Thunder Mountain to Horseshoe Canyon

Kirkwood

Lake Tahoe

This jagged mountain peak actually provides an excellent, albeit steep, mountain bike ride.

Mountain Biking Severe

Distance
14 km
Ascent
550 m
Descent
794 m
Low Point
2.2 km
High Point
2.9 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
Thunder Mountain to Horseshoe Canyon Map

Description

Thunder Mountain near Kirkwood, California is known as a relatively mellow peak hike—which means that it makes for an excellent mountain peak to summit on your mountain bike! Rocky singletrack that's no problem on foot makes for entertaining rock garden riding on a mountain bike.

Make no mistake: the grunt to the top is still strenuous. But that steep climb rewards you with a superb descent!

The descent begins with beautiful ridge top riding, with wide-open views in all directions. The soil is sandy and loose, interspersed with sharp rocks that look volcanic in origin.

After dropping off the ridge, the descent picks up in earnest, with some portions of the trail being bench cut into the side of the mountain. The fall danger is quite significant through the bench cut sections—while the trail tread is wide, it would be a long tumble down the mountainside!

Lower down, the steepness of the mountain slope mellows out, allowing you to really open it up and rail through the flowy, dry singletrack! In the middle portions of the trail, the singletrack swoops through wide-open alpine meadows.

Eventually, this flowy track drops back into the forest. Some of the lower sections of the trail actually hold bigger rocks and gnarlier rock gardens than the above treeline portions. Here, the rocks are more rounded and boulder-like, with a few big up-and-over moves.

There are a few different ways to climb and descend Thunder Mountain. The route mapped here includes a little car shuttle via the highway to get you some free vert. Alternatively, you could pedal up the highway, ride from the upper trailhead as an out-and-back, or if you’re truly masochistic, ride up from the lower trailhead.

However you choose to ride it, Thunder Mountain serves as a rewarding and surprisingly-rideable mountain summit.

Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe1eUxmWLoQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6e01y7cNWtY

Difficulty

Severe

Widely variable, narrow trail tread with steeper grades and unavoidable obstacles of 15in/38cm tall or less. Obstacles may include unavoidable bridges 24in/61cm wide or less, large rocks, gravel, difficult root sections, and more. Ideal for advanced-level riders.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

July, August, September, October

Features

  • Technical
  • Picturesque
  • Singletrack
  • Rock Gardens

Guidebooks in this area