Riding around Emerald Bay
- Nancy Harrison, Director of Sales and Marketing at Stanford Sierra Camp, Fallen Leaf Lake
One of the most scenic routes is the ride up to and around Emerald Bay. From South Lake Tahoe, we like to do an out and back to Bliss State Park, which is just past Emerald Bay. From the Y intersection, where you see Raley’s (intersection of Hwy 50 and Hwy 89), it’s 26 miles round trip to the beach at Bliss State Park and back.
How to get there:
From the Y intersection, head north on Hwy 89 towards Tahoe City. Depending on time of year, you can choose the paved bike trail or ride on the road. (In summer, you might want to avoid the bike trail and the many families heading to the beaches.) It’s a nice flat cruise through the pines and firs as you approach and pass Camp Richardson. Enjoy the flats and get those legs warmed up as you continue past Camp Richardson stables, and adore the view of majestic Mt. Tallac dominating the skyline to your left.
Pass the beach entrances and a grove of aspens by Taylor Creek, then the road begins to climb. After a little warm up hill, you’re rewarded with your first, breathtaking view of Lake Tahoe. There is a wide section of road to take a break and enjoy the view if you like, or for hammerheads, just keep going! Breathe deep on the short descent and take advantage of the chance to pick up some speed as you get ready to burn up those legs and lungs on the switchbacks up to Emerald Bay. Downshift and get out of the seat for that first hairpin, then settle in your seat and pedal.
The shoulder is narrow, so pay attention and try to sneak a peak of the lake for inspiration. At the second hairpin, catch your breathe on this stretch because you’re about to lose it again, gather your composure and power through this next set of hairpins, it takes strength and excellent aerobic fitness to power through the last hairpin to the ridge overlooking Cascade Lake (left) and Emerald Bay (right). The view is your reward, and it’s amazing, so give it your all, and use the gradual climb along the ridge to recover.
Look to your left over Cascade Lake into Desolation Wilderness, including Pyramid Peak and the Crystal Range - a beautiful and inspiring view. Pay attention to the traffic at the viewpoint as you come off the ridge, then enjoy the downhill while keeping an eye out for cars trying to park along the road. Your next climb is up the north side of Emerald Bay, a nice, steady climb with a wide shoulder and breathtaking view of Lake Tahoe. After a short descent, race your riding partners up the short climb to the entrance of D. L. Bliss State Park. Ride slowly through the park and descend to the lake. Take a break on the beach or head right back the way you came. Traffic is light in the park, and the wooded road provides a cool environment for your climb with one section of 12% grade!
Treat yourself and stop at Camp Richardson for a ridiculously large ice cream cone or head down to the Beacon for a beer on Lake Tahoe.