Leaf peeping at Lake Tahoe: Best spots to view fall foliage
As the mountain air gets crisper, mornings get cooler, and nights come quicker, it means it’s time to trade in the tank tops for snug sweaters, IPAs for pumpkin ales, and ornate seashells for decorative gourds.
More importantly, it means it’s time to trade in sandy-beach walks for valley-and-meadow strolls to witness the annual show of fall colors — vibrant splashes of brilliant burnt orange, golden yellow and red hues painting the endless Sierra Nevada forests.
Whether you’re a leaf peeper, tranquility seeker, or both, fall at Lake Tahoe is the perfect time to retreat into the trees to catch the bursts of colors before they fade away.
Browse Instagram for photos of fall foliage around Tahoe and you’ll find a majority of the most eye-popping shots are pinned with the same location: Hope Valley. Indeed, it’s commonly agreed upon by South Shore residents that Hope Valley is the ultimate spot to capture Insta-worthy views, whether you’re stopping off during a drive along CA 88 or walking beside the West Carson River that flows through the valley.
Directions: To get to Hope Valley from South Lake Tahoe, take U.S. 50 through Meyers. Turn left onto California Route 89 and continue over Luther Pass to Pickett’s Junction.
Bite tip: Stop at Sorensen’s Country Café for house-made quiche, beef burgundy stew, or garden-fresh salads on the restaurant’s scenic patio.
SPOONER AND MARLETTE LAKES
Immerse yourself in golden aspens with a breezy 2.1-mile hike around Spooner Lake. Or, if you’re itching to get in a full workout, head to Marlette Lake and back for a 10.3-mile hike. As you trek through groves and along creeks, you’ll see swaths of aspens showing off their changing colors.
Directions: To get to Spooner Lake—Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, take U.S. 50 east to Nevada Route 28. Turn right into the park in under a mile.
Bite tip: Before hitting the trails, hit up Bella Tahoe Catering & Deli for to-go box lunches (which include a gourmet sandwich with fruit or pasta salad and chips) to savor on the edge of either lake.
LAM WATAH NATURE TRAIL
Wide-open meadows? Check. Glowing aspen groves? Check. Pine tree-line paths? Check. Lam Watah Nature Trail delivers the goods when it comes to fall hiking for popping colors. Located near Stateline, the 2.8-mile out-and-back trail takes you to Nevada Beach for a soul-soothing hike.
Directions: Lam Watah Trail starts at a small parking lot located at the corner of U.S. 50 and Kahle Drive in Stateline.
Bite tip: After a day in the cool fall air, cross U.S. 50 and head over to Tahoe Hot Pot to warm up with some do-it-yourself Asian soup.
FALLEN LEAF LAKE
It’d be false advertising if Fallen Leaf Lake wasn’t a destination for leaf peepers.
Located on the South Shore near Mount Tallac, this picturesque alpine lake has trails that let you soak in golden aspens along its shoreline and nearby groves.
Directions: From South Lake Tahoe, take U.S. 50 west to California Route 89 and turn right. After passing through Camp Richardson Resort, turn onto Fallen Leaf Road. Access the easier trails just past the campground.
Bite Tip: Before turning onto Fallen Leaf Road, take a right off of California Route 89 onto Jameson Beach Road and hit the Beacon Bar & Grill. The lakeside restaurant features a variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads and tacos.