Leaf Peeping at Lake Tahoe and Truckee   Leave a comment

By Michelle Portesi

On a trip to New England in the fall some years back, I had to laugh at what the locals call the tourists at that time of year. ‘Leaf Peepers’ is a humorous reference to the throngs of people who come to the area to take in the yearly spectacular display of fall colors.

While our area may not sport the vivid reds of sugar maples (unless they’ve been planted by you or your neighbors) we here at the Tahoe basin are still treated to fall’s marvelous show.  Vast stands of aspens grace our area along with many other shrubs and trees that turn color, a visual witness to the change of seasons. If you grew up in southern California like I did, where there aren’t really seasons, (unless you count temperatures that go from ‘hot’ to ‘not quite so hot’ and fall just means the leaves turn brown and fall off the trees), then the changing of seasons will come as a revelation.

The summer tourists abandon the area, completely unaware of what local’s know. That this is one of the best times of the year to get outside, go for a hike, a ride a bike, or even just take a stroll. The temperatures are still sunny and warm during most days, but with a refreshing nip in the air. Enjoying the area’s quieter times surrounded by such beauty seems almost spiritual and meditative.

There are some favorite places where the colors seem especially vivid and you’ll be sure to see photographers snapping away. Here are some of mine.



Aspen Grove on Hwy. 267

HWY 267.  Just after the Northstar turn off on the way to Lake Tahoe. For whatever reason, this area seems to turn earlier than others and is going off right now. What’s left of the shell of a funky old cabin adds visual interest to any photo.

MOUNT ROSE – Also one of the early turning areas due to its higher elevation.

THE WEST SHORE – The bike trail isn’t technically open, but it’s a lovely ride along the lake, where you’ll be sure to see birch and aspens turning a little later. As I write this, the area hasn’t quite done so yet.




Kokanee Salmon in Taylor Creek

TAYLOR CREEK – South Lake Tahoe, next to the Mt. Tallac Historic Site. Also an area heavily populated by deciduous trees, it’s a lovely walk along the trail. The Kokanee salmon are just starting their spawning run, with a few individuals making it to the stream chamber as of Oct. 1st.  Rangers believe this weeks cold temperatures will lure them in, and the trees and shrubs will most likely change to greet them. Be sure to hike or drive to The Tallac Historic Site next door. The vintage cabins are now closed for the season, but the park is open for strolling and the grounds are alive with color.

FALLEN LEAF LAKE.  South Lake Tahoe across the highway from the Mt. Tallac Historic Site. Near the entrance to the lake is a large stand of aspens, with a vast grove along it where horses graze in the autumn sun. Last year’s poor snow pack meant no colors at all as the leaves withered and died in August, but this year looks to have afforded them enough water that the aspens still sport their leaves. Not quite turned yet as of Oct.1, but I’m keeping my eye out for this area. (I’m hoping the S. Lake Tahoe peeps can give me a heads up when they do).



Spooner Lake. The aspens haven’t turned yet. 

SPOONER LAKE – at the juncture of Hwy. 28 and Hwy 50. We went for a lovely hike last week along the lake, not only spotting a slew of ducks, but a very skittish blue heron. The leaves weren’t quite turning yet except for a few random trees, so keep an eye out for this to go off in the next week or two. If you’re feeling especially vigorous, Marlette Lake is a 5 mile jaunt away.


HOPE VALLEY –  I confess to not having been to this area during the fall yet, but I hear it’s spectacular. Located on Hwy. 88 off Hwy. 89 out of south shore. A side trip to the vintage Sorenson’s Resort on Hwy. 88 north of Hope Valley is also a treat.


Do you have a favorite place for leaf peeping? Let us know in the comments section.


Leaf detail near Telluride Colorado. 



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