Don’t let a one-way hike fool you. It doesn’t mean it will be easier than an out-and-back or that it’s all downhill. Such is the case when going from Kingsbury Grade to Van Sickle Bi-State Park. This 5.91-mile hike is uphill the first half, downhill the second.
The first part is all along the Tahoe Rim Trail, while the second is through the state park that spans Nevada and California. This is the only bi-state park in the United States.
Even in smoky conditions, the scenery is stunning with the forest providing ample opportunities for photos before Lake Tahoe comes into view. At the connector to the state park it’s possible to climb a bit higher for more views. This is where Heavenly Mountain Resort’s Boulder chairlift ends and the North Bowl chair starts. The hiking trail is outside the resort’s boundary.
Most of the route is single track, with it being soft dirt going up. It’s not terribly steep, but is distinctly uphill. While there are switchbacks, it’s more of a meander. Starting at more than 7,000 feet, the trees are not as dense here compared to some hikes in the Tahoe basin.
This half of the trail provides views of some large homes on the Nevada side that otherwise go unnoticed. A couple spots along the way the lake comes into view, with Round Hill being a prominent natural feature.
The first time I was on this trail I did an out-and-back where we started at the stairs off of Kingsbury Grade and went as far as the vista point. There is a sign marking that location. This was 4.75 miles round trip. Two weeks later I did the one-way with another friend starting on Buchanan Road. Seeing a bear and walking under clear skies were bonuses on the first hike. Doing the one-way meant better views of Lake Tahoe, even with smoky skies.
Descending into the state park the trail changes to where there is more rock to navigate. This would be where poles might be welcome for those with knee issues. Some of that granite comes in the form of stairs, other times it is embedded in the trail. None of it is all that difficult, it’s just different than the first half of the route. Expect to run into more people on the section in Van Sickle park.
Once Lake Tahoe comes into view on the descent she is nearly a constant fixture. The entire South Shore unfolds—the natural and man-made. A little water is still flowing before getting to the main waterfall at the bridge. The waterfall is at 4.77 miles in, meaning there is less than 1¼ miles left to reach the vehicle you dropped off in the park.
While there is water along the trail, be sure to bring some for your four legged companions. The opportunities to drink are too far apart at the beginning to be sufficient. Expect to encounter mountain bikers on the Rim Trail. The entire hike is in Nevada.
- From South Lake Tahoe, turn on Heavenly Village Way. This leads into Van Sickle Bi-State Park. Leave a car in the upper parking lot. From there, exit park by turning right onto Lake Parkway. At light, turn right onto Highway 50. Turn right onto Kingsbury Grade (Route 207), then turn right on Buchanan Road. Park in front of the gate on the left. On the trail be sure to follow the TRT signs at the beginning. There is a distinct right across a small creek. (Going straight will take you to the Boulder ski lodge and parking lot.) Then go right at the connector toward Van Sickle. (Staying straight keeps you on the Tahoe Rim Trail.)
- Dogs allowed.
- Elevation gain was 830 feet, with minimum being 6,494 feet and maximum 7,862 feet.
- For more ideas about where to hike in the greater Lake Tahoe area, check out The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes or Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks.