From Mount Rose to Mr. Toads Wild Ride, Rose to Toads is the iconic BIG day of singletrack in the mountains above the eastern shoreline of Lake Tahoe. With desert to the east and deep blue water to the west, this ride offers up gorgeous scenery and world-class trails.
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This route is the love child collection of trails stewarded by both Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association (TAMBA) and the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. The ride begins at the Mt Rose trailhead in Tahoe Meadows and is virtually exclusively ridden in a southbound direction. The majority of the day is on singletrack through Sierra Granite boulders. You’ll predominantly roll along the ridgeline with views of barren Nevada desert on your left and the crystal waters of Tahoe on your right. Enjoy the juxtaposition between two worlds!
It’s easiest to think of the ride in 3 sections. The first is Mt. Rose to Spooner Summit. Once arriving at Tunnel Creek you have a short fire road drop to the world famous and eye-catching Flume Trail, a narrow but non-technical trail cut along the flume lines of days gone by. The edge of the Flume leads to Marlette Lake and a double track Climb and descent until you cross US Highway 50 at Spooner Summit.
The second section is the most remote and least traveled, from Spooner to Kingsbury. This section of trail can be thought of as one massive climb followed by a long descent. The bottom of the big descent is the newest section of the Rim Trail as the old route dropped in through neighborhoods and can be utilized as a bailout should mechanical issues arise. However, it’s highly suggested to follow the new trail both for the fun ratio and if attempting an FKT. Once you reach the highway on Kingsbury Grade, cross at the marked crossing and hike up the stairs on the opposite side – they’re well marked. NOTE: This is the only place to resupply unless you filter your own water. See the notes below to get to Tramway Market (1.5 mi detour). You can reconnect with the Rim Trail higher up in that neighborhood to avoid returning the way you came.
The final section of Rose to Toads is the most demanding. You will climb up and around the Heavenly Ski Resort culminating with a climb that requires some hike-a-bike along the way. Once you reach Monument Pass, the trail really begins to flow, tight and fast until Star Lake. The climb out of Star Lake takes you to the high point just below Freel Peak (9,700 ft). Enjoy the fast descent full of late-season wildflowers to Armstrong Pass. Armstrong is another bailout point should your energy be faltering late in the day, and the Corral/Sidewinder descent is a fun and flowy temptation. However, you’re here for the Rose to Toads, so you’ll continue straight through the junction for one final big climb, alpine plateau, and dessert: Mr. Toads Wild ride is fast, technical, and built for long-travel bikes. The trail is a crown jewel of the basin and can be enjoyed even if a few dismounts are necessary along the way. You’ll dump out on a fire road with one short uphill sprint to the parking lot at Oneida Street.
The best bike choice is an all-mountain or a full suspension XC rig. Choose a bike that can handle sustained climbs but has enough travel for long, technical descents. The granite-based single track can be soft and very dusty, especially later in the year. 2.2 – 2.5” tires with good side grip are usually ideal. Punctures aren’t particularly common unless you pinch flat.
Photos by Peter Stetina
This is a very popular route with Rim Trail thru-hikers, and being near the Bay Area, the sections near roadways can be very busy with day hikers and riders, especially on weekends. Be especially courteous to other trail users and expect to encounter them around any blind turn.
Start early to avoid the majority of day tripper traffic.
A wind out of the north will be beneficial.
The crossing of Kingsbury Grade is where the annual Rose to Toads ride has their aid station, and most riders attempting the FKT cache water here in the same tradition. N other caches are permitted.