One of my favorite things about the Tahoe area is that you can make almost any ride longer or shorter without sacrificing the riding experience. Yesterday I got a lunch time mountain bike ride in on a stretch of the Western States trail sometimes called three bridges. It’s a classic straight up and straight down ride with smooth, zippy single track, banked turns and a few roots and rocks. Oh, and three wooden bridges of course, the low to the ground creek crossing bridges not the big canyon crossing kind. It’s got all of the elements I love in a ride and I can do this condensed version in about 35-40 minutes up (I’ll never be accused of being the fastest climber around) and 10-15 minutes back down to the car. There are peak views of snow covered Alpine Meadows, a climb that gives me a work out, and at this time of year something that really sends me to my happy place-the smell of warm pine needles.
As I welcome summer I particularly like this trail because it reminds me of all the great rides to come. The chipmunks dart across the path, I can hear the creek running and the old sluice looks like a miniature waterfall, there’s a creek crossing, and the riding is just plain old fun. Definitely not a beginner trail; you should be a solid mountain biker to ride this one. It is also a good hike, so you could hike it first and then decide if you want to ride it later.
The way I like to go about it is this: park at the Squaw Valley Park at the bottom of Squaw Valley road. Gear up, remember the water and sunscreen, and hop on the paved trail that runs along the edge of the lower parking area. Cross the highway at the stoplight at the bottom of Squaw Valley road. Continue on the paved bike path towards Tahoe City (upstream). This is my favorite section of the paved bike trail because the canyon is cool and the river is beautiful plus you are on the opposite side of the river from the cars which makes it peaceful.
Right after you cross the highway you’ll cross the river on a bridge. Just stay on the paved trail and soak up the sounds of the river and the cool air. In just a few minutes the trail goes under a bridge, this is where your single track starts. The single track is on the left, the river on the right, and you’ll just head up the trail here. It’ll take you up towards the bridge and the road, just stay on the trail. After a few minutes of climbing you’ll cross a wider trail, which was once a dirt road, cross this and continue on the single track. From here you just keep climbing. The amount of time it will take obviously depends on your fitness level. If you go soon you’ll cross the creek with water in it. As the season goes on, this creek dries up. The good thing about the climb is that you can pick out your lines for a smooth descent on your way up. You’ll know you are at the top when the trail comes to a wide trail/old road and there is a mostly dry marsh at the top. Some years the mosquitoes can be a bit thick right at the edge of this marsh, but they weren’t noticeable yesterday.
If you’ve got time you can just pick left or right and keep going. There are days worth of trails up here and I highly recommend getting a trail guide book if you want to keep going. Go to the right just a few yards and you’ll get some nice views of the snow covered peaks. Just relaxing here for a few moments is worth the time. This spot always reminds me of how good it feels to just be in the woods. After you’ve enjoyed the view and the surroundings you can make the descent you scouted on the way up. It’s mostly smooth, fast and fun with a number of roots, rocks, and as the season wears on, ruts to keep things lively. Once you get down you can ride back to the car or out to the River Ranch for a beverage on their patio. Sound fun? If so give it a go and let us know what you think. Cheers, SV