Flume Trail (just east of Lake Tahoe)

OTE Ratings: O8/T4/E8
Distance: 24 miles
Climbing: ~2600 feet
Time: 6 hours



A long but beautiful ride, past a pretty man-made lake and with some awesome views of Lake Tahoe. Several quite sandy spots. As one of the most popular rides near Tahoe, this trail can get pretty crowded on summer weekends.

Directions to the start

Take US Highway 50 east of South Lake Tahoe, to the junction with Nevada highway 28. Go left (north), and then turn right into Spooner Lake State Park.

The ride

The trail starts near the north side of Spooner Lake and heads uphill towards Marlette Lake. A hefty climb over a pass, and then a nice descent to this quite pretty man made lake. At a junction a bit above lake level, turn left, skirting the south and west sides of Marlette Lake.

After rounding about 1/3 of the lake, the trail goes west toward Tahoe, descending sharply a short while, and then you're on the "flume section". Marlette Lake was created in order to float logs down to settlements around Lake Tahoe. The logs were floated down along a gently-sloping route, and the flume trail now follows that same gentle slope, all downhill, about 7 miles.

This section traverses the very steep hillside above Lake Tahoe, with fabulous views of the lake and of the beach at Sand Harbor. The flume section ends after you turn away from the lake, then there is a junction where you turn right to make a sharp, short climb. After that climb, stay left as a dirt road goes off to the right. Then you'll get to do a steep, very sandy descent, and a gradual climb along another flume ("Red House Flume"). Turn right and make the grueling climb to the saddle above Marlette Lake, then a fun descent to that lake.

Now you skirt the southeast quarter of Marlette Lake, to get back to that junction. Turn right to go down to the lake to stop for lunch or for a swim. Read the historical sign. Then climb back up to the south, and do the fun descent back to Spooner Lake.

©1995-2015 Doug Landauer

Here's another descrition, from Ichiro Kubota (72662.261@compuserve.com):

Flume trail starts from the Spooner Lake. Spooner Lake is located along the HW 28 south of Incline Village, just north of HW50 Intersection. If you are coming from north shore, just drive down the HW28 and you will see the sign to Spooner Lake just before the HW50 - turn left into the parking lot. There is a self-registration fee stand and it asks you to pay $4 for the car and additional $2 for each bikes.

Once parked, you will see a sign that says "To All Trails." You will see a glimpse of Spooner Lake, then you will see another sign that says "to Flume Trail xx miles" (I think it said 7 or 9 miles). Gradual uphill takes you through beautiful meadows and you will see very high peaks to the right, then at about 4 miles into the ride you will see a turn to the right and the sign says "Snow Peak 1.5 miles." The road is not maintained for public use, but bikes are allowed, and if you are strong uphill rider, take this road before heading to the Flume.

The road to the Snow Peak is very tough. Steep grade is one thing, but sandy road combined with brizillion of rocks makes some parts just impossible to ride up; but once you make it to the top, you will have the view to die for. If you peek down to the east side, you will find some snow patches. You can fill up your water bottles if you are running out of water.

Take the same road down from the peak, then turn right to proceed on the original fire road. You will soon come to the Marlette lake. Sign to the Flume trail points to left and there are two trails that goes to left. Take the left one. You will go around the lake, and the trail will come to what seems to like a dead end. You have to carry your bike to the narrow path to the left, along the water, where the Flume trail begins.

If you are afraid of heights, this is where you should turn back. If you are ready for the thrill of lifetime, then go ahead and have a ball. Flume is a 4.5 miles of single track, neither up or downhill. The view of lake Tahoe is breathtaking, but you also have to maintain your eyes on the trail because if you go off, you might survive by hanging onto the rock or something, but your bike will go down couple hundred feet below and will not be salvageable.

At the end of the single track you have a decision to make. If it is a weekday and not too many people are on the trail, head right back (that's what we did). If it is a weekend and there are to be chances of head on collision, ride down to the Incline Village and ride up the HW28 to go back to the Spooner Lake (about 9miles of road biking). If you have plenty of time and energy, turn right and continue on the Flume trail, then turn right on the Service Road that takes you back to the Marlette lake.


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©1995-2015 Ross Finlayson