Lake Tahoe is best known as a summer swimming and boating hot spot, and the mountains that surround it are famed for their winter ski slopes. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the lake's fall recreational opportunities. With the leaves changing and the summer crowds gone, autumn finds Lake Tahoe at its most quiet and scenic and, as always, there's plenty to see and do around the lake.
Hiking in the Hills
Hundreds of miles of hiking trails wind their way through the densely wooded landscape surrounding Lake Tahoe. Mild temperatures and brilliant foliage makes fall the perfect time to do some exploring, whether you prefer an easy lakeside stroll or a challenging hike through the mountains. Several short, easy trails are accessible from the Taylor Creek Visitor Center and Tallac Historic Site on the south shore. Visitors in search of a challenge can find it on the Tahoe Rim Trail, which forms a 165-mile loop around the entire lake. Open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, the Rim Trail is accessible from dozens of trailheads in both California and Nevada, allowing you to choose the length of your trip based on your own abilities and preferences. Maps and guides are available through the USDA Forest Service as well as the official Tahoe Rim trail website.
Fishing on the Lake
Lake Tahoe provides fishing opportunities year-round, but fall is one of the best times to catch the lake's ample populations of trout and landlocked salmon. These fish move into shallower waters to spawn in October, and some of the best fishing takes place in areas where shallow and deep waters meet, such as Cave Rock or Rubicon Point. Dozens of parks and marinas provide boat launch facilities along the shore. Because the lake straddles the border between California and Nevada, a fishing license from either state is acceptable if you fish from a boat. Shore fishermen must have a license from whichever state they're standing on. To protect fish during spawning, fishing is closed within 300 feet of all Lake Tahoe tributaries starting October 1.
Fall Fish Festival
The sight of kokanee salmon swimming upstream by the millions isn't something you see every day, but you can see this natural wonder once a year at the Fall Fish Festival. Held at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center every October -- the exact dates vary depending on water and weather conditions -- the Fall Fish Festival brings visitors within a few feet of these fish as they migrate from Lake Tahoe up the crystal clear waters of Taylor Creek. In addition to watching and photographing the fish, the festival includes a variety of educational programs and children's activities. The Fall Fish Festival often coincides with the Oktoberfest festivities at nearby Camp Richardson Resort, which offers a wide range of food, events and activities.
Truckee River Day
Lake Tahoe is known across North America for its rich outdoor resources, and every fall visitors get a chance to give back. Truckee River Day has been held in every October since 1996, and thousands of volunteers have helped plant trees, restore native wetlands and clean up the Truckee River, which feeds Lake Tahoe from the north. Registration for volunteers begins about a month before the event through the Truckee River Watershed Council website. Conservation and restoration activities take place during the morning on Truckee River Day, followed by a River Fair during the afternoon. The River Fair is held at the Granite Flat Campground, and includes live music, local food, arts and crafts and a chance to hand release cutthroat trout into the river.
- USDA Forest Service: Lake Tahoe Basin Mgt Unit: Hiking
- Tahoe Rim Trail: About the Trail
- USDA Forest Service: Lake Tahoe Basin Mgt Unit: Fishing at Lake Tahoe
- USDA Forest Service: Lake Tahoe Basin Mgt Unit: Fall Fish Festival
- Tahoe.com: Lake Tahoe Kokanee Salmon Festival
- Truckee River Watershed Council: Truckee River Day
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images