Autumn trails

Once the crowds of summer have left, it’s time to put on your hiking shoes and hit the trail. The weather is still usually nice and the trails are not as crowded. How about checking out one of these classic hikes to the top of Tahoe’s two favorite mountains or enjoying a fall-color romp?

“The climb to 9,735-foot-high Mount Tallac provides
one of Tahoe’s most delicious views.”

Views of Lake Tahoe and Cascade Lake from Mount Tallac.

Mount Tallac
The climb to 9,735-foot-high Mount Tallac provides one of Tahoe’s most delicious views. In the summer, there is a busy progression of folks lumbering up the trail and then congregating on the rocky summit. On a midweek day in the fall, however, the hike will most likely be a quiet sojourn.

There are several routes to the top; my favorite is the main Mount Tallac Trail. It’s a 5-mile journey with more than 3,000 feet of climbing — not an easy hike by any means — but the views are worth it. The steady climb passes Floating Island Lake and then the more enticing Cathedral Lake, before eventually switch-backing up a steep headwall to a ridge. Follow this open ridge to the top where you see most of Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake, Emerald Bay and Cascade Lake in one direction and the heart of Desolation Wilderness in the other.

Mount Rose
The Mount Rose trailhead is considered one of the busiest in the Tahoe region for several reasons. The 2-mile jaunt to Galena Falls is easy and packed with views. Secondly, Mount Rose is the third highest peak in the Tahoe Basin at 10,776 feet. The trailhead is at nearly 9,000 feet, leaving about 2,000 feet of climbing to get to the top.

In the off-season, Mount Rose sees a lot less use and the fall is a beautiful time to summit. Enjoy the easy warm-up to the falls, before things start getting more difficult. The trail traverses along a slope above a gully, with awesome views of the meadows below, then reaches a saddle. Here the lightly used Rim to Reno Trail goes straight ahead toward Thomas Creek. The Mount Rose-bound hiker begins switchbacking up the steep slope to the top. The views from the treeless moonscape at the summit include Reno, Lake Tahoe and the Truckee region.

Page Meadows
A few miles from Tahoe City, Page Meadows can be easily accessed from a variety of locations and is surrounded by waves of aspen trees. The series of meadows have different sun exposures. Over a month’s time, you can witness the peak of fall colors at one of the meadows, while others may have passed their peak or not even begun to change color.

The easiest route into the meadows is via Silver Tip Drive at the back of Talmont Estates, but those looking for a longer hike can reach the meadows by taking the Tahoe Rim Trail from 64 Acres or Ward Creek Blvd.

Fall in Page Meadows. | Tim Hauserman

Marlette Lake
Perhaps my favorite grove of aspens near Tahoe is near the shore of Marlette Lake. Fortunately, there are plenty of aspens to view on the way to the lake, as well. From the Spooner Lake parking area, the aspen fiesta starts right away as you walk up North Canyon Road. In about a half mile you meet the Marlette Lake Trail. This hikers-only trail was built a few years ago to reduce biker/hiker conflicts on the North Canyon route, which is the bikers’ access to the popular Flume Trail.

The trail climbs up on the ridge and provides beautiful views of Snow Valley Peak and the aspen groves of Snow Valley. Eventually, you reach a saddle where a descent along a small stream brings you to the shore of Marlette. After returning to the trailhead if you still have more energy, you can take the easy 2-mile loop around Spooner Lake, ablaze with fall color.

Marlette Lake from the Marlette Lake Trail. | Tim Hauserman

Plan ahead for fall hiking
Check the forecast. Weather is less predictable in the fall. Be sure to get a detailed forecast before hitting the trail. It does snow sometimes in September and October.

The days are shorter, so plan accordingly. If you are heading out on a long hike, you need to get moving early because darkness comes roaring in sooner than you might expect.

Wear layers. The temperature range on a fall day can be from just about freezing when you first get on the trail to the mid 70s or warmer in the middle of the day.

Bring plenty of water and food.

Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.

The changing seasons of Page Meadows

Season’s best outings for fall color