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Sampling the Sierra Trail Race Route

Small sample of Sierra Trail Race route

Foresthill-Tahoe-Donner loop (~200 miles)

I spent Labor Day Weekend bikepacking from Foresthill to Lake Tahoe and back. I wanted to get a taste of the California Sierra Trail Race route that was recently developed by Sean Allen. Sean is currently aiming for the inaugural race to take place in the Summer of 2013.

I’ve hiked a lot of trails near Lake Tahoe, but I had never bikepacked them. I reached out to Sean about his new route and he generously helped me create a shorter version that I could easily complete in 2.5 days.

After my dad kindly dropped me off in Foresthill, I rode a counterclockwise loop to Lake Tahoe, Donner, and back. I started around 7am on Saturday and finished around 10am on Monday. My route ended up being around 200 miles and 20,000 ft of climbing.

I opted for a lot of pavement at the beginning of the ride through the foothills, so I could reach Loon Lake by the end of Day 1. There were few options for getting water along this stretch. It got pretty hot and I was low on water when I unexpectedly came across a bar called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” along Ice House Road. Sitting next to leather-clad Harley riders, I happily downed two cold Cokes.

On the morning of the second day, I past groups of Jeeps on the Rubicon Trail, their drivers still sleeping in their tents. I took a nice spill while bouncing down a long, rocky section, but, thankfully, there was no damage to the bike and I just bruised my hand. After riding past tourists on the bike paths and roads next to Lake Tahoe, the Stanford Rock trail offered beautiful single track and amazing views. The nice, long downhill along the Truckee River dropped me into Donner. I stocked up on food and then headed out as the sun set.

California Sierra Trail Race route (~400 miles)

On the last day, I really enjoyed the scenery along Soda Springs Road, a dirt road that winds through the mountains, connecting Soda Springs with (paved) Foresthill Rd. Once I hit pavement, I zipped back to Foresthill. I wanted to finish early, so I could avoid the holiday traffic heading back to the Bay Area.

In case you are interested, the map to the right shows the full route for the California Sierra Trail Race that Sean created.

GPX Tracks & Waypoints

Sierra Trail Race Sampler Tracks & Waypoints (zip file)

NOTE: this is just the route that I rode. I did a counter-clockwise loop on the outer routes and actually stayed on pavement on Foresthill Rd on my way back. My route overlaps with, but is not the official California Sierra Trail Race Route, which you can find here.

Also, after uploading the tracks to your GPS, please double check that all of the tracks uploaded successfully. When I did this initially, I ran into a problem where one of the tracks apparently had the same name as  another track, so it would just load over it. I think I fixed it, but please double-check before you head out on the trail.

6 Responses to Sampling the Sierra Trail Race Route
  1. Nathan M
    February 14, 2014 | 5:04 pm

    How much singletrack is on this route? I’m wondering about the feasibility of doing it on a suspensionless commuter with some MB tires, given the predominance of paved or logging/fire roads. Thanks!

    • Forest Baker
      February 15, 2014 | 2:42 pm

      Hi Nathan – On the route that I rode, there were only two parts that were technical single-track: 1) Between Loon Lake and Lake Tahoe (at the Rubicon trailhead) and 2) the Tahoe Rim Trail sections along the west side of Lake Tahoe. You could easily skip the Tahoe Rim Trail sections by just sticking to the bike path or road to Tahoe City. You have to take the Rubicon Trail to get to Tahoe and there are some sections where you will wish you had suspension. However, the sections where you will probably need to hop off and walk are relatively short. The rest of the route is either pavement or logging roads.

      Overall, if you skip the Tahoe Rim Trail sections, I think you will be fine (and happy) to ride the route with a rigid bike.

      • Nathan M
        March 23, 2014 | 6:53 pm

        Perfect, thanks. Sounds like I’d miss some good scenery skipping the TRT, but given that adding another bike isn’t in the cards, doing it that way sounds loads better than not doing it at all.

  2. Todd Whitney
    May 19, 2013 | 8:33 am

    Thanks for the track Forest! I can’t believe I’m the first to ask for it, as it’s so close to the Bay Area and just short enough to do in a long weekend. I haven’t actually tried to load the tracks yet, but I’m seeing four distinct names, so I think you fixed it. I’m gonna get out and ride this within the next month.


    • fbaker
      May 19, 2013 | 11:11 am

      No problem. Enjoy!

      Yes, once you load them up, please double-check that all of the tracks are visible on your GPS.

      I deviated from the tracks by 1) taking hwy 89 from Tahoe City to Truckee and 2) taking Foresthill instead of the fire roads one the way back to Foresthill.

      As far as how long it takes, I left from Foresthill on Saturday at 7am and got back on Monday around 10am. I was riding at a relaxed pace and stopping to smell the roses.

      Get your food/drinks before you get to Foresthill. There is only a Subway there – no stores.

      Carry plenty of water for the first section. It can get hot in the foothills. Stop at Uncle Tom’s Cabin for a cold coke or a beer and some salty chips. Soon after that, you get to Loon Lake which has a faucet. The route around Tahoe has plenty of water opportunities. Grab water/food in Donner before you head back to Foresthill as it gets desolate again.

      Also, the trail head at the Loon Lake parking lot might say “no bikes”. The reason is that the very first part of the trail runs through a forest that doesn’t allow mechanized vehicles. You only have to ride about 500 yards or so before you turn onto another trail that isn’t on the forest land. Sean said that he has ridden this numerous times and has never had any issues.

      You can park your car in front of the police substation. If an officer happens to be in the office, let them know you are leaving your car. If not, no worries, it shouldn’t be a problem.

      Have fun,


  3. nancy kallus
    October 20, 2012 | 8:33 pm

    I’m a proud mother in-law, as usual.

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