Trail Conditions - Spring Update

Trail Conditions – May 2019 Spring Update

By TMS Ambassador Kim Yamauchi

This spring has delivered all kinds of weather to Tahoe – snow, rain, sun, and heat. As the snow continues to melt, trail conditions are changing rapidly. It’s going to be a while before all of our trails melt out, but I’ve been out running and here is what I’ve found…

Tahoe Pyramid Bike Trail

Honestly, I always thought hiking/running/biking along the interstate isn’t really “getting out there”. But, this was really the first clear trail in Truckee, so I put on my TREKZ Titanium headphones (to block out the highway sounds) and took in the beautiful views of the incredible Truckee River (it is so beautiful and full) and the Carson Range. Seriously these views are amazing.

When this trail is complete, it will run from Lake Tahoe, following the Truckee River, and ending at Pyramid Lake. A lot of this is already complete, but there are a few sections missing. My first adventure was from Hirschdale to Floriston. This is a 3.1 mile section. You can catch this section by driving out Hirschdale Rd to the end, where it becomes dirt. Keep driving down the dirt and potholed section for ~ 1 mile where the road dead ends into the trail. The trail is single track and climbs and descends along the river. There are a few sections right along highway 80, and it made me laugh as I’m running along the “interstate”.

The truckers probably thought I was a nut-case, but I was happy, finding the first Truckee dirt of the season.

The trail eventually ends close to Floriston. I turned around, repeating my steps, but now taking in the gorgeous views of North Star, Donner Summit, and again, the heavily flowing Truckee River. This section can be biked on gravel and mountain bikes.

Distance – 6.2 miles round trip

Elevation – 800 feet


The access road to the 06 and Sawtooth Trail is not yet open, so I parked on the road outside the gate on Thelin Dr. Heading up 06, there are still quite a few snow patches, but I’m sure those will melt off fairly quickly. Once I hit the trailhead and started to head out, the trail is mostly clear. There are a few snow patches early on, but they diminished the further out I went. I ran an out/back of 4/8 miles and the trail is in good condition. Sawtooth is a nice rolling trail, without big climbs and decents. The total ascent for the 8 miles was just 650 feet. If you are mountain biking, there are some rocky sections, but not overly technical. If you haven’t been to Sawtooth, you’ll head up the 06 and find a parking area on the right side. The trail begins here.

Distance – 10.2 mile loop

Elevation – 797 feet


Lloyds Trail, out near the Prosser Dam is clear and dry. My first attempt a few weeks ago was a run/hike through quite a few snow fields, but a week later and the trail is great. This is a fun, but short loop trail. You can add to it by starting at the end of Prosser Dam Rd, where the pavement becomes dirt. Look for the flat single track that follows the road, on the right side. This will give you a nice warm-up before hitting the hills of Lloyd’s.

Distance – 3 mile loop

Elevation – 618 feet

Emigrant Trail from the Donner Camp Picnic Area off Hwy 89

This section is clear and dry. There is a nice 4.5 mile loop in the section before you hit the bridge over Prosser Creek. This section is clear and we’ve been out there a few times. There is the “lower section” that is closer to the reservoir, and then the “upper section” which runs closer to Hwy 89. I prefer to do this as a loop, running both sections.

Starting at the picnic area, you’ll see two trails, heading north out of the parking lot. Emigrant is the trail on the left, but, this section tends to always be wet, muddy, and is under water right now. So, I take the “walking loop” (on the right) which provides an overview of the Donner Party and their struggles during that infamous winter. On the far side of the loop, you can meet up with the Emigrant Trail, and this option will keep your feet dry.

In muddy conditions, these trail running shoes are perfect!

Now, head out on Emigrant trail. There is one small section where you might get wet, but there are logs to help you navigate the water. Just over 1 mile, you’ll cross a road. Continue across the road and then off to your left. Just past this section is where the trail splits into the “upper” and “lower” section. If you follow the upper (left) section first, it will meet up with the lower section after about 2.5 miles. This is rolling single track that weaves through the forest, eventually meeting up with the adjoining single track on your right.

You will see some fire roads crossing the single track, but don’t turn onto these. If you miss the adjoining single track, you’ll end up at highway 89, on the bridge that crosses the creek. You can turn around here and retrace your steps or continue. If continuing, you’ll cross the creek on the Hwy 89 bridge, and then find the trail again on the right side. If you turn back, you can retrace your steps. After about ½ mile, you’ll see a large drainage pipe that creates a small creek, and just past this, look for the trail to split. You can take the left trail and follow this all the way back to the picnic grounds. Again, don’t turn onto any of the fire roads. Navigating this section will provide 5-6 miles round trip with ~450 feet of elevation gain. Nothing difficult, just nice rolling single track.

Distance – 5-6 miles round trip

Elevation – 450 feet


I have done an out/back on the southern section of Animal and this is clear and surprisingly dry. There are a few patches at the very top of Animal where it crosses Animal Crackers. There is supposedly still some snow on the northern section of Animal, but this snow can be navigated fairly easily, and should melt out soon. Animal can be accessed off the Emigrant Trail and you can park either at the end of Alder Creek Rd, just before Hwy 89, and the newly updated parking area. Or, you can park off Hwy 89 across from the Donner Party Picnic area.

Distance – 2 miles round trip

Elevation – 111 feet

Waddle Ranch

This is a low elevation trail and clear. These trails can be accessed on the far side of the dam or starting behind gate #10 off Highway 267. There are quite few single track trail options and with the low elevation and the western exposure, these are all clear and dry. I found a 6.5 mile loop with ~650 feet of elevation gain.

Distance – 6.5 mile loop

Elevation – 650 feet

Drunken Deer

This trail tends to dry out fairly early, as it’s on the south facing ridge along Alder Creek Rd. This is a fun rolling single track that is great to run or ride. You can catch it either at the end of Alder Creek Rd, parking at the pullout approximately ¼ mile from Hwy 89. This is the freshly updated parking area with access to Emigrant Trail. The other access is Carpenter Valley Rd off Alder Creek. It is harder to find the trail at this end, as it is “hidden”. If this is your first time on Drunken Deer, catch it from the parking area off Alder Creek Rd. Cross Alder Creek Rd. and take the Emigrant Trail. Look for a trail on your left, approximately 15 feet off the road. Drunken Deer is a 3 mile one way trail. The 6 mile round trip will give you an elevation climb of 820 feet. You can extend this trail by adding on Emigrant or Animal. The section of Emigrant along Alder Creek Rd is still wet.

Distance – 6 miles round trip

Elevation – 820 feet

It might be a while until trails at higher elevation melt out…

In the meantime, start planning your summer runs with our Ultimate Guide to Trail Runs in Lake Tahoe and Truckee and check out our list of the Best Trail Running Shoes of 2019 to keep your feet happy!

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