From December through August Lake Tahoe is dominated by greens, blues and white — evergreen pine trees, the deep blue hues of Lake Tahoe, and the white of the region’s famously deep snowpack. But for a brief moment in September, October and November, Tahoe puts on a display of orange, yellow and red. Aspen groves around the lake light up in a fiery show of fall foliage.
The season is a perfect time to hike the trails of Tahoe and see it in an entirely different light with multi-colored aspen leaves quaking in the fall wind. Here are three hikes that show North Lake Tahoe in all its fall glory.
Just southwest of Tahoe City, the plateau of Page Meadows is speckled with aspens and criss-crossed by trails. The area puts on perhaps the best fall color display in Tahoe, and the wealth of trails allows hikers to choose a hike of nearly any length. Convenient access from the bus station parking lot (known as 64 acres) just south of Tahoe City or off of Ward Creek Boulevard make for an easy day hike in a majestic fall setting. Bring the camera and wind through meadows, aspen groves and pine and fir forest.
Marlette Lake’s thick aspen groves wrap the high-altitude lake above Tahoe’s East Shore in orange splendor each fall. Starting at Spooner Lake, a five-mile hike takes you through intermittent fall foliage to Marlette Lake where hikers pass through large clumps of aspen to reach the shores of Marlette Lake. The lake shore is ringed in yellows, oranges and reds each fall making for a spectacular setting for lunch before hiking back downhill to Spooner Lake. Marlette Lake was dammed in the 1800s to send water and timber to the booming silver mines in Virginia City, and remnants of the old flume now exist as the picturesque Flume Trail that starts at Marlette Lake and traverses back north toward Incline Village.
Bring your fishing pole and a Nevada fishing license for a change to catch and release the lake’s plentiful cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout.
Spooner Lake is a miniature version of Marlette that requires little hiking. At the intersection of Highway 28 and Highway 50 at the Northeast corner of Lake Tahoe, Spooner Lake offers convenient parking and flat hiking trails that ring the lake. Plentiful aspens dot the shoreline and the meadows adjacent to Spooner Lake. A flat, two-mile trail leaves from the parking lot, and more ambitious hikers can hike a short distance to the Tahoe Rim Trail and climb eastward to “the bench,” a remarkable viewpoint high above Lake Tahoe between Spooner Summit and Kingsbury Grade, or take the trail back toward Mt. Rose Meadow. Spooner Lake is also open for fishing and numerous picnic areas make for relaxing lakeside eating.