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Spooner Summit to Heavenly and Van Sickle loopJudit at the top


Distance: 34.6 miles
Elevation gain: 3500 ft.
Total descent: 3500 ft.
Duration: 9:25 h.
Date: 5/24/2012

The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is composed by different trails that can be connected. These trails are mainly single tracks, with beautiful views over Lake Tahoe and very well maintained. However, for a single day ride, they have a problem: if you don’t have a shuttle, expect a fairly hard day. That was our case on our first day at Lake Tahoe. We wanted to ride the section between Spooner Summit and Heavenly but we had only 1 car. So we decided to ride from Heavenly to Spooner Summit on the road and then back to Heavenly on the TRT. Then the final section takes the Van Sickle trail to drop from the TRT down to the lake shore. As you can imagine the road section didn’t have nearly as much interest as the TRT but it wasn’t bad either. The traffic wasn’t that heavy and only on a few stretches the shoulder was narrow or non-existent.

This route is near these other routes:

Painted Rock Trail
Flume Trail

Description of the route:

Our plan was to ride the TRT up to where it connects with the Van Sickle trail that drops down to highway 50, where we started. Finding a spot to park at the base of the Van Sickle Park was tricky, since most of them are limit to 2 hours or are not free. Somebody, suggested us to park at the Harrah’s casino parking lot and that worked out very well. Going out of the casino parking lot, we turned left and follow the street to join highway 50 North. The total distance till the Spooner Summit is 13.6 miles. The first 10 miles are flat in average with gentle ups and downs. At mile 7.3 the road goes through a 100 yards tunnel. This road is so popular among road bikes that before the tunnel there is a push button that makes some lights at the entrance of the tunnel flash for a period of time to indicate drivers the presence of bicycles inside the tunnel. The push button can even be pressed while riding but unfortunately was busted when we were there and we couldn’t use the lights. The tunnel is straight, flat and you can see the exit from the entrance, so it not a big deal anyway.

FlumeAt mile 10, highway 50 goes away from the lake and starts climbing for about 600 ft. At this point, according to the map, there is a dirt road parallel to highway 50, on its North side that climbs almost all the way to the Spooner Summit. We didn’t notice that when we prepared the trip but we saw that dirt road when we were almost at the summit. The dirt road connects with highway 50 at mile 12.4. At the junction with highway 28 (mile 12.7), keep on highway 50 (right) for another mile up to the Spooner Summit.

At the Spooner Summit parking lot (13.5 mi, 7130 ft.) there are some interesting panels explaining the history of the area and what a flume is (the most famous ride in Tahoe is the Flume trail). Here there is also a bathroom and our trailhead (mile 13.6). The trail climbs 1650 feet in the next 5 miles. At mile 15.7 the TRT crosses a fire road and 250 feet after there is a viewpoint on the left. Another fire road at mile 16.9. Since we crossed the 8200 elevation line, we have been seeing snow patches, but at mile 18.3 and 8600 feet of elevation, we go through a wooden zone and we have to push the bikes on the snow for 300 yards. At mile 18.4 from the beginning, the trail flattens out on an open field with very nice views of the snow-capped peaks across the valley. Here the snow has melted away, since there are no trees. At mile 19.2 we reach the top of the trail at 8800 ft. and the fun begins.
The next 9 miles are a technical downhill section of 1750 ft. drop. Rocks, sharp turns and other obstacles keep the adrenaline running. Some stretches are easy enough to go fast but others have technical spots where you put your balance to test. One of the best downhill single tracks we have ever done.

Judit riding down

The end of the downhill is marked by Road 207 at mile 28. Cross it carefully and follow the trail still going down. Merge with a fire road coming from the right and follow it upstream. At mile 28.8, turn right, cross the stream and start riding up again to gain 730 ft. in 2.3 miles. This is a tough climb.

There are a few streams coming down where you can get water. After zig-zagging your way up, turn right at mile 30.3 and 0.4 miles later, turn right again to take the Van Sickle trail. In the last 4 miles you will lose 1450 ft. to get to the car. At mile 32.8 you will cross another creek. Go right at mile 33.2 and then straight at mile 33.5. Straight again at mile 33.8 and you’ll arrive at the trail end at mile 34. Find your way out of the Van Sickle Park and return to your car after 34.6 miles and 3500 ft. of elevation gain.

Overall, this is an excellent ride except for the road section.

Spooner to Heavenly profile
Spooner Summit to Heavenly and Van Sickle loop profile.

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