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Flume Trail: How Long and Steep Is The Steep Part?

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Flume Trail: How Long and Steep Is The Steep Part?

Old 08-05-14, 11:41 AM
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caloso
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Flume Trail: How Long and Steep Is The Steep Part?

Going to be in Tahoe this weekend and bringing my CX bike. I was thinking I'd like to try the Flume Trail. I understand it isn't very technical but that going south to north, there's a fairly steep part between Spooner Lake and Marlette Lake. Does anyone have any experience on this trail who can describe it?
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Old 08-05-14, 05:35 PM
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I never biked it but hiked from Incline Village to Marlette Lake with my wife a couple of times so I can only tell you about this part which is probably the most spectacular. No climb here, it's mainly flat until the last couple of miles all downhill (I assume you are traveling north to south). You will have to walk the bike at a couple tricky spots (there will be markers asking you to do so) as the trail becomes very narrow with a steep drop to the side. I have seen wild teens biking it but why take a chance when there's nothing stopping you from sliding down the cliff.
You don't want to hurry anyway as the sight is really sublime. Take a sandwich with you and have a break at the bench above Sand Harbor... and take your love one with you.

Premium Mountain Bike Rentals, Tahoe Flume Trail, Shuttle Services, Tunnel Creek Cafe
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Old 08-05-14, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Going to be in Tahoe this weekend and bringing my CX bike. I was thinking I'd like to try the Flume Trail. I understand it isn't very technical but that going south to north, there's a fairly steep part between Spooner Lake and Marlette Lake. Does anyone have any experience on this trail who can describe it?
Going up, you shouldn't have any problem between Spooner and Marlette, at least if you have compact gearing/reasonable size cassette.

The descent from the northern end of the Flume to the highway (called Tunnel Creek Station now?) has some very sandy parts, so I'd just take it very very easy if you are on skinny tires. Even with fat 2.5" tires it can have a high pucker factor if you're going fast. There are water bars in the initial descent that should be a blast on whatever kind of bike you ride.

As far as trail description, from Spooner to Marlette it is a dirt/gravel utility road. The road is wide enough that you can bomb it downhill even when families are pedaling up it, but observe the speed limits. The road then skirts the south/south west corner of the lake to the dam, where the trail then becomes singletrack. First couple turns of the singletrack are ridable if you've got the skillz (at least on an MTB), and then the remainder of the singletrack is "flat" (as a flume would be) and wide enough for oncoming bikes to pass (though with the exposure, people may stop and let you ride by). After the Flume, the descent to the highway is wide (again I think it's used as a utility road), steep, and sandy ... kinda fun on an MTB going down, miserable trying to ride up.

Can't think of what would be comparable to the Spooner to Marlette climb in the Sacramento area ... maybe Stagecoach up from the Confluence in Auburn?

Last edited by anotherbrian; 08-05-14 at 06:26 PM.
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Old 08-05-14, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by anotherbrian View Post
Going up, you shouldn't have any problem between Spooner and Marlette, at least if you have compact gearing/reasonable size cassette.

The descent from the northern end of the Flume to the highway (called Tunnel Creek Station now?) has some very sandy parts, so I'd just take it very very easy if you are on skinny tires. Even with fat 2.5" tires it can have a high pucker factor if you're going fast. There are water bars in the initial descent that should be a blast on whatever kind of bike you ride.

As far as trail description, from Spooner to Marlette it is a dirt/gravel utility road. The road is wide enough that you can bomb it downhill even when families are pedaling up it, but observe the speed limits. The road then skirts the south/south west corner of the lake to the dam, where the trail then becomes singletrack. First couple turns of the singletrack are ridable if you've got the skillz (at least on an MTB), and then the remainder of the singletrack is "flat" (as a flume would be) and wide enough for oncoming bikes to pass (though with the exposure, people may stop and let you ride by). After the Flume, the descent to the highway is wide (again I think it's used as a utility road), steep, and sandy ... kinda fun on an MTB going down, miserable trying to ride up.

Can't think of what would be comparable to the Spooner to Marlette climb in the Sacramento area ... maybe Stagecoach up from the Confluence in Auburn?
Yeah, that's the thing. I was thinking of taking my SSCX, so my gearing is going to be not at all reasonable: 39x19. I guess I could shoulder it. That's what I'd do in a race anyway. Thanks for the excellent description.
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Old 08-05-14, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Yeah, that's the thing. I was thinking of taking my SSCX, so my gearing is going to be not at all reasonable: 39x19. I guess I could shoulder it. That's what I'd do in a race anyway. Thanks for the excellent description.
Here's the segment on Strava
Strava Segment | Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake

You can see it is pretty mellow until it gets towards the top. Years ago I rode up it on my singlespeed 29er (34x19, 2.1" tires). I probably wasn't in the best shape at the time, and the bigger (than 700c) tires definitely has to be worth a tooth or two on the front chainring.

Definitely give it a try; once you're on the Flume it's spectacular scenery and not like anything else I've ever ridden. If you've got a MTB or are willing to rent one, the shuttle they (website gpelpel linked to) do to Tahoe Meadows lets you ride a spectacular portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail (one portion you're on the spine of the mountain, and can look to Lake Tahoe on one side, and Carson City on the other) and then can be linked to the Flume and the very fun Chimney Beach Downhill.
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Old 08-06-14, 09:28 AM
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It was really hard for me near the top. There just wasn't enough air and the path was not particularly smooth. But I'm roadie and not a mountain biker, so that may have contributed.

That said, it was totally worth the effort. Even if you have to push, it's worth it. The views are AMAZING.

If you go, remember to STOP for the views and not just ride off the edge into the air looking at cool stuff.

Also, when I went there were a few spots I had to carry my bike over. Not a huge deal, but easier with help.

Depending on how dry it is, that sand section can be a pain. Again, I'm a roadie, so real mountain bikers may have an easier time. I just plowed a lot.

Still, and I can't say this strongly enough, it's an amazing and wonderful ride. Do it!
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