Martis Valley Loop Trail

The Martis Valley Loop Trail has spectacular mountain views and is relatively flat for Tahoe. This is a great trail for running especially if you aren’t used to the altitude or want to run with a friend while chatting and it’s a perfect family hike. Take young kids to get them excited about hiking and families from out of town. You can run it, hike it or bike along the outer loop called Tompkins Trail. It’s one of the first trails to melt out in the spring and a perfect place to check out fall colors. There’s a lot of water for dogs, some picnic tables to stop and enjoy lunch, and bridges and boardwalks that make it fun and interesting. It’s also great for locals like me who want to get in a quick run after work or chat with a friend on a hike. It doesn’t have a ton of shade so I don’t recommend going it in the middle of a really hot day, but that’s just my preference. The light in the valley is fantastic early morning or at sunset so try to hit it at one of those times.

Length: 4.1 Miles

Vertical Feet: 286 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Trail Type: Loop

Surface Type: Packed Dirt, Boardwalks

Features: Mountain Views, Mountain Stream, Meadow, Dog friendly

Facilities: Yes, Porta Potty Available Seasonally

Lower Parking Lot

Getting there: From I-80, take the exit for 267 towards Lake Tahoe. Continue for about 2.5 miles and look for a sign labeled Martis Creek Wildlife Area on the right hand side of the road. From Kings Beach or Northstar take 267 towards I-80 and look for the sign for Martis Creek Wildlife Area on your left.

Parking: There are two dirt parking lots – one right as you turn off of the highway and a second down the dirt road about a tenth of a mile. There is a gate which is sometimes closed and blocks access to the lower lot.

Map at the trailhead

Trail Description:

You can start by going either direction, clockwise or counter clockwise. I usually go counter clockwise although not for any particular reason. The trail is well marked including a map at the start and a few other maps along the loop. There are many options to add on to this trail by running or hiking up to Northstar. See the map above for options.

Going counter clockwise takes you through rugged shrubbery, tall grasses and along a meandering mountain stream up and over a small hill along a boardwalk to a bridge crossing. There’s a picnic table just past the bridge if you want to stop for lunch, I didn’t check the milage to this point but my guess is just under 1 mile.

These pictures are from mid-summer at sunset.

The start of the trail going counter clockwise.
Boardwalk across Martis Valley in July 2017
Here’s the same boardwalk in April 2017 after a big snow year!
Bridge Crossing
Perfect spot for lunch or a glass of wine at sunset

Keep an eye out for wildlife, Martis Valley is prime habitat for breeding birds. The main season is May 1- July 15 when birds from afar to nest here. Please don’t let your dog chase the birds or disturb their nests.

Martis Valley has a long history starting with the Washoe tribe settling here for the summers followed by lumbermen, cattlemen and sheep herders.

As you travel along the trail you will be rewarded with 360 degree mountain views including Northstar, Donner Summit and Mount Rose Wilderness off in the distance.

Sunset runs feature lovely shades of pink, orange and purple reflecting off the snow peaked Sierra and Carson ranges that surround the valley. There is very little change in elevation, which is a welcome change for runners used to the severe terrain of other runs in the Truckee-Tahoe area.

The trail continues to wind along the edge of the river and trees until it goes up another little hill and to the next bridge crossing. This is about the half way point.

Bridge crossing over Martis Creek

At this point the trail starts to veer away from the river towards the golf course and past some houses. You’ll go through a gate and continue along the golf course until you get to some more boardwalks. The boardwalk will lead you back towards hwy 267.

Boardwalks over the marshy areas of Martis Valley

After the boardwalk you have about a mile to go back to your car and the parking area. Look over at Northstar and out towards Donner Summit as you reflect on this amazing, fun trail!

Martis Valley Loop Trail at Sunset
Map of the my route.

Gear I used on the trail – Hiking Kit

My hiking kit includes affiliate links to purchase these items online or you can come into Tahoe Mountain Sports to get your perfect hiking kit!

Hydration and Fuel: I used the Camelbak Palos 4 LR Hydration Waist Pack. I like this pack because I broke my collarbone a year ago and now I don’t like having a strap go across my clavicle. The Palos pack is very comfortable and fits everything I need for a long day on the trail. I didn’t use a hydration bladder. I had 2 Salomon handheld bottles inside the pack along with some Epic bars and Clif Shot Bloks. I like the combo of the sweet gummies and the meat bars. This combination of energy foods keeps me going all day. Check out this post on How to Fuel Your Adventure for tips on which energy foods might work best for you.

Shoes: I’m loving the Women’s Salomon Sense Ride Trail Running Shoes! They are lightweight, and grippy on all different surfaces including wet and snowy trails and rocks. They have an aggressive tread and provide good support with ample cushioning. I’m psyched on this new shoe by Salomon. Here’s the link for the men’s Salmon Sense Ride Trail Shoe. Click here to read about the Best Trail Running Shoes for 2017 and the Best Hiking Shoes for 2017 to see which shoes might be best for you.

Sunscreen: I’m a huge fan of Sol Sunscreen. I’ve been using it for many years now and it works well on long days, wet days, and doesn’t run into my eyes as I sweat and make them burn. I like the way it feels. It isn’t too thick or greasy or sticky. It’s just right. And a little bit goes a long way so it’s worth the price. I also recently discovered Surface Sunscreen. I found it because I was searching for a spray so I can apply sunscreen to my back myself. I love the way the Surface Dry spray goes on and feels. It’s amazingly light and airy, no runny drips. It stays on all day and provides excellent sun protection. I use it on my daughter for all day summer camp and on my arms and back when biking, hiking, swimming and paddling.

Hiking Apparel: I like to switch it up depending on the weather. I usually hike in capris or shorts. I like the capris to be bright colors and have a pocket on the side for a phone. I’m a fan of merino wool and am usually wearing something from Icebreaker. We have a great selection of hiking clothing including hiking pants for colder weather and travel at our store. I recommend having good hiking socks, I prefer a thinner sock so my foot doesn’t get too hot. A packlight jacket, I always have the Patagonia Houdini in my pack.

Check out our blog for more information on Lake Tahoe and Truckee Trail Running and Hiking Trails.

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