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Spooner Summit Trailhead North
Trail Description:Follow the Tahoe Rim Trail (home page here) north, following the Rim Trail logo as shown here:
This trail is gentle enough to trot most of the way, yet it gains elevation quickly and can be a challenge for unacclimated horses. Take your time, especially in the beginning section, or your horse might not make it!
This is one of the most beautiful single-track trails I've ever ridden on, and soon it will encircle Lake Tahoe for an entire 150 miles. *Update: Trail officially finished in September, 2001; and is more like 165 miles!*
The first part of the trail from the parking area at the top of Spooner Summit winds its way through forests of Jeffery Pine and Red Fir, with switchbacks to take out any steep climbs. As you near Snow Valley Peak, however, the trials juts out into the open and traverses a steep ridge that falls straight down to North Canyon. The trail, here, is rocky (big boulders), and some parts of the trail have"slid" down the slope a bit and is somewhat awkward to manuever. *Update: this section has been rerouted - however, always take caution on this part*. Your horse should be very comfortable with jumping gingerly around or up and over large rocks, in a minimum of space. But hang on, because the views just keep getting better. You'll have a large, expansive view of Lake Tahoe from this point, throughout most of this ride.
After you pass the intersection of trails leading down to Marlette Lake on your left and up to Snow Valley Peak on your right (go straight at this intersection), you soon see the view in the picture to the right which shows Marlette Lake in the foreground 1,000 feet below you, and Lake Tahoe in the background, 1,600 feel below Marlette, for a total of 2,600 feet of air! The picture shows North Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach area.
From here, the trail drops down through the trees again until it comes together with Forest Road No.506 in a flat, sandy area. There are signs here pointing to Hobart Resevior, Marlette Lake, and Twin Lakes. Follow generally north, staying on the Tahoe Rim Trail, towards Twin Lakes. Shortly you'll come to another intersection of FR No. 504. Pass straight through this intersection. The next intersection (a "T") looks tricky, and may confuse you, as there are signs indicating that the Rim Trail goes both left and right! You can actually take either way, as this is a loop around Marlette Peak. The right trail veers more eastward with views of Washoe Valley and Reno, Nevada in the distance. The left goes more westerly and loops around Marlette Peak with more incredible views of Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe than you could ever imagine! (the sign in this picture says "Horse and Foot Traffic Only" (big grin) and points back to Spooner Summit.)
After your choice of trails above, you wind again through forests until you come to a "Vista Point" opportunity to your left (west). The sign says 6 tenths of a mile to a lookout point, but the trail goes sharply up to a rocky ridge (this is one section I personally helped to build, back in 1989), then dashes down about a half mile to a rocky outcropping. You MUST take this side trip with camera in hand! Dismount before the end of the trail, and cautiously peer over the side! You'll catch your breath in shock at the incredible view straight down into Sand Harbor, 2,500 feet below. I've lived here since 1967 and have never seen a view like that one!
Take the spur trail back to the main trail, and continue a few more miles to Twin Lakes, and your lunch stop. Depending on the time of year (July - October), the water levels will vary and the ground around the lakes may be boggy. I usually stay mounted and walk my horse into the lake to drink, then back to shore to let him graze while I snack on lunch. *update: Twin Lakes have been dry in '04-'05.*
After Twin Lakes, you'll "T" into an old jeep road which runs west-to-east and eventually winds it's way (west) down Tunnel Creek, or (east) to Franktown Road in Washoe Valley. Turn west (left) for a nice lope on sandy soil, looking for the Rim Trail to branch off again, to the north (right). If you've been running into a lot of mountain bikes and even hikers on the previous leg of this ride, then the next section will take you across a huge expanse of lonely miles, with nary a soul in sight! I rode this section the first time by myself, before I even knew for sure if the trail was completed all the way to Mount Rose. Around every corner, I expected to see a construction barrier and a sign saying, "Trail Ends Here, Turn Around", which was not an option for me, because I had been dropped off at Spooner Summit and was getting picked up at Mount Rose. If I turned around, I would have no trailer ride! Luckily, the trail was completed all the way -- but I never met a soul. Nowadays, you're sure to meet quite a few folks. If you prefer to avoid mountain bikes on this single-track trail; this next section is closed to bikes on odd numbered days. Check for updates at: Tahoe Rim Trail.org.
Hopefully you and your mount were refreshed at lunch, and now feel like trotting or loping for an extended time. After awhile, you climb steeply above Little Valley to the east (right) and gain the top of the ridge, and the summit of Diamond Peak. This is the top of the ski area at Incline Village. I even went over to the chair lift and posed for a self-portrait with me and my pony on the "off-load" ramp!
You'll probably be getting tired by now, and wish you hadn't spent so much time sightseeing earlier in the ride--but with views like these, it's impossible not to--so pay attention to the trail and take a few more short breaks to gander at some of the views that will open up to the east. On clear days you can see northeast to Reno, east past several mountain ranges, and southeast to the Sweetwater Mountains. The contrast from the desert below and alpine setting you are riding in is refreshing.
The trail is straight forward and continues without intersections until you are within shouting distance of the Mount Rose Highway. The last two turns will be to the left to guide you back to the parking area just below the summit. Hopefully, you arranged to have a truck and trailer and refreshments waiting for you here!
The Tahoe Rim Trail really is the best for scenery I have ever ridden. A few words of caution: If there are to be afternoon thundershowers, plan to be done with the ride by early afternoon as most of this trail follows ridgelines and is very exposed. It also helps to have a calm, sure-footed trail horse. It is a narrow single-track trail, and many people use it; mostly mountain bikes; however, this section has been designated as "Bikes Only on Alternate Days". Contact Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park for current details. Keep alert, and enjoy!
Where I am when I'm not riding: http://www.tahoewebhost.com or http://www.tahoedesignconcepts.com