Have you ever wondered why leaves change color in the fall? Science fun fact alert – It’s because the chlorophyll that gives the leaves their green color no longer is being produced. At the same time, there are additional chemical changes happening which lead to the mixing of different pigments such as the reds, yellows, and browns you see. So, where are the best places to see this amazing change of seasons in Lake Tahoe?
Mt Rose Summit – An Easy Drive
If you’re looking for an easy drive with great views then Mount Rose highway will fit the bill. Just over 24 miles in length, State Route 431 is the highest summit open year-round in the Sierra Nevada mountain range standing at over 8,911′. With views of Lake Tahoe, Slide Mountain, Reno, and Carson City, there is a lot to see and the golden Aspen foliage is a sight to behold for sure.
Directions: From Incline Village head east for 7 miles on NV-431
Hope Valley – A Place of Contrasts
Located just down the road from Kirkwood ski resort, no matter what time of year you visit, Hope Valley is a land of contrasts. This valley contains the meandering West Carson River surrounded by massive peaks – its scenery is amazing. Another ‘Hope Valley bonus’ is from the lack of human development, allowing you to look over the countryside and enjoy natural beauty as far as the eye can see. Stands of Aspen, Black Cottonwood and Willows dot the meadows leaving you with yellow, gold and orange.
Directions: From Meyers head south on Highway 89 towards Markleeville and drive approximately 12 miles. Turn west on Highway 88, about 2 miles. The fall foliage can be seen off the road but if you are looking for a hike then make a right onto the Blue Lakes Road turnoff and drive another 1.3 miles to the trailhead.
Spooner Lake – Fishing and Fall Foliage
A lake that was built to store irrigation water in 1927, Spooner Lake is home to all kinds of trout such as Lahontan cutthroat and rainbow. It’s a perfect opportunity to check out the fall foliage AND with fishing available year round, you can even catch some dinner.
Directions: From South Lake Tahoe head east on Highway 50 approximately 15 miles. Turn north on Highway 28 for ½ mile to the Spooner Lake Park entrance.
Marlette Lake – Built by Silver
No matter where you go in the Lake Tahoe basin there is always a place that somehow relates back to the silver mining boom in Virginia City. Marlette Lake is a great example of this. Built in 1873 as a reservoir to provide water to Nevada mining operations, the flume, now named the ‘Flume Trail’, was built to pump water down to Virginia City and now is converted into a classic mountain biking trail. The hike up to Marlette Lake is more challenging compared to other ones on the list but well worth it. The trail passes through a Sugar Pine forest, stands of Aspen, and even a patch of ferns, so the opportunity to see fall colors is amazing.
Directions: From Incline Village take Route 28 for five miles to the parking area just across the road from the Chimney Beach trail-head.
Fallen Leaf Lake – Glacial History and Aspen Beauty
Nestled just below Mt. Tallac, the most recognizable peak in the Lake Tahoe basin, Fallen Leaf Lake sits nearly 152′ above the shoreline of Lake Tahoe. This lake was created by two glaciers from the Glen Alpine Valley. If the glaciers would’ve kept moving, Fallen Leaf Lake would’ve been a bay of Lake Tahoe instead of its own body of water. One of the best vantage points to see its fall colors is in Frederick’s Meadow. An easy relaxing hike, the meadow itself is surrounded by Aspen stands and Conifers allowing you to get a little outside exercise AND enjoy some fall colors.
Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, take Hwy 89 north. Just past Camp Richardson, turn left onto Fallen Leaf Lake road (FS road 1212). Drive past the campground and you will see a small trail head. The trail wanders through the meadow and then reaches the lake. There are additional pull out spots along the road up to where there is a gated road on the left.
Page Meadows – Great Single Track
Some people spell this ‘Paige’ Meadows but based on Tahoe Place Names, by Barbara Lekisch, the correct name is Page Meadows. Just down the road from Tahoe City, it is actually a series of five interconnected prairies containing wildflowers in the spring/summer, but in the fall, the groves of Aspen explode with hues of red and yellow. Part of the path is connected to the Tahoe Rim Trail and can even be accessed by mountain bikes. With a hiking loop just under two miles, it’s great for people looking for an easy hike without too much exertion.
Directions: From Tahoe City drive south on Highway 89 just past Sunnyside. Then turn right on Pineland Drive and a left at the “Y” where it says Ward Valley. Follow the trail two miles to the Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead on the left. Take the TRT trail on your right and head north to beautiful Page Meadows.