As I rode north on California 89 towards Emerald Bay my ears grew numb from the cold, and frankly it looked like it could start raining at any time. Around the 2 mile mark I picked up the bike path that parallels the highway, but runs through the forest for about 3.5 miles before you are forced back on to the shoulderless highway for the last 3 miles up to the Emerald Bay overlook.
I started out at around 6,300 feet at the park, but noticed as I rode north that the road descends down to just over 6,200 feet before you begin the daunting climb up to Emerald Bay. Just after you re-enter the highway you begin a relentless climb, which turns into hairpin switch backs which are rated at 15% grades in places. For much of the last 3 miles I was fighting a 7-8% grade with short stretches between 13 and 15%.
The total distance from Tahoe Valley Campground to the overlook is exactly 8.64 miles, and from the lowest elevation point to the overlook you gain just over 700' in elevation. It took me 49 minutes and 32 seconds to cover the distance. Now that I have a bench mark I will try to improve on the time over the course of the summer. Frankly, it took me less time than I was expecting....I have driven this road many, many times over the years, and it is a tough climb in a car, let alone on a bike. All of the cars which passed me gave me plenty of room. I'm not sure I would do this ride on a summer weekend when the traffic will be 10 times worse, but we'll see. The ride back down the switchbacks was a little harrowing, and I reached speeds over 35 mph a few times....thanks goodness for the hydraulic disc brakes I have on my bike!