31 Aug 2020
The biggest network of mountain biking trails in the Tahoe region sits above Tahoe City and the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area. The trails include fairly easy loops near the cross-country ski area, more challenging climbs with views of Lake Tahoe, miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail, and longer jaunts that connect to the expert level Big Chief Trail that eventually leads to Truckee. This past week, I followed one of my favorite routes that brought me to the shore of Watson Lake.
I parked at Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area and headed out on what during the winter months is the Orange Trail to the Whoop De Doo Trail up to the Fiberboard Freeway. Whoop De Doo is part of The Great Race Trail during ski season and includes a series of large bumps that are fun on the way back down.
The Fiberboard Freeway is a paved Forest Service Road that goes from Brockway Summit to Tahoe City (with the last few miles into Tahoe City being dirt, narrower and rough). I took on the steady climb up the Fiberboard to the Tahoe Rim Trail. Here a left turn leads to a steep climb up to Painted Rock where views of Squaw Valley can be found. I went right, enjoying a gentle ascent on one of my favorite miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail to ride (especially on the way back down). At the first junction the TRT turns sharply right, and follows an old fire road with views of Lake Tahoe for several miles before heading uphill at the next junction. At that junction, if you leave the TRT you will soon arrive at the Lakeview Ridge Trail, a winding flow trail leading swiftly down to the top of Tahoe XC’s Lakeview Trail at Kevin’s Crest.
At that first junction with the TRT I went left, quickly reaching the Fiberboard Freeway where I turned right and continued the climb towards Mt. Watson. Near the top, a dirt road heads very steeply up to the top of the mountain, where stunning views of the lake appear, but I continued ahead on an easy ascent past FS06 that leads to Truckee. Soon a paved road to the right heads to Watson lake. I continued a bit further to a single track trail on the right just opposite the Big Chief Trail sign.
Now a gentle downhill on single track led to a junction with the TRT, where a right turn led me in a half mile of climbing to Watson Lake. It’s a shallow lake that is not enticing for a swim, but certainly pretty to look at. A small busy campground accessible by car sits on the southern end of the lake.
I mostly retraced my route with a bit of extra wandering once I got closer to the Tahoe XC lodge and had a very enjoyable 18 mile ride in two and a half hours in the saddle.