Should you be so inclined, later this summer you’ll be able to bike, hike, run, skip, or whatever you want all the way from Lake Tahoe to Reno. 

The Tahoe-Pyramid Trail is a part-paved, part-dirt path running adjacent to the Truckee River and parts of I-80 which will ultimately extend from Tahoe to Pyramid Lake in Nevada. The final touches are being put in place along the California portion of the trail, with expected completion originally scheduled for mid-August, though an updated timeline projects a delay until autumn due to “worse-than-expected” conditions.

TRAILS OF SUMMER: During fall 2019, California’s claim to the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail is expected to be completely in the green. Bikers or hikers wanting to recreate alongside the Truckee River from Lake Tahoe to Reno and back won’t be hindered by construction or any infamous “Trail Ends Here” signs. Illustration courtesy Tahoe-Pyramid Trail

“This’ll be a huge milestone,” said Janet Phillips, president of Tahoe Pyramid Trail, a Reno-based nonprofit. “We’ve been working on this section of the [Truckee River] canyon for five years, and the total project for 15 years. It’s very exciting. It’s just been incrementally getting another section built and another section built, and now we’re down to the last and most difficult piece.”

That’s 15 years and 114 miles spanning two states, five counties, and tribal land, as well as through numerous cities and other census-designated areas. To put it lightly, it’s been a long time coming and a lot of coordination — past, present, and future.

Truckee Donner Land Trust has been part of that coordination almost since the beginning. TDLT performed a series of acquisitions in the Truckee River Canyon in 2005 and 2006, and TPT was alongside staff for much of those discussions regarding land easements to allow for public river access.

“We found that trails are a great way to have people come through our property,” said John Svahn, associate director with TDLT. “Not a lot of people know that the land trust did all these acquisitions down there, or that the canyon is protected. With [trail presence] … we see things like less dumping and more of a citizen use presence that helps us manage the property.”

Only three sections remain until the entire TPT can claim complete connectivity, and less than half a mile before Reno-to-Tahoe is walkable and bikeable.

The Truckee River Canyon is full of steep slopes, wooded terrain, and private property. That’s meant natural and man-made challenges for TPT as it has worked to complete the 3.4-mile gap between Hirschdale Road and Floriston. Private landowners weren’t interested in a trail running through their property, so TPT approached trail installation from the north side of the river, primarily down the slope from I-80.

Progress in the canyon began in 2017, but was consistently delayed by difficult terrain, poor soil conditions, and limited access of trail materials. In cliché fashion, the remaining .4 miles — known as ‘the Hogback’ — are the most challenging to complete. The slopes are so steep that TPT couldn’t cut their standard trail.

“The Hogback, it’s a terrain feature that’s a ridgeline that’s steep on both sides,” Phillips said. “We’re putting the trail on the river side rather than the freeway side for aesthetic reasons. The boardwalk involves drilling steel posts into the slopes to build a wood deck … I don’t want to say it’s never been done before, (but) it’s never been done by us before.”

Construction began for this last section on May 8 and will include an elevated wood and steel boardwalk for over 760 feet.

CAT GOT YOUR TRAIL: Richard May Construction out of Mammoth Lakes is working as the contractor on building the most challenging part of the Tahoe Pyramid Trail thus far, creating a boardwalk section made of wooden slats and steel posts. Sixty feet have been built out, but 700 feet remain. Photo by Alex Hoeft/Moonshine Ink

The imminent completion of the California section isn’t the only exciting news related to this trail: Dirt Gypsy Adventures, a shuttle-guide-rental service for mountain bikers and hikers, has just added a shuttle service between Truckee and Verdi for users.

“It’s gonna be two shuttles a day,” said Ryan Fowler, owner of Dirt Gypsy Adventures, which is based in Truckee. “Morning and early afternoon picking up at Crystal Peak Park in Verdi, and then dropping off at the Hirschdale trailhead (in Truckee).”

And vice versa. It’s a service Phillips is excited about.

“It would really be cool to have that,” Phillips said, referring to the new shuttle option. “I’ve been asked about taking the train … and I’m pretty ignorant about that. I know there’s a train once a day. Whether they take bikes, whether they run on time, I just don’t know. Some kind of transportation would be really cool.”

The Truckee-Verdi shuttle is something Fowler only recently thought up. A few months back he rode a stretch of the trail and realized there was a need for back-and-forth transportation.

“It’s pretty unique,” Fowler said. “There’s not a lot of trails in the area that you can ride that link together two states and go past a couple historic sites … and what I think is pretty nice about it as well is it’s not too challenging of a trail … It’s pretty feasible for soft adventurers to get out on it and have a good time.”

The other two remaining sections before the entire trail is complete lie east of Reno and Sparks. The 3-mile connection from Vista Boulevard to Mustang is currently hampered by the railroad, landowners, and Storey County; and the 20 miles from USA Parkway to Wadsworth remains to-be-decided on how the trail might look to Derby Dam and requires cooperation with private landowners from the dam to Wadsworth.

It’s likely a completed trail and shuttle service will bring more people to the canyon, and though some might be wary of increased human presence, Svahn looks forward to it.

“Sometimes people think that with more people comes more trash, more fire,” he said. “We’ve had the opposite; with more people comes more fans of the property, more volunteers, and help to clean it.”

 

Ride the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail with Moonshine Ink!

Alex Stodtmeister, husband of Moonshine staffer Alex Hoeft, biked from Moonshine’s office to the Truckee River Regional Park and along the Tahoe-Pyramid trail for approximately 25.5 miles, ending in Crystal Peak Park in Verdi. Words by Alex Hoeft; video editing by Wade Snider; biking by Alex Stodtmeister