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Stories from the valley

Four Fantastic Fall Hikes

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Fall brings cooler temperatures and a wealth of color to the Sierra. Many shrubs have already turned their brilliant yellows, but the aspen are just getting started. Over the next two weeks, the white-barked trees with their heart-shaped leaves will be putting on a show for those desiring a getaway to the mountains before the snows arrive. Here are four possible destinations that, although still green when I took the pictures below, will soon provide hikers with spectacular views of fall colors such as those seen in the top photo from last year.

The Taylor Creek Visitor Center, located just past Camp Richardson on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe, boasts a nice selection of items for sale. From there, you can begin the one-mile Rainbow Trail loop hike. The paved trail, which is fairly flat and suitable for strollers, takes visitors through an aspen forest that is beginning to turn color. Proceed alongside Taylor Creek, where the Kokanee salmon return to spawn each October. You’ll pass through the stream profile, where you can observe the natural habitat of the salmon and other species from a unique underwater vantage point. The visitor center is open throughout October, and more information can be found here.

If you’re up for an easy-to-moderate hike, the Pyramid Creek trail, located at Twin Bridges on Highway 50, could be just the thing. This popular 1.5-mile loop trail takes you along Pyramid Creek to the base of Horsetail Falls, where you’ll experience breathtaking views of Lover’s Leap and the American River Valley. Although the area doesn’t have aspen stands, you’ll see shrubs and colorful berries. Sometimes the trail markers can be a bit hard to find, but this adds to the adventure. The parking lot is fairly small and fills up quickly, so arrive early on weekends. More information is available here.

For a hike that provides an excellent overview of Hope Valley and the fall colors bursting forth there, Frog Lake, located off Highway 88 at Carson Pass, is a winner. The trailhead is located at the east end of the visitor center parking lot. This 1.5-mile out-and-back, easy-to-moderate trail takes hikers through lodgepole pines and provides great views of three peaks: Elephant’s Back, Round Top and The Sisters. After you arrive at Frog Lake, circle around to the other end of it for a wonderful view of the entire Hope Valley area. Find more information here.

Another easy-to-moderate hike is the 1.5 mile out-and-back trek to the Shealor Lakes on Highway 88. The trail takes you over granite slabs, from which you’ll have a good view of the American River drainage. When you arrive at the upper Shealor Lake, you’ll find a large granite wall, which is great for creating echoes, and a nice grove of aspen that will soon be displaying their colors. More information is available here.