Uncategorized June 29, 2024

Riding Blackwood Canyon!

By Tim Hauserman 

One of my favorite road bike rides in the Tahoe region is the seven mile climb through Blackwood Canyon to Barker Pass. The ride is on a paved Forest Service Road that is fairly lightly traveled and provides awesome views of Blackwood Creek, Twin Peaks and the wide expanse of Blackwood Canyon. If you time it right, it is also a favorite spot to see wildflowers, especially a prolific display of orange paintbrush and purple lupine in the sixth mile.  

I recommend starting a few miles away from the base of Blackwood to warm up the legs on the bike trail along the lake before the steady climb to the top. Fortunately, the first two miles is somewhat of a warm up as well. A gentle ascent through a combination of deep forest and occasional meadows before crossing Blackwood creek on a bridge. Perhaps a break to enjoy the view of the creek with the high peaks in the background is advised, because the real climbing is about to begin. 

The next five miles are almost all a steady climb and for me at least, most of the time I’m in my lowest gears. As you climb, the views get better. There is a nice open pull off about 3.5 miles up with a view of Twin Peaks, and another a half mile further. At about 4.5 miles you get the only break in the climbing, a several hundred yard level section where you will enjoy a much needed break. 

After the break, the climb gets steeper, especially the last mile and a half. You are rewarded, however, by some amazing canyon views, more wildflowers, and a change from the lower elevation Jeffrey pines and white firs, to the higher elevation trees that I love: mountain hemlocks and red firs. And this north facing slope that holds the snow until just a week or two ago provides for huge red firs and hefty and healthy hemlocks. Another highlight are the fairly frequent crossing of babbling creeks. 

You reach the end of the pavement and your turn around point at the Ellis Peak Trail. Have a gravel bike? You can ride on the red lava rock road an additional half mile to the Pacific Crest Trail/Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead. No bikes allowed on the trail, but it makes for a nice turn around point. I went there on my ride today and had a nice chat with a couple of TRT thru-hikers and got a quick wave from a few PCT thru-hikers heading to Canada. 

The Scoop: The Road to Barker Pass is across Highway 89 from the lake at Kaspian Campground. About 4.4 miles south of Tahoe City. The top five miles are narrow so keep your eyes peeled for cars.