Escape: Ride the South Lake Tahoe Loop

This ride is a mixed bag of climbing, long flat stretches, mountains and valley. The variety on this ride makes it interesting and fun. You actually cross the border from California into Nevada! If you are visiting the Lake Tahoe region, and would like to see some interesting scenery, and do some climbing, here is a solid option.

  • DISTANCE: 51 miles or 83 km
  • ELEVATION GAIN: 1300 m
  • CLIMBING: Two climbs, Kingsbury Grade (6% grade) and Luther Pass (4% grade)
  • DIFFICULTY: Moderate

We started this loop at the intersection of Highway 88 and 89. You will begin the ride with a stunning, long and smooth descent through mountain scenery along Highway 88. This part is fun and invigorating. Eventually the road will flatten out, and you will turn left onto Emigrant trail and left again on Foothill road. This section has exceptionally smooth road, sprawling farmland to your right, and towering mountains to your left. You will eventually cross over into Nevada, which is extremely flat at this point. The ride will be quite exposed for the first half, so make sure you have proper sun protection and water, especially if it’s a hot day.

Check out the route here.

Version 2
Mountains in the distance
Smooth ridin’ in Nevada


After a long and hot stretch or road, you will eventually go left on the 206 and then the 207, or Kingsbury Grade. This climb is no joke, and can be exceptionally windy. There will likely be cars ascending the road, but you’ll find a decent shoulder for safe riding. The climb is beautiful, with views of the vast and flat farmland of Nevada to below, contrasted by the edge of the Sierra Nevada. The climb winds up, carved into the mountainside. You will go up for about 8 miles, and the grade is pretty steady throughout. Once you reach the top, there will be a sign for Daggett summit, elevation 7334 feet. You will be glad to escape the harsh winds and descend into Lake Tahoe.

About 1/3 of the way up Kingsbury Grade

After the descent, you will pass through the busy Summit Village of Lake Tahoe. After a lunch stop by the water, we took the Pioneer trail out to head back towards the mountains. You will have a good section of flat road here to enjoy, through tall trees. There is nothing spectacular here in terms of scenery, but a welcome stretch of even ground. Eventually you turn left on the 50, and left on 89 to ascend Luther Pass. This is not a steep climb, but fairly long at 6 miles so don’t underestimate it at the end of a hard day. It is quite beautiful scenery, and you will re-enter the trees and tall mountains towering above in the distance. I was spent at this point, and probably didn’t enjoy the climb as much as I should have. The descent is equally beautiful, and smooth, never technical. The ride was definitely worth doing. My favourite section was the long stretch towards the border of Nevada, with pristine roads and charming views. Kingsbury Grade was difficult, especially because of the wind, but it’s ruggedness and corresponding intensity made it a rewarding challenge. The views are also very unique, which adds to the experience going up.

The verdict: A good ride to sample a variety of landscapes around Lake Tahoe and a substantial workout with all of the climbing. To be avoided if you would rather skip windy climbs.

Happy riding!

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