Pseudonym: Tahoe Mountain
Length: 1.0 mile (southern fork), 3.1 miles (northern fork)
Highlights: Incorporate Valley View into a loop around Tahoe Mountain
Technical: Intermediate – Advanced
Time: 1-3 hours
Season: Late Spring – Fall
Valley View is a short n’sweet, unpopulated, somewhat cluttered downhill singetrack. Not a soul crossed my path while I visited this trail on a crisp, fall afternoon. Such low traffic might explain the trail’s scattered feel. Loose rocks, speckled twigs, pinecone debris, broken shards of bark, and intermittent, overgrown manzanita patches spice up an already challenging mountain biking path.
Yet after observing one of the most picturesque sunsets over Mount Tallac from Tahoe Mountain’s summit, I raise the question – why don’t more mountain bikers flock to Valley View trail?
Ambitious local riders usually incorporate Valley View into a loop around Tahoe Mountain, piecing together a half-day journey, cross-country in nature.
I will describe the loop I tackled recently, incorporating explanations of alternative off-shoots when necessary.
My Loop – Getting There
From South Lake Tahoe’s “Y” intersection take Highway 89 towards Emerald Bay. Drive through Camp Richardson Resort and shortly after, turn left onto Fallen Leaf Lake Road. Continue for about a mile, pass the entrance to Fallen Leaf Lake Campground, and after the road curves right, park on the left-hand side of the pavement, near the forest service green gate.
1.3 Miles of Rock Garden Trail
Rock Garden trail, paralleling Fallen Leaf Lake Road, is famous for its early opening after snowmelt. Locals frequent Rock Garden in May to get a jump-start on the mountain biking season. Enter onto a forest service road at the green gate and take an immediate right onto this punchy, rock-littered trail, equipped with peripheral log stunts for the gutsy. With this approach, Rock Garden is a steady, at times technical, climb to its wrap-up at Tahoe Mountain Road. Watch for downhillers if utilizing this trail as I did – an alternative to gradually ascending, paved Fallen Leaf Lake Road.
1.2 Miles of Pavement
From Rock Garden trail, turn left onto Tahoe Mountain Road for a heart-pumping climb up to a stop sign. Continue straight onto Dundee Circle and follow this road to dead-end Tartan Way. Turn left, witness one of South Lake Tahoe’s log cabin mansions at the corner, and peddle to the lot’s end where Valley View trail commences.
3.1 Miles of Valley View Trail
The trail descends for a bit, traversing tight turns of loose dirt. Enjoy this short-lived downhill, for the singletrack then scales up Tahoe Mountain along a series of significantly graded switchbacks, amidst torched trees and spiny, smoked-out manzanita clusters, redolent of the Angora fire.
Close to the beginning of the ascent, the trail will fork. Take bail-out southern fork (a right-hand turn) for a quick, 0.8 miles of steep, downhill singletrack to Lake Tahoe Boulevard, near Sawmill Pond. Turn left onto a wide, paper flat, parallel trail to Lake Tahoe Boulevard, which dumps out at the South Lake Tahoe High School sign, on the corner of Viking Road and Lake Tahoe Boulevard. Continue on Viking Road to 13th Street, which intersects with the Pope-Baldwin Bike Path (sometimes christened the Camp Richardson Bike Path) just after its crossing with Highway 89. Turn left onto the bike path and follow its rolling course over bridges, through meadows, and past Camp Richardson Resort, to the Fallen Leaf Lake Road turn-off, where your parked car sits.
Otherwise, continue churning up the northern fork of Valley View trail, to Tahoe Mountain’s summit at 7,249 feet elevation, while channeling a masochistic, feel-good sensation evident by lungs gasping for air and legs burning with lactic acid build-up. Near the pinnacle of this trail’s climb, its name comes into play – Valley View. While traversing along the ridgeline of Tahoe Mountain, enjoy vistas of lush valley embracing Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe, hemmed in by a western border of Mount Tallac and Desolation Wilderness peaks, as well as a southeastern rim of Heavenly Mountain Resort, Freel Peak, Monument Peak, and Genoa Peak.
For a brief section at a false summit, the trail morphs into a double-lane, dirt forest road. Look for double-track spur trail on the right to funnel you up to the true apex of the climb, marked by a flimsy wooden shack and ride-on, ride-off log stunt.
Thereafter, Valley View’s padded singletrack finally embarks on a descent, weaving in and out of pencil-thin, charcoal trees and low-lying, unkempt, prickly, blue-green brush. The final section of downhill stretches on a seemingly endless straightaway, covered with consecutive, packed dirt kickers. Pre-load your suspension for a launching good time on this unexpectedly speedy slice of downhill.
Logging roads in the burn area have spoiled the system of connector trails and forest roads at the end of Valley View trail. My best advice is to stay on the singletrack that traverses east, or to the right. While it may cross dugout logging roads, the trail eventually unloads behind South Lake Tahoe High School’s football field.
Follow aforementioned directions to Camp Richardson’s Bike Path for the last leg of asphalt back to your parked car on Fallen Leaf Lake Road.