Gnarley Says It All
With the discovery of Gold and Silver at the Comstock in nearby Virginia City the need for water soon outstripped supply. The year was 1870 and a series of engineering feats were attempted to move water and lumber to the thirsty mining communities. In 1873 German, Herman Schussler, engineered a series of flumes to accomplish this task. A 37 foot high earthen dam was built at Marlette Lake to raise the lake level, then a series of box flumes were built between Marlette Lake and Tunnel Creek which is what created the Flume Trail. The system was used well into the 1900 s. By 1957 the system had been upgraded and the old box flume had fallen into disrepair. In the mid 1980 s Max Jones, an avid mountain biker saw the potential for recreational use and with a plan in mind, he and other volunteers began clearing the old flumes and other obstacles. Listed as one of the top ten mountain bike trails in the west, the Flume Ride is often mentioned in mountain bike magazines.
The Flume Trail is an alternate trail for the Tahoe Rim Trail(TRT). This section of the TRT is very popular and a little confusing. One reason it has developed into three is to sort out the traffic. The Flume is open to hikers and mountain bikers seven days a week. The official TRT is open to hikers. Mountain bikers are only allowed on even days. A third section of the TRT is open for hikers and horses but closed to mountain bikes south of Marlette Lake. The Marlette-Hobart Backcountry map is available at any local Nevada State Park and details the rules which are clearly signed on the trails.
The Flume trail can be done in three configurations, beginner, intermediate, or advanced. It can be done in either direction but the description given will be south to north. Starting at The Spooner Lake State Park be sure to ask for a map when paying the day use fee. If you are mountain biking you may want to stop by the Flume Trail Mountain Bike Store just inside the State Park. Consider taking advantage of the shuttle service they offer. From the parking lot signs direct you to the Flume Trail. The Flume Trail starts as a jeep road as it goes thru North Canyon. You pass a few old pioneer cabins, a few of which are available as overnight. A few placards along the way offer an insight of local history. The road starts its climb immediately as you have to gain over 1,300 feet in the first six miles. At times the road surface has a sandy texture 2-4 inches which saps your energy like a walk at the beach. At about the three mile point there is a restroom. The climb gets steeper now as you make the final climb up to the crest overlooking Marlette Lake. If you want the beginner route this is your turnaround. Return the way you came.
It's a one mile downhill from here as you enjoy the panoramic views of Marlette Lake. Marlette Lake does not allow swimming as it is a water source for Carson City. Catch and release fishing for trout is popular. A marked intersection gives you plenty of choices. This is where all three alternatives of the TRT cross. The Flume Trail is clearly marked to your left. Before you continue you may want to take the side trail alongside the restroom several hundred yards out to rocky point and see the chimney that remains from a cabin built here in 1933. In the late 1960 s, a crew was sent up here to tear down an old watch mans cabin that was thought to be a safety hazard. They tore down this cabin in error. In 2005 the Chimney was rebuilt to honor the pioneers and a placard erected to explain the story. Go back and catch the Flume Trail. It continues around the west side of the lake as you pass a trout spawning station erected by the Nevada Division of wildlife. The trail turns to the west and depending on the lakes level you will probably have to go thru about 8 inches of water for about 100 feet. You are now at the dam, the official start of the Flume Trail. From here it is narrow single track for the next 4.4 miles. From this point on the views of the forests, granite cliffs and Lake Tahoe are spectacular. The initial 100 yards offer a dramatic switchback and several rock steps down and then a narrow bridge crossing over Marlette Creek. Thru thick underbrush and suddenly Lake Tahoe is ahead of you. Fabulous granite outcroppings compliment the gorgeous lake know as Big Blue(Lake Tahoe). Use caution as the sandy conditions persist and just a hair to close to the edge will have you lose you balance. Its 1,000-1,500 feet down to the lake from here. Heads up as hikers or bikers may be coming around the next hairpin corner. Secret Harbor lies below and normally has a few boats anchored. Further down the relatively flat trail is comma shaped Sand Harbor. You can often hear people talking at the beach due to the accustics. A few fallen trees act as bridges over the trail and there is a section in which a landslide has left rocks as an obstacle course to get thru. Memorial point lies below now as the granite fades in its grandeur and the forest gets thicker. A short climb brings you to the tunnel creek junction. For the advanced version take a right at this intersection and begin a 1,000 ft climb as it loops around and heads back past Marlette Lake to Spooner Lake.
The intermediate route continues straight ahead. The next 3 miles is a steep downhill on Tunnel Creek Road. An old jeep road it is rutted, rocky and has deep sandy areas 2-6 inches deep. Caution is to be used if you want to make it to the finish without some road rash. You come out to SR 28 right by hidden beach just south of Incline Village, NV. You may want to take a swim. Perhaps you left a vehicle nearby to self shuttle. You could ride or walk the road back to Spooner State Park. Or just wait here and in the summer months the Flume Bike Shop operates a mountain bike shuttle and picks up on the hour every hour from 1100am to 5 pm. Hikers and or bikers can use the shuttle(see fee). You can buy a ticket ahead of time or just show up.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.