10 Oct 2023
By Tim Hauserman
It happens every year. The days get shorter, the nights colder and the quaking aspen leaves begin to change color. The question is not whether it will happen, but how and when. This year the aspens around Tahoe seemed to be taking their sweet time giving up the summer (just like the rest of us I suppose), but just the past week or so they woke up to the reality that it was time to start thinking about going to sleep.
This past Saturday was a typical sunny fall day. In the morning it was cold enough for folks to light fires in their wood stoves, but by lunch time it was warm enough to take a stroll with shorts and a T-shirt. It seemed like a good day to check if the leaves are turning, which in Tahoe primarily means aspens. Tahoe certainly can’t compete with New England for the wide variety of reds, oranges and yellows they get from a forest that is mostly deciduous, but it is still a lovely experience to walk through groves of aspens turning yellow and sometimes orange. And we do have one advantage over those fall color hot spots. Once all of our colorful leaves are gone, we still have a beautiful green forest of pines and firs, instead of the gray trunks of maples, beech and birch.
My closest spot for finding the yellow quakies is Page Meadows. Aside from the fact that there are a ton of aspens on the edge of most of the meadows, the different orientations of the meadows leads to what I saw today: One meadow had trees that were still mostly green on one side, and bright yellow on the other, and in another meadow almost all the leaves were already turned and blown away. Which brings up two good pieces of news for those of you still reading this: Most of the leaves haven’t turned yet, and there is a wide variety of when leaves change color around Tahoe.
Here are a few of my favorite places to catch fall colors: Hope Valley (about 15 miles south of South Lake Tahoe where Highways 88 and 89 come together), Spooner Lake (both the trail around the lake and the Flume Trail), Ophir Creek Trail (Top of Mt. Rose Highway) and Blackwood Canyon. And there are certainly a number of other places that are not popping into my head right now. If you know where they are, now’s the time to take a gander.