Lake Tahoe offers beautiful fall colors tour
Fall foliage is spectacular in the High Sierra.
Mother Nature‘s annual bestowal burns brilliant impressions of gold, orange, yellow and red in our minds and souls. The smallest county in North America offers the best touring in the West. Alpine County is action packed with some of the most panoramic views of jagged peaks and deep valleys filled with quaking aspen and tamarack and Jeffery pine trees. Motorists along highways 88 and 89 discover some of the Sierra’s most incredible fall colors and mountain views.
With shorter days and cooler weather with a dusting of snow, it’s time to get ready for winter. Luckily for us, we get to witness the flora in the hills of Alpine and El Dorado counties. If you want to partake in the autumn air and drive some beautiful back roads, you will savor the best the High Sierra has to offer. From any direction whether Lake Tahoe, Stockton or Nevada, they all come to an intersection of highways 88 and 89 (Pickett’s Junction) where Sorenson’s Resort resides. Below are some hot spots for viewing some of the most dramatic colors in the area.
Sorenson’s has a quaint mountain cabin resort where you can take part in watercolor workshops, fly fishing clinics and nature walks around the area. Its friendly ownership and staff compliment the environment with their surrounding fiery show of Aspens.
Traveling up Highway 88 toward Kirkwood, you will meet up with giant stands of aspens on each side from Hope, Faith and Trinity Valley’s. Waterhouse Peak, Hawkins Peak and Stevens Peak hover over Hope Valley. A great spot to stop and take on a picnic or fish the fresh water streams. Once you get to the bottom of Red Lake Grade, you must stop at the all famous photo opportunity of the old barns with an incredible backdrop of red.
Climbing up Red Lake Grade you’ll have several pull outs to look toward the Crystal Range of Reynolds Peak, Raymond Peak, Jeff Davis Peak, and Red Lake Peak behind you. Although, not much color of turning deciduous trees, the panoramic views are breathtaking.
Caples Lake is surrounded by Little Round Top, Elephants Back, Thimble Peak and Round Top. Dotted with aspen groves up against the cliffs is where fall takes its first turn for color. This is the locals’ barometer for when to plan our drives at lower elevations in the near future.
One last look this direction before coming back to Hope Valley, the Carson Spur has vast views to the West simply covered in shining groves of yellow. Either continue home on Highway 88 in the direction of Stockton or turn around and head back to the hub of color.
Relish your way back down the hill past Pickett’s Junction and make way to Woodfords where you’ll turn right on Highway 89 and continue in the direction of Markleeville. The entire drive through this valley is filled with great open views and lush forests.
Monitor Pass (Highway 89) heads toward Topaz Lake on Highway 395. This is absolutely the best stand of fall foliage in the entire Alpine County. If you are adventurous and have an off- road vehicle try some of the back country dirt roads. You’ll drive by Colorado Hill and fish-filled Heenan Lake and wind up and down the narrow highway with Leviathan Peak on your left. It’s a twenty-two mile drive if you go all the way to Highway 395.
Last but not least is Christmas Valley where a large grove of aspens are found at the end of South Upper Truckee Road. You can take Highway 50 from South Lake Tahoe. Or from Pickett’s Junction, head north toward Tahoe down Luther Pass until you see a left hand turn called South Upper Truckee Road. This winds a short distance passing small waterfalls before you bottom out into the grove. The sun sets quickly in the afternoon so bring warm clothing and the camera.
Happy trails and look forward to capturing some great light. — Joan Pilar
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