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Fall In Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake Meadow

In October, Lake Tahoe explodes with color. Quaking aspen dominate the display with splashes of gold, orange, and burgundy. Though cottonwoods, oaks, willows, and meadow grasses also offer colorful hues.

For an exhilarating glimpse of Lake Tahoe’s flamboyant foliage, consider the following easy to moderate bike trails. Remember to check the weather and load up on water, snacks, and layers. And don’t forget your helmet – or your camera!

Taylor Creek: Mountain Bike | Road Bike
Choose from mellow paths, paved and dirt, as you ride past Pope Beach, Camp Richardson, and Valhalla. Turn right into the Taylor Creek Visitor Center or step off the bike where Taylor Creek meets SR 89. Locals and visitors flock to Taylor Creek for the Kokanee salmon spawning in October, but a thick collection of golden aspens also deliver an enticing spectacle. 

Detour to Fallen Leaf Lake: Back track a tenth of a mile to Fallen Leaf Road, the first turn on the right. The road is “marked” by small parking lots on each side of the road. Take the trailhead on the right, northwest, side of the road. When the trail forks at two tenths of a mile, veer left onto a wider trail. This gravel trail passes through an aspen filled meadow and eventually to Fallen Leaf Lake and its fall reflections. 

Directions: At the “Y” in South Lake Tahoe, take Dunlap Drive north to Eloise Avenue.  Eloise Avenue turns into a paved bike path that parallels SR 89/Emerald Bay Road.

Difficulty: Easy 

Marlette Lake: Mountain Bike
From Spooner Lake, follow North Canyon Road to Marlette Lake. It is a bit of a climb, but the aspen display starting at North Canyon Creek is a colorful distraction. This trek is 9.5 miles round trip, but many continue on the Flume Trail, the area’s famous single track trail with quintessential views of Lake Tahoe.
Directions: Near Spooner Summit on US 50, turn north onto SR 28. Look for the Spooner Lake entrance that is marked.  Day use fee.

Difficulty: Moderate 

Blue Lakes: Road Bike
Hope Valley provides a well-known, postcard view of fall in the Sierra. There are mountains of breathtaking sites on SR 89 and SR 88, but for a quieter retreat escape to Blue Lakes Road for a hodgepodge of color, creeks, and lakes.

Directions: From US 50, head towards Echo Summit. Take SR 89 south, continue over Luther’s Pass, and enjoy the first sights of Hope Valley. At Picket’s Junction, where SR 89 and SR 88 meet, take a left onto SR 88. In 2.5 miles, turn left on Blue Lakes Road.  

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Washoe Meadows: Mountain Bike | Road Bike
A lesser known park, Washoe Meadows State Park offers a scenic ride through wet meadows and alpine woodland. Enjoy views of Echo Summit and trails that boast a colorful autumn spectrum of willows, aspen, and feathery mosses near the Upper Truckee River. 

Directions: Washoe Meadows is an undeveloped park and only accessible by non-motorized vehicles. The park is approximately ¼ of a mile southeast of South Lake Tahoe. 

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Biking to Marlette Lake near Lake Tahoe, CA.

Photos: T. Coolidge