Where to view fall foliage — then grab a bite — in Lake Tahoe (video)
October 14, 2017
Fall is fleeting, but beautiful, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The air is crisp, the sun casts a warm glow, and the aspens have turned a golden yellow. For the perfect autumn day, go check out one of these meadows, valleys and lakes near Lake Tahoe for the best fall foliage before making a pit stop at a nearby eatery.
Hope Valley + Sorensen's Country Café
Ask most South Shore residents where the best place to see fall foliage is and their answers are usually the same: Hope Valley. Hope Valley sits at 7,000 feet on the eastern side of Carson Pass. Walk along the West Carson River snaking through the valley and take in the colors on foot, or go for an afternoon drive along CA 88, stopping to snap pictures of the picturesque barns.
For a bite to eat, stop at Sorensen's Country Café for a house-made quiche of the day, beef burgundy stew or fresh salad on the restaurant's scenic patio. The café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and serves up an assortment of wine, champagne and beer.
Directions: To get to Hope Valley from South Lake Tahoe, take U.S. 50 through Meyers. Turn lefts onto CA 89 and continue over Luther Pass to Pickett's Junction. To get to Sorensen's Country Café, turn left onto CA 88 and the destination will be on the right in less than a mile.
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Cathedral Meadow + Beacon Bar & Grill
Take a hike through Cathedral Meadow near Fallen Leaf Lake to soak in the beauty of the yellow-leaved aspen groves. To get there, head to the Taylor Creek Sno-Park in South Lake Tahoe. An unmarked trail off of the parking lot will take you 1.25 miles along Taylor Creek to a bridge that traverses the Fallen Leaf Lake outflow, the turnaround point for the out-and-back trail. In addition to beautiful fall foliage, expect epic views of Mount Tallac along the way, too.
After a day out on the trail, head to the Beacon Bar & Grill for a variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads and tacos. Dive into a roasted turkey, Brie, apple butter and arugula sandwich on grilled sourdough bread or a bowl of clams steamed in homemade garlic and white wine butter. In need of a drink? Warm up with the Hot Bubba — Bailey's, Frangelico, Grand Marnier, hot coffee topped with whipped cream and a Korbel Brandy float.
Directions: To get to Taylor Creek Sno-Park, take CA 89 toward Emerald Bay. Turn left off of the highway onto Cathedral Road roughly a half-mile north of the Taylor Creek Bridge. To get to the Beacon, take a right onto CA 89 from the sno-park then turn left onto Jameson Beach Road in about a mile.
Spooner and Marlette lakes + Bella Tahoe Catering & Deli
For an easy fall hike filled with golden aspens, walk around Spooner Lake. If the 2.1-mile loop is too easy, continue past Spooner Lake and take on the 10.3-mile out-and-back trek up to Marlette Lake. The moderate hike will take you through groves of aspens, along creeks and end at the expansive lake.
Prior to hitting the trail, stop by Bella Tahoe Catering & Deli to pick up lunch to enjoy on the edge of Spooner or Marlette lakes. The deli's to-go box lunches include a gourmet sandwich with fruit or pasta salad and chips. Some fan favorites include the Rubicon Sandwich (freshly sliced pastrami with sauerkraut, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese and stone ground mustard on toasted marble rye) and the Chicken Salad Sandwich (cranberry walnut chicken salad served on a buttery croissant with lettuce and tomato).
Directions: To get to Spooner Lake – Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, take U.S. 50 east to NV 28. Turn right into the park in under a mile. Bella Tahoe Catering & Deli is located on U.S. 50 in Stateline between Kahle Drive and 4H Road.
Lam Watah Nature Trail + Tahoe Hot Pot
A walk along the Lam Watah Nature Trail in Stateline has a little bit of everything: wide-open golden meadows, pine tree-lined paths, yellow aspen groves, and meandering creeks. The 2.8-mile, out-and-back trail makes for a beautiful fall trek ending at Nevada Beach.
After soaking in the fall colors, cross U.S. 50 and warm up at Tahoe Hot Pot. The do-it-yourself Asian soup joint opened this August and gives diners the opportunity to add a selection of vegetables, noodles and meat or seafood to a pot of simmering homemade broth right at the table.
Directions: Lam Watah Nature Trail starts at a small parking lot located at the corner of U.S. 50 and Kahle Drive in Stateline. Tahoe Hot Pot is located directly across the highway from the trailhead.