The Best Spots for Fall Foliage Around Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe takes on a different kind of beauty in the fall
Lake Tahoe takes on a different kind of beauty in the fall | © Roi Shomer / Alamy Stock Photo
Megan McDermott

Nothing beats watching fall colors transform the countryside every year, especially in the dramatically beautiful Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada. Read on for Culture Trip’s pick of the best places to admire autumn foliage in this unspoiled region of the United States, from spectacular mountain highways to the lake’s shores.

Loved by over 40s

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Hope Valley

Rustic barn with fall colors in Hope Valley, California

Lovers of fall foliage are likely to be overwhelmed by Hope Valley, an unspoiled region located about a half-hour drive south of South Lake Tahoe. Its sprawling aspen forests are famous for their autumnal colors; their countless leaves turn rich shades of orange, red and brown in mid-September. Soak it all up by hiking the popular Crater Lake trail (2.5mi/4km) and the Scotts Lake path (3mi/5km), fly fishing in the West Fork Carson River or booking yourself into a yurt or cabin in the wilderness at the classy Wylder Hope Valley (formerly Sorensen’s Resort).

Ebbetts Pass

Along Highway 4, on the south side of Hope Valley, is the 61mi-long (98km) Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway. This spectacular route is flanked by dense forests of aspen trees, creating a colorful passageway for vehicles every fall. Near the East Fork Carson River and Kinney Creek, you’ll find some perfect spots to stop and admire the deep river canyons found in this area. Also awaiting you along the route are waterfalls, volcanic rock formations, scary granite outcrops and unforgettable views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Luther Pass

Luther Pass runs along Highway 89 at an altitude of 7,740ft (2,359m) above sea level, linking the Sierra Crest (the main ridge of the Sierra Nevada) to the south with the Carson Range to the north. Thick groves of aspen trees are clustered along the winding road, and there are plenty of places to stop and gaze at picturesque valleys wearing their seductive fall colors. If you want to explore further, park at the Big Meadow Trailhead and take a hike on the 165mi-long (266km) Tahoe Rim Trail, which circumnavigates Lake Tahoe.

Marlette Lake

To appreciate the fall colors of the area on foot rather than from a car, head to the Spooner Lake Management Area on the eastern side of Lake Tahoe. From there, you can walk an undemanding 5mi (8km) trail that runs uphill along North Canyon Creek to the southern edge of Marlette Lake, cutting through aspen forests that are at their best in September and October. Keen cyclists can also access the Flume Trail biking route from the Marlette track, providing another opportunity to explore the region’s untamed landscapes.

Fallen Leaf Lake

Mount Tallac with new snow and fall foliage reflecting in Fallen Leaf lake near Lake Tahoe in California

Fallen Leaf Lake lies a mile southwest of Lake Tahoe, to the east of Mount Tallac. The best way to appreciate its glorious fall colors is to go hiking, and there are several routes of varying levels of difficulty. To access the easiest trails, take Fallen Leaf Road from Highway 89 until you reach the camping area, from where you can walk to the lake’s shore in 20 minutes. For a longer and more demanding trek, carry on driving to the Fallen Leaf Chapel and complete the circular route from there to Angora Ridge.

Zephyr Cove

One of the best spots to witness the transformation of Lake Tahoe’s shores every fall is Zephyr Cove, located along Highway 50 on the eastern side. At the Zephyr Cove Resort, you can stay in lakeside cabins just feet from the beach or camp or park your RV at a specifically designated area nearby. Either way, you’ll have access to restaurants and bars and activities ranging from horseback riding to snowmobiling. Perhaps the best way to soak up the area’s fall beauty, though, is to take a cruise out into the clear waters of Lake Tahoe.

Apple Hill

To welcome the fall in a traditional style, head to Apple Hill, a two-hour drive southwest of Tahoe City between Placerville and Camino; it’s home to more than 55 farms. Every autumn, this acclaimed cluster of growers, ranches and wineries marks the transformation of the foliage with harvest festivals, apple pickings and wine tastings. This thriving industry has become California’s largest collective of apple growers, so you can also enjoy warming autumnal products – such as cider and pies – made from the region’s star fruit.

Paige Meadows

A man mountain biking past yellow aspens in Page Meadows near Tahoe City California

If you’re staying in Tahoe City and don’t want to travel too far to admire the fall colors, Paige Meadows is a great option. Within a 10-minute drive out of the city, you’ll find a looped trail of about 5mi (8km) that will take you through tranquil prairies, brimming with wildflowers in the spring and summer but dominated by brightly colored aspen during the fall. Above the trees, some of the area’s most popular mountains – such as Twin Peaks and Scott Peak – are visible in the distance, reaching up into the clear blue sky.


The quaint town of Markleeville lies about a 15-minute drive southeast of Hope Valley, on the banks of Millberry Creek. The naturally irrigated land means that its many aspen trees – especially those surrounding the Alpine County Superior Court – take on vivid hues during the fall, contrasting brilliantly with the crisp blue of the California sky. Admire these vibrant specimens while hiking or biking, or from an open-air bath at Grover Hot Springs State Park, a 10-minute drive to the west. The rustic Creekside Lodge is a good accommodation option.

Mount Rose Scenic Drive

For an unbeatable fall road trip, take the Mount Rose Scenic Drive – a 25mi (40km) road that weaves south from Reno to the northern tip of Lake Tahoe, taking in some of the area’s most humbling scenery along the way. The route’s highlights are the 8,900ft (2,700m) Mount Rose Summit, a stunning pass that snakes between Mount Rose and Slide Mountain (which will be to your right and left, respectively), and the section immediately after this, which dips down into the aspen forests of the Tahoe basin.

Additional reporting by Mark Nayler

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.