Top Mountain Biking Trails Near Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley
Carson Valley sits on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, a bona fide basecamp to over 50 miles and growing of diverse track. Many of these rides are relatively unknown and fresh for the taking. While nearby and more crowded high-altitude routes sit under snowpack well into the late spring, the Carson Valley trails are rideable most, if not all year.
The Carson Range rising between Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley tempts riders with the likes of more than 3,800 feet of nearly continuous high-speed singletrack descent from the top of the Tahoe Rim Trail to the valley below.
For those seeking either a hardcore workout or just a casual route, singletrack out-and-backs and loops span the region. Be it high speed or high endurance, rides in Carson Valley often start among sage and bitterbrush in the high desert. Push on a little further and trails up their technical challenge but reward with creek crossings, shaded pine forests and spectacular valley views to the east and Lake Tahoe views over the summit to the west, each serving up an average of 300 days per year of bluebird skies. Rides finish just pedals away from a classic blend of authentic and down-home services for refreshing and laid-back recovery, be it historic thirst parlors, satisfying sandwiches or hot spring soaks.
The development and maintenance of Carson Valley’s trails is due in large part to the efforts of many volunteers working with the Carson Valley Trails Association (CVTA). Clear Creek Trail and Sierra Canyon Trail are the jewels of the CVTA’s collaborative accomplishments. Several thousand volunteer hours have been invested in trail building, but CVTA and partners aren’t finished. Trail work continues with a focus on extending Clear Creek Trail with a connector to Spooner Summit South. CVTA’s tireless dedication is evident in the maintenance of the trails.
Sierra Canyon is the pinnacle of Carson Valley’s recent trail developments. The Sierra Canyon trailhead intersects the Tahoe Rim Trail and sits at an elevation of nearly 8,500 feet. The views from this vantage are spectacular with the entire Lake Tahoe basin to the west, the span of Carson Valley to the east and Jobs Peak and Jobs Sister peeking from the southeast. Dropping in here initiates a long ride to Genoa, Nevada with substantial elevation loss and terrain diversity. Ten miles of singletrack, 3,500 feet of descent, moderate difficulty, countless switchbacks and careful trail maintenance amount to a killer ride. Enjoy the descent via shuttle dropping you near the starting point or earn-your-turns by riding Sierra Canyon as an out-and-back. Sierra Canyon can also be enjoyed as part of a bigger ride, such as a climb up Kingsbury Stinger, north on Tahoe Rim Trail and ending down Sierra Canyon. No matter the ambition, all rides on Sierra Canyon end with a mandatory stop at Genoa Bar, Nevada’s oldest thirst parlor.
Carson Valley, home to Nevada’s first settlement, beckons you to check-out after a full day of dropping in. The four communities of Carson Valley are a sweet balance of convenience (just 45 miles south of Reno International Airport) and relaxed atmosphere. There’s no attitude here, just a welcoming dose of character and love for the landscape.
Pinyon Trail – Get comfortable. This all-season and all-abilities 100% singletrack loop was completed in 2015. It’s a short spin that’s long on views of the Carson range to the west and Pine Nut range to the east. Head out early in summer months as this trail’s relatively lower elevation can heat up quick.
Clear Creek – Have fun. Opened in 2014 with an extension currently in the works, Clear Creek is a 21 mi. out-and-back that can be ridden year-round. This solid intermediate ride is not only a great workout but delivers fun to all abilities. The singletrack trail traverses through beautiful pine forest adjacent to Highway 50 and offers nice afternoon shade. As with most high desert riding, be cautious of rattlesnakes in the spring and summer months.
Genoa Loop – Hit all the region’s highlights. Easy to get to and not a full day commitment, this 8.5 mi. 85% singletrack loop makes its way through canyons on the mountains of the east slope and offers shade most of the day. The riding is technical in sections with switchbacks and narrow traverses. Genoa Loop is a great option for getting dialed-in on your bike before hitting the region’s bigger rides.
Sierra Canyon – Go big. Sierra Canyon is the climax of Carson Valley’s recent trail developments. The Sierra Canyon trailhead intersects the Tahoe Rim Trail and sits at nearly 8,500’ elevation. The views from this vantage are spectacular with the entire Lake Tahoe basin to the west, the span of Carson Valley to the east, and Jobs Peak and Jobs Sister peeking from the southeast. Dropping in here initiates a long ride to Genoa, Nevada with substantial elevation loss and terrain diversity. Ten miles of singletrack, 3,500’ of descent, moderate technicality, countless switchbacks and careful trail maintenance amount to a killer ride. Enjoy the descent as a shuttle or earn-your-turns by riding Sierra Canyon as an out-and-back. Sierra Canyon can also be enjoyed as part of a bigger ride, such as a climb up Kingsbury Stinger, north on Tahoe Rim Trail and ending down Sierra Canyon. No matter the ambition, all rides on Sierra Canyon end with a mandatory stop at the Genoa Bar, Nevada’s oldest thirst parlor. The point’s been made – this trail rips. See for yourself here.
Local Bike Shop
Should you need a spare tube, a quick bike tune or friendly, local advice, be sure to visit:
Big Daddy’s Bicycles & Fitness
1546 U.S. Hwy 395 N #1
Gardnerville, NV 89410
911 Topsy Ln #238
Carson City, NV 89705
Blue Zone Sports
3790 U.S. 395 #402, Carson City, NV 89705
Where to Eat
Big rides create big appetites. Refuel at a variety of restaurants and delis in historic settings.
Be sure to save room for the Overland’s signature bread pudding dessert, and don’t miss out on their twist on an old favorite, the piggy popper.
Overland Restaurant and Pub
For 31 beers on tap and a menu sure to appeal to anyone, check out Minden Meat and Deli.
Minden Meat and Deli
The Pink House is in a historic building with Gothic revival style, an adorable white picket fence and bicycle-friendly outdoor picnic table seating. It’s is a wonderful post-ride stop for specialty coffee, beer, wine, sandwiches and artisanal cheese-and-charcuterie plates.
The Pink House
Where to Stay
A stay in Genoa, one of Carson Valley’s legendary communities, puts you right at the center of trail options and offers a variety of affordable accommodations for weary legs.
Genoa Country Inn
Here are some other local, bike-friendly lodging properties.
Best Western Topaz Lake
Looking for a comfortable value option? We have those as well.
Carson Valley Inn Casino
Holiday Inn Express & Suites
Quality Inn & Suites
All the information in this post is designed as a guide only and is not all inclusive – the reader takes full responsibility for any use they make of the information. Please check road conditions as weather and seasonality can cause closures. Please check route guides and GPS files as there can be differences between GPS devices and formats.