Don’t you love it when you discover something in your travels that’s generally known only to locals? We enjoyed that experience during our latest trip to Lake Tahoe. For years, I’ve been collecting information about the Flume Trail in north Tahoe. Today, it’s a well known hiking and biking trail high above the east side of the lake. It’s named after the flume and tramway system built here in the 1870s. Lumber needs of the miners on the other side of the Nevada mountain grew when silver and gold were discovered. Sawmills were built along Lake Tahoe and trees were felled. An elaborate wooden trough system carried the wood from the lakeshore over the mountain. Here’s a photo showing the flume, and a drawing showing the crazy adventures of reporters who decided to ride the flume down the mountain.
The path of the flume above the little city of Incline Village is now well traveled. This is referred to as the Marlette Flume and it runs through Tunnel Creek Station. It can be a strenuous hike. The one time I made it up and back the entire way I lost a toenail. (I told a local man this and his response was, “Only one?”)
So this trip I noticed a new trail showing up when I searched online. The Incline Flume Trail starts off Highway 431, about 2 miles out of Incline Village. Due to some of this part of the flume trail lying in private land, up until recently it was not allowed on maps. Signage was finally put up when the landowners donated their holdings. It’s still only lightly traveled. Most hikers we met were locals. Reasons to find this trail if you go include views of the lake and an almost level path. It is truly a hidden gem.
At first, I was excited to see little patches of snow hanging on in the June sun. Soon, the small patches grew to cover the flume trail. We had to cross the icy snow (in other words, it was slippery!) or turn back. I fell a couple of times, but I didn’t slide all the way down to the creek. I have only a few photos because I had to pack up my camera to protect it from a tumble. When we reached the creek, it was too wild to cross. I would love to come back later in the season to see more of this trail.
We enjoyed this hike, but we weren’t quite ready for it to end. Returning to our car, which was parked along Highway 431, we noticed a trail veering down the other side of the road toward the lake. We decided to come back another day to explore that trail.
Later we stopped in the Visitors Center to ask about the unnamed trail. If you are in Incline Village, be sure to spend time chatting with the people who work here. They found out-of-print information on the flume trail and told us that we could explore it further by hiking on the other side of the highway. We learned a lot about the history of the flume. More than 80 miles of the V-shaped flume lined the hills. It’s hard to believe, but at the end of the lumber era, EVERY tree had been cut down. Forests are lush now, but all of these trees grew up after the 1880s.
It’s less traveled and is sheltered the entire way by pines. We started spying remains of the flume in the form of rotted pieces of formed wood and rusty nails. In the most shaded portions of the trail, the flume was quite obvious.
This part of the Incline Flume Trail intersected with Old Mt Rose Highway. This was obviously the path the logs took from the sawmill on the shore up this part of the mountain. We had hiked the “secret” Incline Flume Trail!
To find the Incline Flume Trail, travel up the mountain on Highway 431 out of Incline Village. About a mile past the Viewpoint stop, look for a parking area for about 6 cars. That’s it! For more information on the Incline Flume Trail, you can read this article. Or talk with locals when you visit Lake Tahoe. We’ve found that’s the best way to discover secrets and hidden gems here!