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Fall Hikes You Never Heard Of

Siobhan Kenney
July 29, 2021
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You can’t beat fall in Truckee-Tahoe. The crisp mountain air tempered by warm afternoon sun makes for blissful hiking weather, and leaf peepers delight in the changing colors of aspen and cottonwood trees. The lesser-known trails below are where locals head to take in fall’s spectacular display of reds, yellows, and oranges. Enjoy uncrowded wide open spaces and please, Recreate Responsibly.

Before you go!

  1. Read the Truckee Travel Alert for updates on trails, wildfires, weather and more.
  2. Take the Truckee-Tahoe Traveler Responsibility Pledge to learn how to be safe, responsible and mindful of our community during your travels.
  3. Look for Sustainable Truckee trailhead signs in 36 locations. Scan the QR codes to check for important messages and alerts before a hike or ride.  
Hike Lacey Meadow in Truckee, CA
Paul Hamill Photography

Lacey Meadow 

A short drive north of Truckee, Lacey Meadow near Webber Lake offers a stunning hike at teh headwaters of the Little Truckee River. The out and back trail is wide and mostly flat which makes it a good choice for families with children. Budding naturalists should remember to bring their binoculars; this is an amazing trail for birdwatching! 

  • Type - Out and back
  • Distance - 6.6 miles 
  • Elevation Gain - 252 feet
  • Alltrails Map

Perazzo Meadows

Looking for a gorgeous picnic spot? Perazzo Meadows is it. Two picnic areas on bluffs above the river invite you to sit and stay a while, so pack a picnic lunch! Please remember to Leave No Trace as this site sustains a number of rare species and plays a vital role in the Truckee River Watershed.

  • Type - Out and back
  • Distance - 2.4 miles 
  • Elevation Gain - 200 feet
  • Alltrails Map

Elizabethtown Meadows

Tucked away across from the entrance to Northstar California Resort, off of Highway 267, Elizabethtown Meadows offers a peaceful stroll past three large mountain meadows, a yearround stream, and forests of Jeffrey pine and aspen. Once the site of a booming silver rush town in the 1870s, today it’s a retreat for hikers seeking quiet, serene trails. An SF Gate article even calls Elizabethtown Meadows, “a walking meditation of Jeffrey pine, manzanita and sagebrush.” 

  • Type - Out and back
  • Distance - 5 miles 
  • Elevation Gain - 475 feet
  • Alltrails Map
Hike to Warren Lake in Truckee, CA
Paul Hamill Photography

Commemorative Overland Emigrant Trail 

Follow a historical wagon route traveled by early settlers in 1844! While the Commemorative Overland Emigrant Trail is more than 15 miles long (one way), starting across from Carpenter Valley Road and hiking out and back to Alder Creek makes for an excellent day hike. This quiet section meanders alongside a creek through open meadows and stands of aspen and pine, a great choice for a relaxing stroll or beginner mountain bike ride.

  • Type - Out and back
  • Distance - 5.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain - 403 feet
  • Alltrails Map

Donner Summit Canyon

Donner Summit Canyon follows the route of the historical Dutch Flat/Donner Lake Wagon Road which eventually became the old Lincoln Highway, the predecessor to Donner Pass Road. As you hike towards the summit, imagine driving an early automobile up the steep road grade, 18% in places! At the top of the canyon, you can access a Native American Petroglyph site, the China Wall, as well as the world’s first automobile underpass. The highlight of this hike is a scenic picnic spot about a mile up the trail where you are treated to a birds-eye view of Donner Lake.

  • Type - Lollipop loop
  • Distance - 3.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain - 531 feet
  • Alltrails Map

Warren Lake

You’re probably familiar with Truckee’s iconic Castle Peak, the towering mountain that greets you as you drive in from Highway 80 West, but what lies just beyond it? While most opt for the popular hiking trail to Castle Peak’s summit, the backside holds spectacular terrain including the Frog Lake Cliffs above Frog Lake and Warren Lake further north. Read this trip report for an inside look at the trail.

  • Type - Out and back or loop
  • Distance - 13.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain - 3927 feet
  • Alltrails Map

Hike to the top of Ellis Peak in Lake Tahoe
Rachel McCullough, Tahoe Mountain Sports

Mount Lola

Hey peak baggers, have you crossed off the highest peak in the Tahoe National Forest? At 9143 feet, Mount Lola is the highest Sierra Nevada peak north of Highway i80. The trail takes you through forests, meadows, along Cold Stream to the summit, where you get breathtaking views of Independence Lake and White Rock Lake below.  

  • Type - Out and back
  • Distance - 10.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain - 2532 feet
  • Alltrails Map

Point Mariah

Stand at Point Mariah and gaze into one of the deepest canyons in the Western US! This hike near Serene Lakes takes you to an incredible overlook with views of Royal Gorge, Sugar Bowl, the Pacific Crest Trail, Devils Peak and beyond. You can see the Headwaters of the American River and much of the Granite Peak Wilderness which buts up to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Make it a sunrise hike for a special treat!

  • Type - Out and Back
  • Distance - 5 miles
  • Elevation Gain - 583 feet
  • Alltrails Map

Happy trails! Please remember to Recreate Responsibly and check the daily Truckee Travel Alert for important messages before your hike or run. If you snap a beautiful fall pic, we'd love to see it! Share your photos with us by using the hashtag #SustainableTruckee.

*All distances and elevations are approximate

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