Fall is one of my favorite seasons in Lake Tahoe with crisp air, quiet mountains, wearing all the cozy layers, and the beautiful fall foliage. As summer comes to a close and the temperatures drop, people Lake Tahoe and wait for the snow to return with skis and snowboards. This means that fall is a great time to visit because there are less crowds but the weather is usually still beautiful and great for hiking (check out my Lake Tahoe hiking guide here) and the trees putting on a beautiful show of colors.
So I’ve put together a guide with the best spots to see fall foliage in Lake Tahoe. The leaves typically start changing in late September and, depending on the weather, can last until November. However, over the years I’ve found the best time to see the fall foliage in Lake Tahoe is mid to late October.
Hope Valley is probably my favorite spot to see the fall foliage in the Lake Tahoe area. It is just south of Tahoe on Highway 88 as you head towards Kirkwood Ski Resort. It’s a beautiful drive but there are so many places to pull over and get out to walk around. One of the most popular places to photography is Red Creek Cabin, but there are several open fields, campgrounds, and walking trails to photography the fall foliage. If you’re planning on staying in the area, check out Wylder Hope Valley for cabins, yurts, and campsites.
Tip: Hope Valley gets incredibly busy with people stopping to take pictures or paint the fall colors, especially on the weekends. So plan your visit the week or early in the morning to beat the crowds.
Driving to Hope Valley from South Lake Tahoe takes you over Luther Pass on Highway 89. It’s a beautiful drive through the Aspens with several turn outs and scenic viewpoints to pull over.
Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.
Spooner Lake/Marlette Lake
Spooner Lake is another one of my favorite spots to check out the fall colors. The trail around Spooner Lake is a beautiful and easy walk. But there my favorite spot is North Canyon Road which is the trail to Marlette Lake. The hike to Marlette Lake is beautiful any time of year but my favorite time to do this hike is in the fall with less crowds, cooler temperatures, and beautiful aspens lining the trail with their fall colors. For more information on the hike, see my Lake Tahoe Hiking Guide here. You don’t need to do the entire hike, but I highly recommend it if you have the time!
Tip: There is a $10 fee to park at Spooner Lake
Emerald Bay is a beautiful place to visit any time of year, which is why it is easily one of the most photographed spots in Lake Tahoe. There are scenic overlooks which fill up quickly, but the best views of Emerald Bay are in the hiking trails that take you up the mountain. The views pictured above are on the Bayview Trail in Desolation Wilderness, make sure you check out my Hiking Guide here for more information on this hike, other hikes in the Emerald Bay Area, and Desolation Wilderness passes.
Tip: Parking at Emerald Bay fills up quickly on the weekends, plan to go early in the day or during the week!
I’m so happy I live in a world where there are Octobers.
Taylor Creek Visitor Center
Just a couple miles North on Highway 89 towards Emerald Bay, the Taylor Creek Visitor Center is a great place to get out and explore the variety of plants and animals that live in Lake Tahoe. The family friendly trails are short and easy walks that take you through the aspens, offer beautiful views of the mountains, or take you to the shore of Lake Tahoe.
Tip: Head to the Taylor Creek Visitor Center in early October to see the annual fall migration of the Kokanee salmon
Fallen Leaf Lake
Fallen Leaf Lake is a great place to see the fall foliage with a great trail that goes around the lake with incredible views of Mt. Tallac and goes through meadows bordered with Quaking Aspens. And one of my favorite spots to admire the fall colors is at Saint Francis Chapel, pictured above. Not many people drive to the far end of the lake, so it’s not crowded and beautiful to listen to the birds and the wind rustling the leaves.
Tip: The trailhead is just past the campground but there are additional spots to pull out along the road
Tahoe Meadows is a great family friendly location to check out some of the fall colors in Lake Tahoe. The walk is just over a mile in length and mostly flat so it’s easy for the whole family. I did this walk in a dress and sandals because we had some time before dinner.
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