parallels State Route 89 for a portion of the route, allowing riders a chance to stop at historic and recreational amenities. It’s an easy ride for bikers of all skill levels and has outlets to both Baldwin Beach and Pope Beach.
But Then, There’s This Trail
The Tahoe East Shore Trail, dubbed America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway, opened in June 2019. The three-mile, 10-foot-wide paved trail takes cyclists from Incline Village south to Sand Harbor State Park, one of four Lake Tahoe Nevada state parks. Although the trail spans only three miles, the project took decades to complete and required the integration of multiple federal, state, and local governments. Plans are to have the trail span Lake Tahoe’s entire shoreline. Before the implementation of the Tahoe East Shore Trail, accessing the shoreline was difficult and dangerous.
Here’s why it’s the incredible Lake Tahoe bike trail you must experience.
The Trail Is A Sustainable Way To Discover Lake Tahoe
Instead of traveling Lake Tahoe by car, on the Tahoe East Shore Trail, you’ll use your own peddle power to take you into mountain air and scenery. The trail also offers plenty of access to public beaches.
It’s Free And Easy To Access
Three new parking lots with 90 new parking spaces are available, and all offer direct access to the path. Access to the trail is free -- as is parking, but there will eventually be a small parking fee to help with trail maintenance. During summer months, the Tahoe Transportation District’s East Shore Express and the Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit will both offer bus service to the new trailhead.
You’ll Learn About The Area Along The Route
As enhancements to the trail continue, 23 new educational signs have been added along the path, creating an interpretive trail that educates riders about local wildlife, history, and the environment. The signs were added to enhance the visitor experience and encourage people to take care of the environment. Stop at the various Lake Tahoe overlooks and read about Sand Harbor history, the fish species of Lake Tahoe, and more. Using pictures and words, the signs tell the stories of the area.
The Path Starts At Tunnel Creek Cafe
Fuel up for the ride at the Tunnel Creek Cafe. The cafe, located in the city of Incline Village, is the starting point for the three-mile ride. Enjoy healthy options such as a chicken cobb salad or hummus wrap, or start with a hearty traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs served with toast and potatoes.
The cafe sits adjacent to the backcountry trailhead. After breakfast, rent a bicycle behind the cafe. The trail is multi-use and meant for bicyclists and walkers alike. Although e-bikes are allowed, no scooters or motorbikes are permitted. Rent a traditional bicycle or e-bike behind Tunnel Creek Cafe at the Flume Trail Bike Shop, which is adjacent to the Flume Trail trailhead.
You’ll Begin Your Ride On The Mountain Side Of The Trail
The highway divides the trail such that there’s a mountain side and a lake side. The first mile of the Tahoe East Lake Trail rides on the mountain side with views of Lake Tahoe from above. The mountain side of the trail is the steepest, but it never reaches more than an 8 percent grade.
Continue Along The Shoreline
After the first mile, you’ll cross the highway via a tunnel to enjoy two miles of cycling along the shoreline.
Enjoy 11 Beach Access Points
Bring swimwear if you’d like to cool off with a swim at one of the trail’s 11 beach access points. There are bicycle racks along the path that allow you to lock your bike up while you take a hike or relax on the beach.
Vista Points Make For A Leisurely Ride
There are 16 vista points that allow the opportunity to take a break from riding your bicycle. Read the informational plaques and enjoy the scenery. Along the path, you’ll discover steel trout mounted along the bridges and bears set in concrete to honor the Tahoe Fund donors who helped raise the more than $1 million in private donations needed to secure the public funding for the path.
Learn more about funding here -- you could even have your name added to a bear or trout with a donation!
End At Sand Harbor State Park
At the southern end of the bike path, you arrive at Sand Harbor. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, you’ll find interesting rock formations, beaches, the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe, plus swimming, kayaking, and scuba diving opportunities. The park hosts the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival each summer, so plan your trip around that if interested.
If you need to refuel after the ride before heading back to Incline Village, stop at the Sand Harbor Bar and Grill, located inside the park. Order a hamburger or try the Alaskan wild-caught salmon burger served on a Greek yogurt wheat bun with lettuce, tomatoes, and a lemon caper dill aioli. After an invigorating ride along the beach, you may even want to indulge in a shake, a malt, a soft-serve ice cream cone dipped in chocolate, a chocolate chip cookie, or a 16-ounce root beer float that’s served with as much root beer as you would like.
If you plan to park in one of the designated parking lots, arrive early in the morning to guarantee a spot as the lots fill quickly. Also, if you enjoy the outdoors, you’ll want to add the nine best hikes to experience in Lake Tahoe to your agenda as well.