The Flume Trail, otherwise known as America’s Most Scenic Bike ride, is a 14-mile, one-way ride along Lake Tahoe’s scenic east shore. The name Flume comes from the water flumes used in the 1800s to transport timber and water to the Comstock Mine in Virginia City. The trail is perfect to ride when there is no snow, but fall is spectacular when the aspens are ablaze. Here is everything you need to know to ride the Flume Trail.
Traditionally, the trail starts at Spooner Lake and you ride down to Tunnel Creek Café in Incline Village. There is a bike shop called Flume Trail Bikes located behind the café where you can rent a bike and/or hire a shuttle to the summit. This is really convenient because you don’t have to worry about shuttling cars, and they have plenty of parking. If you rent a bike, the cost is around $65, and it includes your shuttle ride. During the summer, it is advised you check online and make a reservation. The Flume is popular, and for good reason.
You can start your ride from Tunnel Creek Café and ride towards Spooner if you wish. I attempted this once, and I don’t think I will ever attempt it again. You climb 1,500’ in 3 miles of basically sand. I can barely walk that; I’m not quite sure why I thought I could ride it. I practically walked my bike those first 3 miles, and by the time I was on a trail I could actually ride, I had to head home. The ride down was fun at least. My second attempt at the Flume Trail was much more successful. I rented a bike from Flume Trail Bikes, took the shuttle to the summit, and biked to the café. It was glorious.
The ride from Spooner to Marlette Lake (the peak of your ride), is a climb of 1,000’ in four miles. It’s tough, so take your time and enjoy the ride through the aspen trees. If you are on this trail in the fall, the section is lit with yellow leaves. You’ll want to take a few pictures. Next, you’ll reach Marlette Lake. If its summertime, this is the perfect opportunity to cool off! Enjoy the scenic view, have a snack and get your camera ready because jaw-dropping views are next.
Watch for the signs that lead you to the Flume Trail, and here is where you get your first glimpse of Lake Tahoe. This ride is so beautiful it’s a little dangerous. This part of the trail is 4.5 miles of single track. You have a mountain on one side and a relatively steep drop off on the other with tantalizing views of the lake. There are plenty of pull over spots that are perfect for pictures. The part of the trail is relatively flat with only a few rock features that might be tricky for a novice rider. This part of the trail has my favorite view of Sand Harbor.
The Flume Trail technically ends in the middle of the forest. You’ll see a turn off for a trail that will take you to the Tahoe Rim Trail or you can continue on Tunnel Creek Road back to the bike shop. This is the fun part of the ride! It’s all downhill and sandy, and be on the lookout for hikers! Local tip: on this section of the trail look for a well-worn path through the bush towards some rocks. Here you will find Monkey Rock!
Its all downhill from here and you have just completed the Flume Trail! Turn in your bike and head into the café for a well-deserved beer! Or venture further into Incline Village for a brew at Alibi Ale Works or Brewforia. Heck, you should drink a beer for finishing this blog. Here’s to you, mate!
Until next time…