6 Truckee-Tahoe Fall Hikes You Never Heard Of

Planning a fall trip to Truckee? It’s one of the best times of the year to enjoy the fresh mountain air, quiet trails, and score off-season deals for shopping, dining, and lodging. What’s more, you’ll be treated to incredible displays of fall colors punctuating the granite hills! When you’re ready to venture out, choose one the Truckee-Tahoe fall hikes below. These lesser-known trails are gems of the region that highlight the area’s rich history and take you through incredible High Sierra scenery.   

Safety Reminder: Please be considerate of others on the trails and take the following steps to keep yourself and others safe. Follow the appropriate COVID-19 hiking etiquette which includes wearing a face mask, giving others plenty of space to pass, and limiting hiking partners to your immediate household bubble. Recreate responsibly and Leave No Trace by picking up your trash, traveling on durable surfaces, and never starting a fire. Remember to have a backup plan and go somewhere else if any of these trails appear busy from the parking lot.

The Perfect Fall Hikes in Truckee & Lake Tahoe

*All distances and elevations are approximate

Hike Lacey Meadow in Truckee, CA
Paul Hamill Photography

Lacey Meadow 

Just a short drive from Truckee, Lacey Meadow near Webber Lake is an exciting day trip for families who want an off the beaten path experience. In 2012, the Truckee Donner Land Trust acquired the 3000 acre property, opening it up to the public for the first time. The area is steeped in history and even contains the last standing stagecoach hotel on the historic Henness Pass Road! Head here for a stunning fall hike through Lacey Meadow, the headwaters of the Little Truckee River, followed by a dip in Webber Lake. The out and back trail is wide and mostly flat which makes it a good choice for families with children. Budding naturalists should remember to bring their binoculars; this is an amazing trail for birdwatching!

Alltrails Map

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Type – Out and back
  • Distance – 6.6 miles 
  • Elevation Gain – 252 feet
Hike the Emigrant Trail in Truckee, CA

Commemorative Overland Emigrant Trail 

Follow the historical wagon routes that early settlers traveled in 1844 on the Commemorative Overland Emigrant Trail. The trail extends more than 15 miles from the Tahoe Donner Campground to Stampede Reservoir but for a shorter day hike, we recommend starting from the campground to Alder Creek Road. This quiet section meanders alongside the creek, through open meadows and stands of aspen and pine. The rolling terrain makes it a wonderful choice for a relaxing stroll or beginner mountain bike ride. Bring binoculars and look for different types of birds near the creek. 

Alltrails Map

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Type – Out and back
  • Distance – 5.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain – 403 feet
  • Section – Tahoe Donner Campground to Alder Creek Road
Go for a fall hike up Donner Summit Canyon in Truckee, CA

Donner Summit Canyon

It’s easy to miss the Donner Summit Canyon trailhead so keep a sharp eye out for a large pullout near the base of Donner Pass Road. Here is another trail steeped in local history. It follows the Dutch Flat/Donner Lake Wagon Road, which eventually became the old Lincoln Highway, the predecessor to the current Donner Pass Road. As you start the climb up towards the summit, imagine driving an early automobile up the steep Lincoln Highway where the road’s grade was 18% in places! Towards the very top, you can access a Native American Petroglyph site, the China Wall, as well as the world’s first automobile underpass. Undoubtedly, the highlight of this hike is a scenic picnic spot about a mile up the trail where you are treated to a birds-eye view of Donner Lake. This view, along with the gorgeous fall colors below, is why the Donner Summit Canyon tops our list of fall hikes! Learn More.

Alltrails Map

  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Type – Loop
  • Distance – 3.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain – 531 feet

Point Mariah

Gaze into one of the deepest canyons in the Western US from the trail to Point Mariah! This moderate hike starts near Serene Lakes and takes you to an incredible overlook with views of the Royal Gorge, Sugar Bowl, the Pacific Crest Trail as well as Devils Peak and beyond. From here, you can see the Headwaters of the American River and much of the Granite Peak Wilderness which buts up to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The views from Point Mariah are incredible and inspiring. Make it a sunrise hike for a special treat! Learn More.

Alltrails Map

  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Type – Out and Back
  • Distance – 5 miles
  • Elevation Gain – 583 feet
Hike to Warren Lake in Truckee, CA
Paul Hamill Photography

Warren Lake

You are probably familiar with the Truckee’s iconic Castle Peak, the towering mountain that greets you as you drive in from Highway 80 West, but what about what lies just beyond it? While most people opt for the popular hiking trail to Castle Peak’s summit, the backside of this peak holds spectacular terrain including the Frog Lake Cliffs that sit high above recently protected Frog Lake and Warren Lake. You won’t get to Warren Lake without breaking a sweat but it’s well worth the effort as a hard day hike or moderate overnight backpacking trip. Read a trip report.

Alltrails Map

  • Difficulty – Hard
  • Type – Out and back or loop
  • Distance – 13.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain – 3927 feet
Hike to the top of Ellis Peak in Lake Tahoe
Rachel McCullough, Tahoe Mountain Sports

Ellis Peak

Here’s a hike for the peak baggers out there, Ellis Peak. It’s a challenging trek up to the summit but you’ll be hard pressed to find better views once you get to the top. From your perch at 8688 ft., you’ll get 360 degree views of the surrounding rugged mountains and Lake Tahoe shimmering below. The panoramic views are unmatched from up here so make sure to bring your camera and take a #summitselfie! The trail is open and tends to be very hot in mid-summer. Hike this in the fall for crisp, cool air and gorgeous colors. Read a trip report.

Alltrails Map

  • Difficulty – Hard
  • Type -Out and back
  • Distance – 6.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain – 1742 feet

Be a good steward when visiting Truckee! Follow the #RecreateResponsibly guidelines on these fall hikes and take the Traveler’s Pledge to #RespectTruckee.

Siobhan Kenney

About Siobhan Kenney

Siobhan traveled the American West as a National Park Ranger before setting down roots in Truckee. Outdoor adventure is her bread and butter and most days you can find her skiing, trail running, or backpacking.  Follow along with her adventures on Instagram @siokenney.