Spooner Backcountry a vast, wild area

Heading on the Flume Trail heading north to Incline Village, the trail cuts through granite and snakes around rocks along the edge.

Heading on the Flume Trail heading north to Incline Village, the trail cuts through granite and snakes around rocks along the edge.

On the far western side of Carson City, there’s wilderness to be explored. While many people think the city lies within the valley, it actually extends all the way to Lake Tahoe. Here, the vast backcountry opportunities are endless year-round.

There’s 12,000 acres for explorers to wander through in the Spooner Backcountry. Spooner Lake – Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park sits at the top of the mountains en route to Lake Tahoe, where US-50 intersects US-28.

This place allows easy access for hiking, kayaking/canoeing, birdwatching and having a picnic to relax. There are several trails in this area.

An easy trail for everyone to try is one that goes around Spooner Lake. This 2.4 mile loop offers great views, is flat and it stays nice and shaded. There are a few benches in place to give your legs a rest and immerse yourself in nature. This trail is perfect for everyone and shouldn’t be difficult at all.

A longer, more difficult trail is the Flume Trail to Marlette Lake, and continuing on to Incline Village. Doing this trip on a recent September day was well worth it, but it was a little more difficult than expected. This trail is popular with horseback riders and mountain bikers as well. You will need two vehicles if you want to start from Spooner Lake and end at Incline Village, or you could look into a shuttle that runs between the stops.

Although this trail is long, the elevation gain is gradual and most of the hike is on level ground. A majority of the hike is on a path perfect for mountain bikes and horses. It’s a well-maintained dirt road, so it’s easy to traverse.

Marlette Lake is a perfect spot for a long break to have lunch. On this September day, my hiking partner and I were joined by a bald eagle, perhaps looking for lunch as well. At 5.1 miles, the lake isn’t quite the halfway point, but it’s downhill from here.

This is a fairly large lake. It’s a great place to get your line wet if you brought a fishing pole (check restrictions). It’s wide open for birdwatching, and the birds will give you plenty of action. The aspens lining the lake will be yellow soon.

There’s some history to the area as well: It was used to provide water and timber to Virginia City. Spooner Lake was built in 1873 for this purpose. Before the lake, Spooner’s Cabin is open for visitors and there are ruins of another logging cabin along the way. The trail passes a dam as it turns away from the lake, and soon, Lake Tahoe is in view.

Now the trail follows a ridge close to the mountains that gives magnificent views of Lake Tahoe over and over. A later start also provided a scenic backdrop as the sun began to set. There are spectacular views to the north, west and south. The trail snakes around rocks and cuts through the granite for a thrilling experience.

Most of this section has undergone extensive work through volunteers and grants. Many organizations contributed toward improving the trail. It’s still undergoing work and will be closed on the following dates: Sept. 24-27; Oct. 1-4; Oct. 8-11.

The final 2.8 miles takes you back down to lake level as it drops about 1,300 feet. Be cautious for speeding bikers, but hopefully they’re respectful and go at a safe speed down this steeper section. It was quite the journey hiking from Carson City to Incline Village and well worth it.

There’s much more to explore in the Spooner Backcountry and many different ways to do it. At least it’s close by and easily accessible.

Kyler Klix is a designer and contributor at the Nevada Appeal. If you’d like to talk about nature or upcoming concerts, email him at kklix@swiftcom.com


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