By Tahoe Mountain Sports Ambassador, Kyle Railton, otherwise knows as “Coach”
It seems that trails get busier every year which to me is a double edged sword. I love the fact that more people have found the enjoyment of being outdoors, but it means more people on the trails and in our favorite spots (and I’m an only child so sharing is tough). This summer I decided to spend a little more time outside on the off hours. There is no better place to greet the new day than from the summit!
I would set my alarm for about 3 am, pound down some oatmeal, slam a double espresso, and hit the road. This way you can be on a mountain top and back to civilization before anyone knows you left. Well, except for my Instagram story followers.
My 3 Favorite summits around Lake Tahoe
1. Rubicon Peak
It is roughly 3.5 miles out and back with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail starts pretty mellow to help you get your heart rate up, then WHAMMO! Up you go!
The trail gets steep and stays steep, starting mostly as dirt then ending in a fun, rocky scramble at the end. The summit offers incredible 360 degree views as you watch the sunrise over the east side of Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness starts to glow in the west.
2. Rose Knob
I prefer the steep and fast route from Jennifer Street in Incline Village. You gain about 2,000 feet in less than 2 miles.
The trail is steep, sandy and loose until you roll onto the saddle. From there you can see the summit. Head to the large boulder field and cross the Tahoe Rim Trail then go up the remaining 200 feet. I suggest exploring around up on all three small summits around there. I think my favorite might be the shortest one.
If you have time there is an amazing loop right behind Rose Knob to Gray Lake. It’s a gorgeous spot with an incredible spring serving the coldest water on the planet. Just head down the Tahoe Rim Trail in either direction and look for the turn off.
3. Maggies Peaks
This summit is under four miles round trip with about 2,000 feet elevation gain. The trail has a lot of switchbacks with some rather rocky sections. It gradually gets steeper as you gain elevation. The South Peak is pretty straightforward, just hang a left when you reach the saddle that looks down on Eagle Lake. The North Peak is a little trickier from the saddle. I find myself cautiously picking my way around large rocks and bushes. This trail is great for views of Lake Tahoe from the summit and the fact that you can take a sunrise dip in Granite Lake on the way back to your car. I just discovered this one and have been back three times.
Like I said, as an only child it’s difficult for me to share my pots of gold. But if you are willing to wake up in the middle of the night, strap on a headlamp and push up a peak… chances are we have something in common and I look forward to seeing you on the top.
Gear I use for hiking
I have been using the Black Diamond Storm for years. It’s comfy, waterproof, and extremely durable. I run with it in the 24 hour Tough Mudder (Worlds Toughest Mudder), rinse it off, throw in some fresh batteries and it’s ready for all my at home adventures too.
My newest purchase this year and favorite gear item is the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest. Dave, the owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports, told me it would become my new go to pack for all things in the mountains and I thought he was insane…. but the gear guru was right again.
It’s crazy versatile. The pack is super light when you want to feel free and move quickly through the mountains, but you can load this bad boy down for longer adventures. The compartments are crazy stretchy, you can just keep shoving things in. And if you dig a hydration bladder, there’s a compartment that easily fits 3 liters.
I have been wearing the Merrell All Out Crush 2. Designed for Tough Mudders, but they have been my go to trail running shoe this summer. They have a minimal feel but are stiff enough to handle pretty rocky terrain. The grip is amazing for super steep terrain, and the shoe is crazy lightweight. They are a game changer when running Tough Mudders too.
Growing up on Lake Tahoe, Kyle spent his formative years outside with his father – running, climbing, building, playing. Echoing the words of John F. Kennedy, his father taught him to be an athlete, not a spectator. “We don’t watch sports,” he would say, “we play them.”
This perspective stuck with Kyle, and fitness became a natural part of his lifestyle. But as it happens so often, when hard times came, fitness was one of the first things to fall by the wayside. After losing his father to cancer in 2003, Kyle found himself on a downward trajectory that lasted for years. Most days Kyle found himself not running and climbing, but sitting and drinking. Feeling depressed and adrift, the energy he had once felt seemed a world away.
His journey back to a healthy lifestyle started in 2008, with a snowmobile. Speeding around the mountains of Tahoe, he began to feel that spark of energy and drive again. Next he traded his snowmobile for a dirtbike, and his passion grew. As he began racing, he realized he’d be a lot more successful if he got his body back in shape, which led him to CrossFit. Passion built on passion, and he became not only a CrossFit athlete but a Certified Trainer (Level 1), with additional certifications in Endurance, Olympic Lifting, Strongman, and Kettlebell.
Once again living a fitness-focused lifestyle – and feeling healthier and happier than ever before – signing up for Tough Mudder NorCal 2010 was an easy choice. Since then, Kyle has become a Legionnaire, a Warm-Up MC, and a Tough Mudder Training expert.
Follow him @coachtmud
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