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Falling for autumn: Colors pop as temperatures drop

Miranda Jacobson / mjacobson@tahoedailytribune.com
Red Lake Cabin Creek in Hope Valley is a popular place to peep leaves.
Provided/John Poimiroo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Autumn is here and on Sunday, Oct. 9, the full Hunter’s Moon will rise again, reaching its peak illumination at 1:54 p.m. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the best time to see the full moon is around sunset, when the moon is just beginning to shine above the horizon. 

The Hunter Moon comes at a time when fall colors are changing in the Lake Tahoe Basin. 

CaliforniaFallColor.com Editor and Publisher John Poimiroo said the two main factors in the change of color are temperature and light. As the days grow shorter and colder, the leaves are exposed to less sunlight which causes them to stop producing chlorophyll. 



But for those who wonder why some areas in the country don’t get “seasons,” Poimiroo had the answer. 

“Deciduous trees are triggered to recognize that it’s time to drop those leaves,” said Poimiroo. “And they do that as a defense mechanism. Typically, [leaf shedding] trees are in areas where snow could break branches if the leaf stayed on the trees.” 



Eighty percent of the people who live in California live near the coast, meaning a low percentage of Californians experience fall color changes. 

In the Lake Tahoe Basin, where trees and wildlife are rapidly preparing for winter, the time for seeing the beautiful hues of orange and yellows in the leaves is now. 

“The optimal conditions are basically warm days and cold nights, and when we have those cold, clear nights and warm days, we’re going to get good fall color development,” Poimiroo said. 

One reason Poimiroo says getting out sooner rather than later to see the beautiful colors is because there is an algae that is beginning to appear on some leaves that forms during the spring time when rain is followed by freezing temperatures. 

“That breeds this black spot algae in the autumn,” said Poimiroo. “You don’t see it until the leaves start to change and then it reveals itself to be there. Additionally, this drought that we’ve been through may make the color change short-lived. There’s not a lot of water in the trees or in the ground, so as they dry, they’re not taking in nourishment, and those leaves can begin to fall quicker.” 

When going to visit the many places in the Truckee/Tahoe area to see the fall colors, remember to plan ahead to reduce the chances of harming the environment, including planning your route and dressing accordingly for the weather. 

“Don’t create a new path,” Poimiroo said. “Walk on an established trail, use established roads, and be cautious not to create new ones or damage the environment. It might be really enticing to walk into the woods to get a picture of a particular leaf, but if there’s not a trail nearby, or you can see that you’re going to create damage, I wouldn’t do it.” 

There are plenty of places to head out to in the Truckee/Tahoe region that allow for scenic views and incredible hiking experiences. 

“At Lake Tahoe, there are a number of areas around the lake that have beautiful color, such as some of the parks on the Nevada side on the east side of the lake that have got some beautiful color and then going through South Lake Tahoe up towards Emerald Bay there is some beautiful color,” Poimiroo said.

Quaking Aspen in Hope Valley off California State Route 88.
Provided/John Poimiroo

Hope Valley 

A drive over to Hope Valley will bring visitors incredible views this time of year, according to Poimiroo. 

“Hope Valley has a large stance of quaking Aspen that is quite beautiful,” Poimiroo said. “In fact, they are just reaching near the peak right now.” 

The valley is a favorite destination for fly fisherman, artists, photographers, and day hikers who’ve come to appreciate the natural beauty. 

The picturesque views complement the aging cabins and Wylder Hotel, which features a restaurant and log cabins that will put you in the perfect fall portrait. 

Mt. Rose Highway and the Meadows

When heading up Nevada State Route 431 on Mount Rose Highway, admire the beautiful views of trees that line the road, with plenty of space to stop at the Meadows to hike and observe. 

The Meadows feature a variety of foliage and wildlife, with an interpretive loop trail available to anyone. This 1.2-mile length hike is also wheelchair accessible, and creates the perfect stroll to observe the fall colors. 

Martis Creek Cabin 

Get ready for incredible views and the most beautiful hues in the Truckee area off California State Route 267 just past Kings Beach. 

“There’s a famous old cabin there and a lot of couples who are getting married will have their wedding pictures taken near this derelict cabin because it’s very rustic,” Poimiroo said. “You can walk right to it. It’s in the meadow and there are beautiful stands of Aspen all around it.” 

Mid-October is when the area peaks with the best fall colors. 

For several more ideas for leaf viewing on the South Shore, visit https://visitlaketahoe.com/attractions/lake-tahoe-fall-colors/.

For several more fall hikes to peep leaves in the Truckee-Tahoe region, visit https://www.visittruckeetahoe.com/blog/fall-hikes.


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