Incline Flume Trail at Lake Tahoe nears completion
Major work on one of the area’s most historic and family-friendly trails wrapped up earlier this summer, giving mountain bikers and hikers improved access to the Incline Flume Trail between Mount Rose Highway and Tunnel Creek Trail.
A group of roughly 35 riders, including members of several of the organizations involved in the trail, and also cycling legend Levi Leipheimer, rode through a 7-mile route on Aug. 27 to celebrate a project that has taken years and more than 1,200 volunteer hours to come to fruition.
“It’s such an awesome example of what we can do when everybody works together,” said Tahoe Fund CEO Amy Berry. “The Forest Service comes to the table and they’re super open to it. You’ve got volunteers physically working on the trail, you’ve got some private funding and you get some public funding, and it sort of all comes together.”
The Tahoe Fund secured a $130,000 grant last year from the Nevada Division of State Parks via the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program, which was then used to hire workers to address a steep section of trail that was prone to slides, roughly 2.5 miles from Mount Rose Highway.
“The trail is actually cut into a big granite slab now,” said Sue Hughes of Friends of Incline Trails.
Funds from the grant were also used to build a creek crossing, according to the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association.
“There’s been so many partners involved in this: the Forest Service, the Friends of Incline Trails, the Nevada Land Trust, the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association, Tahoe Rim Trail (Association),” said Berry. “It was just a day to take a moment and appreciate how much work went into it and what a great partnership it was.”
Easy trail, difficult work
At an elevation of roughly 7,600 feet, the trail is relatively flat, making it an ideal setting for family hikes and bike rides.
“You see everybody out there,” said Berry. “You see 5-year-old kids on bikes and you see 80-year-old couples out there hiking.”
Built for commercial logging in the late 1800s, the trail began seeing more public usage during the past two decades. Then in 2012 a group of locals formed Friends of Incline Trails with the goal of legitimizing the trail.
“We were interested in improving trails in the area,” said Hughes. “It was pretty unanimous that the Incline Flume was the highest thing on the list of priorities for us.”
Several hurdles faced the group. The trail runs through U.S. Forest Service land, Incline Village General Improvement District Land at Diamond Peak Ski Resort, and at the time through private land owned by David and Cheryl Duffield. Because the trail went through private property the Forest Service hadn’t sanctioned or maintained the trail, according to Friends of Incline Trails.
Then in December of 2015, the Duffields donated the 18.6 acres of land the trail runs through, which included the historic Bull Wheel structure, the Incline Tramway and a V-flume, to the Nevada Land Trust. The land trust then transferred the property to the forest service, which designated it as a trail in May 2017, paving the way for the route to receive funding for construction and future maintenance.
Work then began in the fall of 2016 and has gone on each summer leading up to last Monday’s group ride.
Aside from work done to install a retaining wall and a creek crossing, the first mile of the trail was also widened, allowing access for backcountry wheelchairs.
“The first mile of the trail was widened three feet to be backcountry wheelchair accessible,” said Berry. “It’s probably one of the only real backcountry wheelchair accessible trails in the whole basin. It’s so flat.”
With work on the trail mostly complete, Hughes said, the final steps in finishing the trail involve installing way-finding signage and kiosks.
With one project close to completion, the Tahoe Fund is working toward improving and building several others.
One of the major projects in the basin, the Incline Village to Sand Harbor Bike Path is nearing completion, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation, and is scheduled to be finished next spring.
In North Tahoe, the 2.2-mile section of the Lake Tahoe Bikeway called Dollar Creek Bike Path, will be completed this fall, according to Berry.
There is also work going on in Kings Beach, transforming an off-highway trail with erosion problems into a flow trail.
“We’re going to transform a fire road that is super erosive,” Berry said. “Right now it just collects water and dirt and dumps it all into Griff Creek, which ends up in Tahoe.”
The trail will be geared toward mountain bikes, said Berry, and will include flow sections, “that actually divert water off the trail and create a really fun trail experience.”
For information on current Tahoe Fund projects visit TahoeFund.org.