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5 Scenic Drives Near Truckee To Catch Lake Tahoe Fall Colors

Alex Silgalis
September 30, 2023
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You could call autumn the “golden season” in Truckee. When the sun’s angle in the horizon makes everything glow. The ridgeline of the Sierra seems sharper and more defined. Sunfire yellow aspen leaves shimmer in the sunlight. It makes you feel as if you’re in a Lord of the Rings movie. This is the time to slow it down and go for a scenic drive to take it all in. Here’s some of our favorite drives to catch the Truckee and Lake Tahoe fall colors.

Follow The Water

What makes the Truckee and Lake Tahoe fall colors especially spectacular is that the region’s predominant trees are different species of pines. So, when the deciduous ones do change, it provides a contrast of colors. The bright red of the dogwoods and highlighter yellows of the aspen pop sharply like you’re watching life in high definition. The key to finding these oases of color is about following the water. Deciduous trees need it and therefore each lake, stream, and river are where the biggest “blooms” will happen.

Donner Summit Via Old Hwy 40

Before the interstate system was even a twinkle in Dwight D. In Eisenhower's eye, there was the historic Lincoln Highway. The segment known as Old Highway 40 which starts in the historic town of Truckee and finishes near Soda Springs is arguably one of the most scenic drives in the country. There are bastions of aspens that turn up near the summit such as around the train tunnel snow sheds. Continue westward to find more fall foliage along the rocky South Yuba River that’s lined with aspens and cottonwoods.

Highway 267 And A Loop Around Tahoe

If there’s a time of year to take a scenic drive around Lake Tahoe, it’s the fall. The summer beachgoers have disappeared, and the journey becomes a breeze. As soon as you leave Truckee, you’ll find golds and browns of willows and grasses along Highway 267. Some of the highlights for Lake Tahoe fall colors are Page Meadows, Fallen Leaf Lake, and Sugar Pine Point State Park.

Gorgeous fall colors and scenic views at Stampede Reservoir near Truckee.

Boca and Stampede Reservoir

Taking Glenshire Road north from Truckee, the road merges into Stampede Meadows Road. After you’ve taken in the beauty of Boca Reservoir is when Mother Nature’s fireworks begin. Following the Little Truckee River, the vegetation of cottonwoods, aspen, and willows alongside it create a beautiful display that needs to be seen in person to appreciate.

Highway 89 to Sierraville

Up next is the drive along Hwy 89 from Truckee and onto Sierraville. This section is especially picturesque with yet again aspens, willows and cottonwoods painting the landscape with brilliant yellows. Then make a pit stop to take in the tranquility with a soak at the Sierra Hot Springs (reservations required). If you haven’t had enough, expand the drive from Sierraville west via Hwy 49 up to Yuba Pass which provides spectacular views of the Sierra Valley. 

Highway 89 to Olympic Valley

For a quick hit of fall foliage, you can head south from Truckee on Highway 89 towards Olympic Valley. Get a glimpse of the beautiful mountain resort, Palisades Tahoe, before it's covered in feet upon feet of snow, and fuel your stoke for the winter season to come. This segment of road follows the only outlet of Lake Tahoe - the Truckee River. Fall is one of the best times to go fly fishing. It’s when the elusive brown trout becomes particularly aggressive (i.e. more likely to take your bait).

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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