Autumn begins in the high country as early as mid-September when Tahoe’s meadows and hillsides begin to flame in bright hues of gold. Willows are the first to turn, soon followed by aspens. See them on the lake’s northwest shore as the foliage at Page Meadows lights up in a spectrum of yellow mixed with touches of ruby and amber. To get there, hike 2.4km north on the Tahoe Rim Trail from Ward Creek Boulevard. From the meadow’s edge, Twin Peaks, Grouse Rock, and Ward Peak soar above the trees.
In South Lake Tahoe, drive the Fallen Leaf Lake Road to Fredrick’s Meadow, a short distance from Fallen Leaf Lake Campground, where a vista of Mount Tallac is perfectly framed by a foreground of quaking aspens. For leafier colour, continue along the road to the Glen Alpine trailhead and walk a colourful mile along the cobbled trail to Glen Alpine Springs.
South of Lake Tahoe, Hope Valley’s dense aspen groves offer nearly psychedelic displays of yellows and oranges. Drive south through Meyers on Highway 89 to its junction with Highway 88, then toss a coin and turn left or right. You win either way—a bounty of colour lines the road in both directions. To the west, especially showy aspen stands are found near Red Lake, in and around Carson Pass, and near Woods Lake. To the east lie the picturesque Norwegian-style cabins of Sorenson’s Resort. Stop here or at neighbouring Hope Valley Resort for a hearty meal or to watch the aspens dance in the autumn sun.