Opening Day to Bike & Hike at Northstar California

547284_349278815154232_1618896414_nWith temperatures around the basin heating up and the sun slipping behind the mountains later each day, it is no secret – summertime has arrived in Lake Tahoe.  What does that mean besides BBQs, beach days and summer weekend traffic? It means that resorts and vendors throughout the basin will begin launching their summer schedule of activity programs.

A big player in the region did just that today.  Northstar California owned by Vail Resorts starting turning their chairlifts again, celebrating the opening day of their downhill mountain bike park and trail lift access for the summer season.

Northstar California is home to Northern California’s largest mountain bike park offering beginner to advanced cross country and downhill mountain biking trails, bike rentals and repair, lift access throughout the resort and its own Bike Academy.  Whether you are an expert or a novice downhill mountain biker like me, this place has something for you.  The ultimate perk, with lift access you can cut out 1/2 the work by riding the chair lifts up the mountain alongside your bike and focus your time and energy on enjoying the thrill of riding down the mountain instead.

My personal favorite and recommendation for beginners is to sign-up for a lesson with Northstar’s Bike Academy Bike 101 program.  It’s the perfect introduction to both mountain biking as well as the resort terrain teaching you all the basic skills needed, familiarity with the equipment 2013-summer-trail-mapand safety instructions.  The Bike 101 program includes half-day bike rental, safety gear and helmet as well as a lift ticket to enjoy the mountain which you can explore all day after your lesson.  I tried the experience last summer, loved it and looking forward to returning this year.  The staff is phenomenal, well versed in mountain biking techniques as well as knowledge of the mountain.

Also, if you have never ridden a chairlift in the summertime, frankly you’re missing out.  Most associate chairlifts with wintertime activities, but here you can enjoy the gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and glimpses of nearby Lake Tahoe all summer long on the hiking trails of Northstar California.  With three main chairlift access open including the Gondola, Tahoe Zephyr Express or Vista Express chairlifts, families and friends can explore the mountainside enjoying scenic views of Lake Tahoe, Martis Valley and the Sierra Crest of in the distance.  Easy lift access, clearly marked trails and parameters of the resort, make it easy for out-of-town families to explore hiking trails safely and with more familiarity than in the open, backcountry of the basin.

Afraid you and your kids might get hooked?  No problem, Northstar California offers competitive season passes packages allowing guests to enjoy access to the biking trails and hiking trails all summer long through September.  Learn more about mountain bike and hiking pass pricing as well as season passes.   Also learn more about the resort’s hours of operations as well as answers to all of your questions about the mountain experience.

Do you enjoy downhill mountain biking and if so, where are your favorite places to ride in Lake Tahoe? Please share your feedback in the comments below.

If you enjoying learning about Lake Tahoe follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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Ready, Set… Let the Hiking Season Begin! Tunnel Creek Trail

montrail4Spring has sprung, ski resorts are closing and to Lake Tahoe residents and visitors that means it’s time to take a hike!  I am thrilled for this time of year when the snow melts from the high Sierra’s granting more and more access to backcountry terrain for  summer exploring on foot to begin.  As a resident of North Lake Tahoe one of my favorite hikes nearby is Tunnel Creek, a favorite amongst locals for its convenient access, great work out and of course, the unparalleled views!

Tunnel Creek offers unbelievable views as you ascend trails hovering above some of the most spectacular and scenic shores of Lake Tahoe above Highway 28, Hidden Beach Unknownand Sand Harbor State Park off in the distance.  Not only does the trail offer spectacular views, but it’s also a fantastic workout!  To access the trailhead simply park across the street from the old Bonanza parking lot on Highway 28 just as you leave Incline Village traveling towards South Lake Tahoe (if you reach Hidden Beach trail head on Highway 28 you have gone too far). Today there is the new Tunnel Creek Station which includes Flume Trail Bikes and the Tunnel Creek Cafe making the entrance to the hike easier to spot.  Park along the shoulder of the highway, there is no public parking allowed in the lot nor along Tunnel Creek Road itself for hikers.   The Tunnel Creek Trail also connects with the world famous Flume Trail, which eventually connects with the Tahoe Rim Trail, making this trail a multipurpose access point to many Lake Tahoe adventures!

IMG_7294To begin the hike, cross Highway 28, walk towards the Tunnel Creek Station along Tunnel Creek Road and climb the short paved road/driveway.  After a few hundred yards you will reach a flat, sandy trail that stretches for about a 1/4 mi above Highway 28 until you reach the official trailhead shown on the right.  From here it is a fairly steep uphill climb for about a mile along a dirt path under shaded pine trees.  The next mile+ of the trail is the most enjoyable of the hike offering a windy, sandy trail along the East shore with unobstructed views of the Lake Tahoe and the beautiful shores below.  The mostly flat and clear trail also make it perfect for trail running if you want an extra workout.  Towards the end of this portion of the trail it enters a shaded, wooded area which leads away from the Lake and continues on to the Flume Trail and is where most hikers turn around.

5051203881_8c91508e30_oI most enjoy hiking the Tunnel Creek Trail early in the morning or later in the afternoon, during spring and fall.  During these times the trail is less crowded, especially with mountain bikers.  Since this trail is connected to the Flume Trail, it can become heavily congested with mountain bikers racing down the trail so be sure to be on alert.  Also, much of the trail is exposed so be sure to wear sunscreen and bring additional coverings to avoid sunburns.  The Tunnel Creek Trail is also an excellent location to catch sunset views over the ridges across the Lake during evening hikes.

If you enjoy hiking in Lake Tahoe, share your favorite hiking trail in the comments below and whether or not you have hiked the Tunnel Creek trail!

Enjoy learning about Lake Tahoe?  Follow my blog and me at @robinpenning to receive information on tips, news, activities and special events in Lake Tahoe.

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