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7 Easy Truckee Hikes To Take In Lake Tahoe Fall Colors

Alex Silgalis
October 2, 2023
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Photographers yearn for the “golden hour” at dawn and dusk. Nature lovers and fall fanatics know that for the seasons - autumn is the “golden season.” A time when the sunlight makes everything look magical. The aspens and cottonwoods explode in color and adventure awaits those who seek it. Here’s 7 easy Truckee hikes to enjoy the Lake Tahoe fall colors at their peak.

Truckee River Legacy Trail

The green beltway that follows the Truckee River, a signature scenic paved trail in Truckee. Located close to Historic Downtown Truckee, first pop into a cozy coffee shop for a cappuccino or fuel up with breakfast then head towards your hike. There are three main trailheads for the Truckee River Legacy Trail: East River Street (take the Pedestrian Bridge), Truckee River Regional Park, and Glenshire. No matter which direction you choose, the paved trail runs alongside the beautiful Truckee River from Truckee River Regional Park to the small community of Glenshire. Throughout the fall season, you can catch stands of aspen changing color and vegetation that grows along the shores of the Truckee.  

Trout Creek Trail

A hidden nature sanctuary right in the center of Truckee. Spend the day exploring one-of-a-kind boutiques in Historic Downtown Truckee and follow it up with a bit of the fall foliage fireworks. Starting at the corner of Bridge and Jibboom, the paved trail follows alongside the serene Trout Creek. All along the trail, you’ll find stands of highlighter yellow aspen, shimmering in the fall sunshine surrounded by rustling pines. 

Note: the upper section is closed until mid-October due to the water pipeline project. However, it’s a beautiful walk at any time of year. Plowed in winter! Get updates on the Truckee-Tahoe Travel Alert.

Martis Valley

Enjoy some natural eye candy with the fall foliage in Martis Valley. Named for a mining town that existed there for just two years in the 1860s, this sprawling marshland provides breathtaking views of the Sierra Crest, Frog Lake Cliff, and Castle Peak. For autumn, this area is known for the gold and browns of willow and grasses that contrast with the deep green of the pines.

Lake Tahoe fall colors on the Truckee River Bike Trail from Palisades Tahoe to Tahoe City.
A beautiful fall stroll on the paved trail from Palisades Tahoe to Tahoe City.

Palisades Tahoe to Tahoe City

Get a new perspective of this iconic winter ski area. Palisades Tahoe is spectacular in all seasons, especially when the valley is layered in fall colors and there's a dusting of snow on the tallest peaks. Pick up this 14 mile roundtrip paved trail at Palisades Tahoe (right before the parking area for The Village at Palisades Tahoe) and walk or ride as far as you want before turning around. For a shorter 10.6 mile roundtrip option to Tahoe City, start at the junction between Hwy 89 and Olympic Valley Road.

Ridgeline Nature Loop

A perfect family outing to take in the season’s bounty. Part of Truckee-Tahoe’s Trails for EveryBODY™ initiative, this flat, gravel trail winds and weaves you through trees, boulders and around a seasonal pond. Along its route, you’re rewarded with plenty of aspen exploding with color. The highlight is an overlook that gives you a peek-a-boo view at Truckee, Castle Peak, and the mountain pass. Due to how it’s constructed, the Ridgeline Nature Loop can accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and strider bikes, too. 

Coldstream Canyon - Donner Memorial State Park

A trail network of sunfire yellows at your doorstep. Throughout Donner Memorial State Park, you’ll find a buffet of trails that feature big shots of aspens bursting in color including Coldstream Canyon. Framed by Schallenberger Ridge to the west, Jackass Ridge to the east, and Anderson Ridge to the south, the valley offers a distinct alpine feel. The ridgelines fill with a dark hunter green of pines as the ponds you stroll by are surrounded by fall hues.

Donner Party Picnic Area Loop

Get a glimpse of what the Donner Party endured during the 1846/47 winter. This easy interpretive trail is located off of the Emigrant Trail on Highway 89 near Prosser Creek Reservoir. Along it, you’ll find six trailside signs personalized with excerpts from Donner Party members’ letters and diaries. What started out as a hopeful journey towards prosperity, ended tragically for the 89-member Donner Party. You can also extend this hike to take in the Prosser Creek Reservoir shoreline.

Alex Silgalis

Born and raised as a flat lander in Chicagoland, Alex spent his summers working to save up for a season pass to the local hill along with any trips out West or beyond he could squeeze in. It was during his travels, both as a kid & an adult, Alex discovered his inspiration for Local Freshies® . His idea was to create the No. 1 Web site providing the local scoop on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer alongside the love of his life and business partner, Jaime Pirozzi.

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