Photo courtesy Kara Fox
By Tim Hauserman
One of the things you must do at Lake Tahoe in the fall is check out the return of the Kokanee salmon to Taylor Creek. Hearing that the fish were beginning to head upstream in big numbers, I decided it was time for a visit and I brought along a bike to peruse the nearby South Tahoe bike trails. Although a sunny weekend day led to a substantial crowd of red fish peepers and slow motion bike trail blockers, it was worth it to see the fish and be outside enjoying a warm fall day.
The Taylor Creek Visitor Center is 24 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89. Here the Rainbow Trail winds through a marshy area to a boardwalk along the edge of Taylor Creek. The creek is shallow and fairly narrow so you get up close to the fish, and there are a lot of them. A few Mergansers float above, occasionally taking quick dives down to attempt to get a salmon dinner. Their success rate is low, but I imagine one catch would keep the ducks full for days. If you arrive early before the crowds you might also see a bear dining on the salmon special.
After a quick stroll and fish gaze, I got on my bike and headed to the nearby bike trail. First stop was the bridge across Taylor Creek, which is one of the best Kokanee viewing spots. From here I rode about two miles towards Emerald Bay to trail’s end, before returning to Baldwin Beach, where a wide bike lane led right to the beach and restroom facilities. In addition to lake access, I stopped to capture the lovely view of Mt. Tallac over the marsh.
Next I headed east on the South Tahoe Bikeway to Ski Run Blvd and back for what would end up being a 22 mile round trip.
The bike trail rolls past Camp Richardson and Pope Beach before winding through South Tahoe neighborhoods and close, but not onto, Highway 50. While some of it was less than scenic, it was a quiet route away from traffic. I also passed over several marshy bodies of water and to a viewpoint across the lake from El Dorado Beach.
On the return trip my highlight was stopping for a great slice of pizza at Slice of Sierra Pizza right along the trail. It was then I discovered the advantage to having a bike trail which goes right through town: Instant access to food.