Many know the mountains around Lake Tahoe for their epic ski terrain. Others love heading up during the heat of the summer to enjoy one of the lake’s beautiful beaches. For those that can get away at that time, however, fall offers some of the best hiking and spectacular scenery the Tahoe region has to offer.
Fall in Lake Tahoe means cooler mornings and evenings. It reminds all of the locals that it’s time to get our skis tuned and make sure we’ve got enough firewood to last through the winter. If you’re heading up to visit Lake Tahoe before the snow starts to fall, be sure to check out some of the best fall trails around Lake Tahoe.
What are some good hiking trails around Lake Tahoe?
Spooner Lake Loop Trail
This easy, 2.1-mile loop trail takes you around the small Spooner Lake, which is named for the industrious “boom and bust” entrepreneur of the gold and silver mining era, Michele Spooner. From the parking area at Spooner State Park, visitors can follow the trail in either direction (clockwise or counter-clockwise) around the lake. The easy, flat terrain includes an absolutely gorgeous section of Quaking Aspens on the lake’s southeastern edge.
Fall is the perfect time to witness the leaves of the aspens turning their brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. It’s also a great time to witness a variety of migratory birds stopping over at the lake on their journeys south. The loop offers incredible informative signage about local flora and fauna, as well as human history. On the northern shore of the lake, hikers can also inspect grinding stones that were historically used by the Washoe Native Americans during their annual migration to and from the shores of Lake Tahoe.
Bayview Trail to Maggies Peaks
If you’re looking for a short but challenging hike with epic views of Lake Tahoe as a reward for making it to the top, look no further than the roughly 4.5-mile round trip hike from the Bayview Trailhead to Maggies Peaks. While the trail doesn’t cover a ton of cumulative mileage, it does ascend more than 2,000 vertical feet to the tops of the peaks, so visitors should be ready for a solid climb.
You’ll pass by Granite Lake on the way up, which is also a great spot to stop for a cool down swim on the way home. When you reach the saddle between the two peaks, most hikers turn south and head up to the southern peak because it offers a little easier access, but confident hikers may consider hitting both the southern and northern peaks in a day. From the tops of both peaks, you’ll find incredible views of the entire basin, including nearby Mount Tallac and Freel Peak in the distance.
Page Meadows Loop From Ward Creek Blvd
The series of five interconnected meadows that make up Page Meadows might be one of Tahoe’s best-kept secrets. The “loop trail” isn’t super easy to find, because there is actually a network of trails that crisscross the meadows and allow visitors to “choose their own adventure.” This is one of the allures of Page Meadows. You can meander the trails and eventually explore the whole loop, or you can create a smaller adventure that fits your time frame. It’s up to you!
One of the easiest spots to access the meadows is via Ward Creek Boulevard, which is about 2.5 miles south of Tahoe City (use Pineland to Twin Peaks to Ward Creek). Once you’ve found the trailhead on the right side of Ward Creek, the loop trail is about 5.1 miles and it offers outstanding wildlife and nature viewing throughout the fall season.
Marlette Lake via Spooner State Park
If you really liked the aspen grove at Spooner Lake, and you’re willing to go a little further, Marlette Lake is an excellent hike for viewing the changing of the aspens in the fall. Starting again at Spooner Lake State Park, visitors can head up the roughly 5-mile trail to Marlette Lake. You’ll pass through various gorgeous aspen groves on the way up to the lake, as well as some splendid sections of Tahoe’s incredible coniferous forest.
The lake itself is a great place to enjoy lunch as you contemplate the history of the area. Marlette Lake was originally dammed back in the 1800s to supply water and timber to the booming silver mines down in Virginia City. From the lake, the historic Flume Trail (named for the log flumes that once transported that water and timber during Tahoe’s mining heydays) winds down north towards Incline Village (which is an option for expert hikers looking to organize a point-to-point day hike, albeit it quite a burly one).
Mount Rose Highway Summit
For the intrepid hikers out there, the trail to the top of Mount Rose typically remains open through October (weather permitting). The trail is accessible from Mount Rose Highway, which is the highest year-round pass in the Sierra. The 10-mile hike to the top of Mount Rose requires planning, preparation, and usually a full day of your time, but from the top you’ll find excellent views of all of Lake Tahoe, Reno, and Carson City.
Although the leaves at the top of the pass tend to change a bit earlier than most, there are still plenty of options for enjoying Tahoe’s fall foliage from here. If you’re not quite up for the push all the way to the top of Mount Rose, you can also park in the Mount Rose Meadows and enjoy an easier hike up Chickadee Ridge. From here, you’ll still be able to enjoy incredible views of the entire Tahoe basin and the meadows of gold that dot its shoreline in the fall.
Visit Lake Tahoe!
TripAdvisor recently ranked Lake Tahoe as one of the best U.S. destinations for fall hiking, and those of us that live and work there couldn’t agree more! Fall is arguably the locals’ favorite season to get out and enjoy the beauty and the changes that bring about the winter season. For a complete guide on backpacks check out https://bestsurvival.org/best-tactical-backpacks/. If you’re visiting Lake Tahoe in the fall, be sure to get out for at least one of these awesome fall hikes.
We’ve included something for everyone, so whether you’re traveling with young ones or getting in a few more fall training trips before backcountry ski season starts up, we hope you’ve found a hike here that suits your needs!