Ever since I purchased my first my mountain bike, I have wanted to loop around the Tahoe Rim Trail (the TRT). The pure notion of riding your mountain bike on nothing but alpine singletrack around California’s largest (by water volume) lake was immensely appealing. However, I had not done much in depth research about bikepacking this trail. When you really start examining which sections of the TRT are legal to bike versus off limits to bike, the simple idea of circling the lake on your bike on one single trail quickly becomes complicated and convoluted. There are many blogs out there about this route, and each has a different opinion on which route to take. I suppose I am no different. There are at least 15 ways to skin this cat. As a starting point, there is a great website about the Tahoe Rim Trail complete with GPS files that are very useful. Wes found Ride the Tahoe Rim Page on facebook, created by Matt Reynolds from Truckee, CA. 567eMatt’s route shared a lot of the California Sierra Trail Race which was created by Sean Allen from Auburn, CA; but it was also quite different in a few sections. We both figured that Matt’s route was probably the most reliable and current route for only circling Lake Tahoe, so that is the course we set out to ride. Alan (from Mammoth Lakes) met Wes and me in Tahoe City. Alan (an internet friend whom I had actually never met in person) was already sleeping in his truck when we arrived later than originally planned at 11:30 pm. Wes’ family has a condo in Tahoe City on the lake, so that is where we started. Choosing Tahoe City as a starting point was our first big mistake, which I will get to later. Our late arrival got us to bed around 1:00 am, so our intended starting time of 5:30 am quickly got thrown out the window. We only had 3 days and 2 nights to complete the route, so this was our second big mistake, and we had not even started! Anywho, (as Alan likes to say instead of ‘anyhow’,) after getting coffee and breakfast burritos we started at about 8:30am. Despite the prediction for poor weather this weekend, it was a perfect fall Tahoe morning. We found the trailhead and started climbing up to the rim, and quickly got lost. Looking back on Matt’s route, we missed it right from the start. After restudying our track, it looks like we started going downhill on Mt. Watson Road for some reason. Oh well, just another 30 minutes lost. I knew the rim trail had some chunk, but this section was particularly scrumptious. I could quickly tell I was going to like this route. There was nothing crazy hard about the trail, but there were plenty of ups and downs which kept our average speed at about 5-6 MPH or so, which is about the speed I expected. The first water source we rode past was Watson Lake. We didn’t need water by this point and the water in this lake looked pretty low and stagnant. Watson Lake is not an exceptionally beautiful lake and there were actually quite a few people here. This section of the TRT is easy to access for day trips and we saw a ton of hikers and other mountain bikers on the trail. After Watson, there were some very fun sections of trail. Flowy, chunky and perfect. So fun I just rode through and did not take any photos (I always do that). Then things got a little funky. First there was some hike-a-bike uphill that was a bit underused. Then it got so steep and junky, that we had to walk our bikes downhill. What was the point of the hike-a-bike up? We did pass by a British mobster looking guy doing trail maintenance by himself that was packing some heat (he had a handgun strapped to his shorts). Needless to say, we did not pose for any photos with him. He was a mountain biker so perhaps there might be hope for this section of trail after all. But he will need a lot more manpower to make this section good. So I will throw this idea out there as an alternate: Here is the “funky” section we did: Maybe I am missing something and there are trespassing issues with this alternate, but could something like this perhaps be more enjoyable? Anywho, after the hike-a-bike bushwack section, we finally arrived in the town of Incline Village. I have been to Tahoe at least 15 times, but I have never been to this part of the lake. It’s one of the more sleepy towns along the lake, but plenty of services. We decided on Rookies, a sports bar / casino. Oh yeah, we were in Nevada now after all. Our waitress was quite friendly but her English was not very bueno. She was a transplant from Romania. I suppose eastern Europeans like her enjoy little mountain towns like this. It probably feels like home. After Incline Village, we could see the bad weather finally starting to arrive. Just some clouds, but you could tell a storm was a brewing. We were again faced with several route options. We originally wanted to take the CSTR route which climbs all the way back up to the TRT. However, with the storm quickly approaching we decided to stay lower and take the Flume Trail, which is the way Matt’s route goes. Wes had some other shortcut to access the Flume Trail, but we did not have the GPX file for it. I am pretty sure Wes’s option took Tunnel Creek Road up to Flume Trail, which is probably another viable option (maybe even the fastest): However, we decided to more or less take Matt’s route up to Highway 431 because that is the GPX file we all had said. Highway 431 is awful. Constant cars going at least 60 MPH that give you no room. Not fun at all. The CSTR route follows this highway all the way up to the Tahoe Rim Trail which is a full 8 miles on the pavement. I am just playing devils advocate here, but I wonder about this option below that would skip most of the highway and instead climb steep switchbacked residential roads up to the highway. Still way better than riding on the highway in my humble opinion. This would limit the highway riding to only about 1 mile until you reach the Flume Trail. A definite improvement than what we did. The last alternate, if you prefer to go up to the TRT instead of the Flume Trail (this may have been part of the original CSTR route), is to take OLD Highway 241, which I believe is mostly dirt. This would keep you off the highway for the majority of the climb until you reach the TRT trailhead. I can’t really speak to this option since we did not ride it, but it looks like the way to go if you were headed all the way back up to the TRT. Anywho, enough with the different route options! I told you it is convoluted! After we got off the highway it felt like we were bikepacking again! The Flume Trail is world class. Flowy and slightly downhill, with excellent views down to the lake – it is a true gem. The sun set on us just before we got to Marlette Lake. We had to snap some photos and video. We made good time through this section. Just after sunset, we finally we caught up to Alan waiting for us at Marlette Lake. It was pretty clear by now that he was the strongest rider of the 3 of us, as I suspected he would be. Marlette Lake would probably make for a good spot to camp for the night, but we only had 3 days to do this ride and it was not raining yet, so we opted for getting closer to Spooner Lake instead. I had been to Spooner Lake before to ride, I and knew it was a little too close to the highway to make for a pleasant camping spot, so around 8:30 pm we found a little stream crossing our path and decided to set up shop there. About 10 minutes after we stopped, it started to rain pretty good. Wes and I are creatures of comfort and had tents. Alan is clearly more bad ass than us and he just a had a bivvy. This night I felt pretty damn good about my decision to bring a little more weight and have a nice dry tent for the night. I slept like a baby on Vicodin.