Mount Watson Trail
WHAT: There are a variety of trail options around Mount Watson. Described below is a suggestion of an advanced loop trail offering challenging climbs and descents. It connects a variety of trails but the rewards of views from atop Mount Watson make the pedal worthwhile. It can be quite hot in the summer, so bring plenty of water. This ride begins gradually from the Tahoe City XC (nordic center) on wide trails before you climb your way up to the Whoop-de-doo Trail up to the Fiberboard Freeway which then turns into the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT). On the TRT you’ll travel through a section known as Fire and Ice/Avatar back up to the Fiberboard Freeway. Skirting around the backside of Mount Watson, you’ll reach Mount Watson Road for a quick and steep finish to the top! After rewarding yourself with views, take the singletrack down until you reconnect with the TRT. The TRT will take you by Watson Lake and on the Grinder Trail for the descent. At the bottom, an easy finish on fire roads will connect you back to Tahoe City XC.
LENGTH: 22.9 miles (loop)
DIRECTIONS: From Olympic Bike Shop in Tahoe City, head northeast on CA-28 for 1.9 miles. Turn left on Fabian Way. Turn right on Village Road. Take a left on Country Club Drive and begin your ride from Tahoe XC (925 Country Club Drive). Head west from the parking lot on the doubletrack ascending through meadows. Turn right at signpost 22 and pass your first water tank. At signpost 23, continue straight. You’ll pass a second water tank. At signpost 25, turn left (a 5-way intersection). At signpost 5, turn right and pass signpost 6. You should now be touring through a mule-ear meadow. Look up to view the top of Mount Watson. At signpost 29, turn left. You will soon approach the bottom of the Whoop-de-doo Trail climb. At the top of Whoop-de-doo Trail, turn right onto the Fiberboard Freeway for a mile stretch. At the intersection with the TRT, turn right and begin the section called Fire and Ice/Avatar climb. At the next intersection, turn left to return to the Fiberboard Freeway. Your next turn is a sharp right onto Mount Watson Road. It starts mellow but get ready for a climb. At the top of Mount Watson, take a quick detour on a short spur road to fully enjoy the views. After a break head back down the spur road and look for the singletrack on your right. This section is slightly gravelly and will return you to the TRT. Turn left on the TRT to head to Watson Lake. Make another left when the TRT singletrack widens to doubletrack. Turn right off the double track onto single track through wooden posts. Cross Watson Creek and the trail hugs the east side of Watson Lake. At the T-intersection turn right to rejoin the TRT for and enjoyable descent. Keep and eye out for a right turn onto the Grinder Trail marked with a 4×4 wooden post. This section is pretty rocky with tight turns. Turn right on the second fire road and cross a creek. After a few slight up and downhills merge onto the Old County Fire Road Extension and follow south. After you pass signpost 30 turn left onto an unmarked singletrack. This Reservoir Trail will take you to Dollar Reservoir. Walk over the dam and turn left on the far side of the dam. As you begin a slight ascent, turn right to arrive at the dead end of Country Club Drive. Turn right to find yourself back at the Tahoe XC parking lot.
For more detailed information about this trail and other local trails, inquire with our staff. We also highly recommend Jeremy Benson’s Mountain Bike Tahoe: 50 Select Singletrack Routes. Purchase at Olympic Bike Shop or online at The Backcountry or Amazon.
Photo by Todd Schindler