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July 12, 2013 | Tim Hauserman
Ward Creek State Park
Just a half-mile down the bike trail from Sunnyside is a little hidden gem, Ward Creek State Park. Until this past year, it was an undeveloped chunk of land sandwiched between Ward Creek and Timberland, with one lightly used trail bringing mountain bikers and dog walkers through a few miles of dense woods to the Stanford Rock Trail. Over the past few years, however, the trees have been thinned, bringing sunshine and views to the forest, and this summer a new network of trails has been completed which are ready to be explored.
There are three main access points to the new trail network: next to Ward Creek, further along the bike trail to the south, and at the Rideout Community Center on Timberland Lane. From Rideout, you immediately pass over a large meadow on wooden boardwalks and built up trails. It’s a frog haven in the spring, wildflower garden in the summer, and a ring of colorful aspens in the fall. From there, the trails, mostly packed down crushed rock that is a breeze to ride or run over, take you either along a lightly used section of Ward Creek and back to the bike trail, or climb gently to the Stanford Rock trail.
The new trail network makes the park a prime choice for a short hike, run, or mountain bike ride. Do you have an hour or two free before heading out onto the deck for dinner? Get on the bike trail heading south, walk or ride past Kilner Park, and as soon as you cross Ward Creek, find the trail to your right. You have arrived.
Burton Creek State Park/Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Area.
The trails of Burton Creek State Park, home to Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Area in the winter, are perhaps the greatest network of mountain biking routes in the North Tahoe area. Miles of trails wind through meadows dripping with wildflowers and climb to spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. While you can jump onto the trail system in a variety of different locations, the easiest is at the Tahoe Cross-Country Lodge in The Highlands, about two miles north of Tahoe City. This year the folks who run Tahoe XC have started a bike rental business. Along with renting a Specialized bike right from the trailhead, you can rent or purchase that piece of biking gear you left in the Bay Area, or pick up an ice cream, cold drink, smoothie or panini sandwich at the Free Heel Café. They can even give you directions and a map to maneuver your way through the maze of trails you will encounter. For more information go to www.tahoexc.org.