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fall in tahoe Hiking Tahoe Fabulous Life trail report Truckee

Five Must Do Fall Hikes in Truckee

I love hiking in Truckee in the fall! Read below for a few of my favorites places to hike before the snow starts falling. All of these hikes are on Nisenan & Wašišiw Ɂítdeh (Washoe) Land.

Donner Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Donner Peak: Hiking to the top of Donner Peak is one of my favorite short and sweet hikes that still works up a sweat. It’s just under 4 miles round trip and just under 1,000 feet of climbing, with a unique view of Donner Lake through a “window” in the summit. You can check out my Hiking Donner Peak trail guide here. Note: I wrote that guide for hiking it in the spring/early summer. By fall time, there likely won’t be much, if any, running water on the trail.

Sawtooth Trail // tahoefabulous.com

Sawtooth Loop: I’ve mainly done the Sawtooth Loop as a mountain bike ride, but it’s also a popular hiking trail. If you want a longer hike, you can do the full loop, which is about 10.75 miles and ~650 feet of climbing. For something shorter, just treat it like an out and back. Start by parking at the Sawtooth Trailhead parking area here. The trail is pretty well marked, but there are a few social trails as well, so it’s good to have an idea where you’re going. To do the full loop, start on Lower Ridgeline. I’d recommend hiking it counterclockwise, so continue on to Upper Ridgeline, then Martis Creek Meadow, Bald Meadow, and finally back on to Lower Ridgeline.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Tinker Knob: For a long hike with a scrambly summit, I’d recommend hiking to Tinker Knob on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s about 15 miles with 2,500 feet of elevation gain. The views on this hike are among my favorite of any hike I’ve done in the area. If you’re interested in a most-of-a-day hike, here’s my guide to hiking Tinker Knob.

Summit Lake: The out and back to the gorgeous Summit Lake is another route I’ve mainly done as a mountain bike ride, but it’s a beautiful spot to hike into. The way I go, it’s about 900 feet of climbing and 6 miles round trip, mainly uphill on the way out and mostly down on the way down with a beautiful lunch spot at Summit Lake at the midpoint. Park here, at the Castle Valley trailhead and head up the Castle Valley Fire Road for about 0.57 miles before turning right onto Donner Lake Rim Trail/Castle Valley East, which is usually signed. The DLRT crosses the PCT (don’t turn here!) and becomes the DLRT Castle Valley section and then the DLRT Summit Lake Trail which will bring you to Summit Lake. You can also get to Summit Lake via the PCT Castle Valley and the Summit Lake Trail, which I’d like to do someday!

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Castle Peak: I think that this is the most challenging hike on my list, even if it isn’t the longest! The incredible rock outcroppings and miles of views make it totally worth it though! It’s about 7.12 miles round trip, with about 1,900 feet of climbing, though a lot of that climbing happens in just a couple of miles. The downhill on this hike is almost as challenging as the climb, and I’d recommend trekking poles for this one. Here’s my guide to summiting Castle Peak. 

Click here for some my favorite gear for hiking in Truckee and Tahoe in the fall!

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fall in tahoe gear reviews Hiking Tahoe Fabulous Life

Favorite Gear for Fall Hikes in Tahoe

Fall is such a great time to go hiking in Tahoe. The mornings are crisp, the afternoons are sunny, the air is (hopefully) clear of wildfire smoke, and the trails are less crowded. Most of the fall hikes in the Tahoe area can be done with pretty simple gear – basically hiking clothes and the ten essentials. While hiking clothes and equipment can be really expensive, they don’t have to be. Below, I share some of my favorite gear at a variety of price points.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

The temperature can swing pretty wildly throughout the day, so having layers is critical. In the fall, I usually wear a sweat wicking, tech tee – either a Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily ($45) or the REI Coop Shift which goes on sale frequently. I think I paid less that $20 for mine. Next up is a long sleeved, light layer. Since last summer, I’ve been all about sunshirts for this layer. I love not having to re-apply sunscreen on long hikes! I have the Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoody ($69). I love the slim fit, back zipper pocket, and the hood that adds even more sun protection. For a cheaper option, I also have the REI Coop Sahara Button Down (currently on sale for $36). I actually bought the men’s version for extra length (I’m 5’11”), and I am very sad that they didn’t have the plaid options when I got mine! We don’t tend to have a lot of rain in the fall here, so I usually skip a raincoat in favor of a slightly water resistant windshirt. I bring my Patagonia Houdini ($99) basically everywhere. Right now seems like a great time to buy a wind breaker – there are a ton of options on sale at REI right now. This Ultimate Direction Breeze Shell for $31 seems like an amazing deal! For early morning, evening, and late fall hikes, I also add a vest. I have a Marmot down vest that’s a few years old – the Women’s Highlander ($123) seems to be the current version. If you don’t want down, they have a synthetic Women’s Featherless Avant ($105). REI Coop also has a down vest, currently on sale for $56.

Fall Hikes in Tahoe Clothes // tahoefabulous.com

My bottom layers tend to be way more simple! If the temperature is above 45 degrees, I wear shorts. I usually stick to running or athletic shorts – I’m not sure if I even own “hiking” shorts anymore. I alternate between the REI Coop Active Pursuits 4.5” ($40). They frequently go on sale, and I think I paid around $15 each for mine. This summer, I bought long spandex shorts for yoga, and I discovered how much I love hiking in them. I bought this 90 Degrees two pack ($40), and they’ve held up really well. I like the high waist to reduce rubbing from a backpack, and the legs are tight enough that they don’t roll up, but don’t dig in. On colder days, I wear leggings, usually cheap ones like these CRZ Yoga Naked Feeling Leggings ($24), so I don’t feel too bad about snagging them on a bush or scraping on a rock. These ones have held up really well for the price, though! 

I exclusively hike in my trail runners at this point, even in pretty rocky terrain. My current favorite is the Salomon X-Mission 3. It fits my duck feet (wide forefoot, narrow heel) really well, and I have been very impressed with how well they’ve held up over the years. They’re currently on sale for $86 from Salomon, and you can find them even cheaper in limited sizes on Amazon and at REI. The other trail runners I’ve had and liked were the Saucony Peregrine ($120). They were comfortable and stable, but they wore out faster than my current Salomons. The Saucony Peregrines are also on Amazon for as low as $72.

Fall Hiking Gear Truckee // tahoefabulous.com

Since I want somewhere to stash my layers and need a way to carry my safety gear, I need some sort of pack. If I’m planning on a shorter hike or doing any trail running, I use the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta. I have version 4.0, which is on sale on Amazon ($70) and REI ($87). This is an incredible deal, and the 4.0 version is awesome. In fact, when I bought mine from Tahoe Mountain Sports, the woman helping me said she preferred the 4.0 over the 5.0 that was about to come out, because of the additional pockets in the 4.0. The Ultimate Direction Vesta 5.0 ($139) is available now, too. For a longer day hike where I want more food and water, I repurpose my mountain biking hydration pack, a five year old Camelbak Solstice ($135).

I haven’t always been the best about carrying the ten essentials on familiar day hikes, but something unexpected could happen anywhere. For navigation, I tend to rely on my iPhone and the Trailforks app. There are some GPS tracking watches that have route uploading capacities and navigation aids. Greyson has an older version of the Garmin fenix ($690), but we haven’t really figured out how to use that feature very well. For sun protection, I ALWAYS have sunglasses with me. I’m hard on my sunglasses, so I like ones that aren’t too expensive but can handle some abuse. For warm weather hiking, I love the Goodr OGs ($25) because they have a non-slip pad on the bridge of the nose. For sunscreen, I stick to the ones with physical blockers like thinksport ($9).

I have a small first aid kit like this Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight one. Be sure to check in on it every six months or so. More than once, I’ve discovered that the band aids are gone when I really need one! In addition to the water I carry, I also have a Lifestraw ($15) for emergencies. Also in the category of things I hope that I don’t have to use, I have a lighter and matches, a space blanket ($5), and a Petzl Tikkina headlamp ($20). 

Later this week, I’ll share some of my favorite fall hikes to do in the Tahoe-Truckee area, so be sure to check back! Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

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Hiking lake tahoe Tahoe Fabulous Life tahoe summer trail report

How to Hike Tinker Knob on the Pacific Crest Trail

A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to tackle a hike I’d never done before and tackle a new-to-me peak, Tinker Knob on the Pacific Crest Trail. Tinker Knob is a landmark peak on the Sierra Crest between Truckee and Squaw Valley. It’s odd, nose-like shape is visible from Donner Summit and I-80. It’s apparently named after James Tinker, the proprietor of the hotel at Tinker’s Station (now known as Soda Springs) and his prominent nose.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

There are a few ways to access Tinker Knob – from Olympic Valley via the Granite Chief Trail and the PCT, from Coldstream Canyon via the Coldstream Trail, and from Donner Summit via the PCT, which is the way I went. This route was about 15 miles, 2,300+ feet of climbing and it took me a little under six hours. (I started my Garmin a little late on the Strava track below).

I started my hike parking at the Donner Peak/Pacific Crest Trailhead. This area can get really crowded, especially on summer weekends, so the earlier you arrive the better, and be sure not to park in no parking areas.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

The Donner Peak section of the PCT starts with a stout climb up rocky granite “stairs” cut into the hillside before transitioning into a dirt trail through Sugar Bowl Resort. This section is about 540 feet of climbing in a little over a mile before a trail intersection.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Turn right to continue on the short Mount Judah section of the PCT (the left junction heads toward Donner Peak). After less than a mile, there’s well-signed a trail intersection where you could take a sharp left to detour and summit Mount Judah. This route had enough climbing for me already, so I decided to skip it for this trip.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

The next section Judah to Tinker Knob, will take you to your goal. Shortly after the intersection with the Judah detour there’s a very short digression that’s worth taking. It leads you to a beautiful overlook at Roller Pass, named because wagons could be winched up this pass, not disassembled and carried like they had to be over Donner Pass.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

After some more hiking through the trees, the trail opens up along the shoulder of Mount Lincoln and you can see for miles and miles. This is the start of a long, exposed section with no shade so be sure to have sun protection. I imagine it can be pretty hot up here if there’s no breeze or really windy. I got lucky and had just enough of a breeze to be comfortable, but I wasn’t being blown around or anything.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

The entire section climbs about 1,450 feet in five miles, but it’s not straight uphill. There’s a significant downhill that drops you over 250 feet about 0.85 miles in. There are also some really nice, flat portions of the trail that are easy to cruise on. Additionally, most of the trail is nicely packed dirt, though there are some sandy sections and loose rocky areas where paying attention to your feet (especially when you’re tired!) is important.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

The PCT does not go over the top of Tinker Knob, so if you want to summit you’ll have to detour and be comfortable with a little class 4 scrambling. The trail to the summit isn’t on Trail Forks, but it exists and it’s pretty obvious, when you’re below the summit. The first half of the trail is just a steep hike, but then you’ll have to do a little route finding. I needed to use both my hands and feet to climb the last little bit to the summit. I didn’t think it was too difficult, but I was extra careful since I was hiking solo.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

The 360 degree view from the top is incredible! It gave me a perspective on the area that I hadn’t had before, and I could even see into the Lake Tahoe Basin. After hanging out for a bit, I (very carefully, very slowly) picked my way back down to the trail and started back towards home.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com
Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com
Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Once off the sketchy part, I realized that I forgot to take a summit selfie, so I made do with a slightly-below-summit selfie that included the Knob itself.

Tinker Knob HIke // tahoefabulous.com

Even though this hike is an out and back, the views as I headed north were very different, so I wasn’t bored. I especially loved looking into the huge and impressive American River Canyon, which I rarely see on my typical hikes.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

I hiked along, occasionally breaking into a slow run to give my hiking muscles a break, until I arrived at the last real climb of the hike. I plodded up this, stopping occasionally to stretch and catch my breath, and finally made it to the top. I was super tired after this exertion, but my hips and knees were even more sore, so I did occasionally break out into a “run” in the smoother sections.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Once at the granite step downclimb section I slowed down considerably. I was so tired and I definitely couldn’t run on this technical section, so I just took it as gingerly as I could. When I got back home, I joked with my husband that I was going for an “SKT” or slowest known time on that segment. Finally, finally, after at least 6 hours, I got back to my car and collapsed in the driver’s seat.

Tinker Knob Hike // tahoefabulous.com

This is the longest hike I’ve done in a long time (maybe ever?) and exhausting, but so worth it. If you’re looking for a gorgeous hike that introduces you to a great section of the PCT with ever changing views and great wildflowers, I’d highly recommend the hike to Tinker Knob on the PCT.

Trail Stats:
Difficulty: Advanced
Mileage: 15.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,541 feet
Nisenan & Wašišiw Ɂítdeh (Washoe) Land
Strava Route Here

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california Hiking Tahoe Fabulous Life tahoe summer Truckee

Hiking Castle Peak: Truckee, California

Last week, I climbed a new-to-me peak in the Truckee area – Castle Peak. If you’ve driven east into Truckee on I-80, you’ve probably seen this unique peak jutting into the sky. It’s noticeable mainly because of the distinctive south facing cliffs and turrets, leftovers from an ancient volcano. In the winter, Castle Peak is a popular snowshoe and ski destination and in the summer it’s great for hiking. When I went in mid-July, it was snow free and the wildflowers were incredible.

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Castle Peak is a doable, but challenging summit off of the Pacific Crest Trail. There are a couple of different ways to access Castle Peak, and the route I took was around ~1,900 feet of climbing in just over 7 miles. While this hike doesn’t require any technical climbing, it’s a tough, steep hike at altitude with uneven, loose terrain, exposed to the heat of the sun and there are spots where a fall would result in serious injury. Plus, to get to the actual summit there is some class 3 scrambling. You should be in pretty good shape and have some technical hiking experience. Be sure to bring lots of water and the 10 essentials.

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

I started my hike at the parking area for the Donner Summit trails, just north of I-80 off of exit 176 for Castle Peak/Boreal resort. (For a longer hike with more time on the PCT, you could park on the south side of the freeway by Boreal Resort and get on the PCT right away.) From the parking area, head up the Castle Valley Fire Road. Pretty quickly past the gate, there’s a great view of Castle Peak to the right, but it’s kind of intimidating to see how far you’ll have to climb!

After about 0.56 miles, look for a double track trail to the right. There should be a trail marker for the Donner Lake Rim Trail, where you’ll head down for a bit before beginning to climb. After about 0.4 miles on the DLRT, the Pacific Crest Trail intersects the DLRT, and you’ll turn left and start heading north. Here the climb is pretty mellow and shaded – enjoy it while it lasts! When I hiked it, there were a ton of corn lilies in this section. At about 1.2 miles on the PCT, there is a sharp right uphill to a signed intersection. 

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Follow the signs to Castle Peak and take the trail on the right, Castle Peak West Trail. Now this is when things get challenging! The trail climbs 1,100+ feet in just over a mile, and much of the trail is loose and sandy, making footing a challenge. I took a ton of breaks in this section, stopping to catch my breath, check out the unique rock formations, drink water and enjoy the views. Unfortunately, it was a little hazy the day I did the hike with smoke from a fire near Susanville.

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

There’s a steep climb to a small saddle before the final push to the summit – be sure to take advantage of this relatively relaxed section to take it easy. There are lots of little social trails to the summit from here. It seemed to me that they all reconnected fairly quickly, as long as you keep heading towards the summit. The trail is steeper on the last push, but at least there are some shady spots. If you want to get to the true summit of Castle Peak, you’ll have to scramble down past the west summit and back up again with some class 3 climbing up to the top.

Once you’re there, enjoy a snack break, soak in the 360 degree view and get mentally ready for the hike down. Honestly, I struggled more on the hike down than the climb up. The loose, sandy steep sections took nearly constant attention not to slip and fall. It was stressful! I didn’t bring trekking poles, but I wished I had, especially on the sketchy downhill. However, the hike down gets a lot easier as soon as you’re back on the PCT, and then it’s easy sailing back to your car.

Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com
Via Strava
Castle Peak Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Trail Stats:
Location: Truckee, California (parking here)
Mileage: 7.12 feet
Elevation Gain: 1,917 feet
Difficulty: Advanced
Nisenan & Wašišiw Ɂítdeh (Washoe) Land
Strava Route here

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Hiking lake tahoe Tahoe Fabulous Life tahoe winter trail report Uncategorized

Snowshoeing Chickadee Ridge, North Lake Tahoe

This weather this winter has been…varied. We started off strong with a lot of snow, but then we had a long dry period, and lately, it’s been weak storms. Not a lot of opportunities for powder days. Last weekend, though, we had a beautiful sunny Saturday, so Greyson and I were looking for something fun to take advantage of that. After debating a few options, we settled on going on a snowshoe trek to Chickadee Ridge above Incline Village.

Snowshoeing Chickadee Ridge Lake Tahoe NV // tahoefabulous.com

The hike out to Chickadee Ridge is one of the more popular snowshoes in the North Lake Tahoe, for good reason. There are incredible views, the trail head is easy to get to, there’s ample parking, the ~2.5 mile round trip will get your heart rate up, but it’s not too hard, and since hikers tend to spread out, you’ll spend much of your excursion in solitude. See my hike on Strava here.

Trail Details & Map via Strava

To get to Chickadee Ridge, we started near the Tahoe Meadows trailhead of the Tahoe Rim Trail along the Mount Rose Highway 431. We parked here, which is also the parking for the snow play area on the north side of the highway. Don’t be alarmed if there are a ton of cars, most are there using the sled hill. 

After we parked, we crossed to the south side of Hwy 431 and headed cross country across the meadow toward the treeline, me on snowshoes and Greyson on his backcountry skis. One thing that I love about snowshoeing and winter recreation is the ability to forge my own path. We knew the general area we were heading, but we were able to meander there on our own. Pretty much as soon as we got into the trees, we were on our own. While there isn’t an official trail in the winter, this is a popular enough destination that there is a packed out trail to follow, if you’re worried about getting lost. When we were there, it was even packed hard enough that people were hiking in boots without snowshoes or skis (though I wouldn’t recommend it!). 

Tahoe Meadows Winter Fun // tahoefabulous.com

Once we were in the trees, we started a steady, but not too steep climb. We ended up climbing about 350 feet overall with only one steep stretch at the end. We weren’t going to a specific destination on Chickadee Ridge, so we just snowshoed south until we could see Lake Tahoe, then turned northeast-ish and walked along the ridge until we found a nice rock to sit on with a great view.

Snowshoeing Chickadee Ridge Lake Tahoe NV // tahoefabulous.com

Another reason that people go to Chickadee Ridge is right in the name. Visitors often bring bird seed and feed the mountain chickadees that hang out in the area. Due to this, they are pretty friendly and will fly up to see if you have any snacks for them. I’m not a big fan of birds getting close to me, so we didn’t feed them. A few flew close, but left us alone once they realized we had no food, which I appreciated. 

Snowshoeing Chickadee Ridge Lake Tahoe NV // tahoefabulous.com

After hanging out and enjoying the view for awhile, Greyson and I started getting hungry, so we packed up and headed out. On our way out, we followed the biggest set of packed out tracks and we were quickly back in the meadow and back to the car. Since we were hungry, we headed straight to the new-ish Alibi Ale Works Incline Public House. Alibi Ale Works is one of my favorite local breweries, but I hadn’t checked out their new pub location in Incline Village. They have a bigger kitchen than the Truckee location, so the menu is expanded and everything looked so good. I got an excellent spicy chicken sandwich, and since it’s dry January, a local Pacific Crest Coffee nitro cold brew. I’m not usually a huge nitro cold brew fan, but this was seriously one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in years! I highly recommend a stop at Alibi Ale Works Incline Public House stop after you do the Chickadee Ridge snowshoe. See my Strava Track here.

Click here to see my favorite gear for snowshoeing.

Click here to see some of my favorite snowshoe hikes in Truckee.

Trail Stats
Mileage: ~2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: ~350 feet
Difficulty: Easy

Wašišiw Ɂítdeh (Washoe) Land

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fall in tahoe gear reviews Gravel Biking Hiking shoulder season fun Tahoe Fabulous Life Yoga

Favorite Fall Activities

Fall Favorites // tahoefabulous.com

Trail Running 
Fall is the perfect time to get out for a trail run on one of the many awesome hiking trails in the Tahoe-Truckee area. Click here for a list of my favorite fall hikes – all make great trail runs as well. Another trail I love running in the fall, but is the trail to the top of Donner Peak. It’s about 4 miles round trip, and I usually run the flats and downhills and power hike the strenuous uphills.

Donner Peak Trail Views // tahoefabulous.com

As far as gear for fall trail running, I’ve been loving my Ultimate Direction Womens Ultra Vesta for a running specific hydration pack. It’s lightweight, comfortable, has TONS of pockets and can do bottles in the front pockets and a 1.5 L bladder in the main compartment. It’s really lightweight and comfortable, and it has lots of little straps to adjust and tighten it down. If I’m running in the mornings or late afternoons, when it’s chilly but not too cold, I usually go with a lightweight, long sleeve top, like this Smartwool merino one and shorts. My favorite running shorts are the Brooks Women’s Chaser 5″ and the REI Co-op Active Pursuits.

Fall Trail Running Gear // tahoefabulous.com

Gravel Biking
I’ve had my gravel bike, the Diamondback Bicycles Haanjo Trail for about a year, and I’m now a huge fan of gravel biking. I use mine for a bunch of things – bike commuting, riding mellow mountain bike trails, and true gravel grinding. There are miles and miles of gravel roads in the Truckee area. If you’re looking to do some exploring, I’d recommend checking out the Prosser Creek Reservoir area. For a slightly more challenging ride, check out the Elizabethtown Meadows Trail.

Elizabethtown Meadows // tahoefabulous.com

I’m able to use a lot of the same gear for gravel biking that I already owned, which has been nice. I did switch to a  lighter weight, lower profile road helmet, like the Giro Saga. It’s more comfortable than my mountain bike helmet when I’m leaned over the bars. I also wear really basic mountain bike shoes, like the Shimano ME2. They’re fairly light weight, comfortable for long rides, and easy to walk on and stable on uneven surfaces. I don’t like wearing a full hydration pack on the gravel bike, so for really short rides close to home, I’ll just do a water bottle and a FlipBelt. For longer rides, I’ll add a saddle bag, like the Evoc Saddle Bag Tour. Greyson has the Salsa Exp Series Top Tube Bag, which is really nice for storing extra gear on really long rides.

Gravel Biking Gear // tahoefabulous.com

Yoga
This fall, I’ve gotten back into yoga. As the days are getting shorter, and it gets harder to go for a ride or hike after work, it’s nice to do something active that’s not the gym. I got the prAna Indigena Natural Yoga Mat as a gift, and I love it. It’s held up well, it grips well on the ground and my hands don’t slip. Since it’s made from natural rubber, it doesn’t off gas that gross plastic smell, even when brand new. For leggings, I really like the Athleta Elation Tight in Powervita. In the “Tall” length, it’s one of the few pairs I’ve had that are actually long enough. The Elation tights aren’t very thick or compressive, so if you’re looking for that, I recommend the Outdoor Voices Warm Up Leggings. During yoga I prefer more minimalist sports bras, like the Smartwool Seamless Strappy. If you’re visiting the Truckee area and looking for a yoga studio to visit, I highly recommend Truckee Yoga Collective.

Yoga Gear // tahoefabulous.com

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

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california Hiking Lost Sierra mountain biking Restaurant Recs road trips Tahoe Fabulous Life travels

Lost Sierra Favorites

Lost Sierra Favorites // tahoefabulous.com

As much as I love Lake Tahoe, the California coast, Yosemite National Park, etc., they’re often busy with visitors and locals, especially on a nice summer weekend, taking away some of the natural charm. If I’m wanting a less crowded experience, I head north of Truckee on Highway 89 into the “Lost Sierra” of eastern Plumas and Sierra counties.

Mills Peak // tahoefabulous.com
View from the top of Mills Peak

The Lost Sierra is a gem of a region, dotted with small towns and hundreds of outdoor opportunities. There’s really something for everyone there! Unsurprisingly, my favorite thing about this area is the awesome mountain bike trails – Mt. Hough (Quincy), Mills Peak (Graeagle), and the Downieville Downhill (Downieville) are all in the Lost Sierra. There are lots more great trails in this area, and the Sierra Buttes Trails Stewardship is constantly adding and improving miles of trails.

Downieville Downhill // tahoefabulous.com
Downieville Downhill

The Lost Sierra is well known for hiking, and you can get to some incredible destinations on your feet. The hiking the Sierra Buttes trail to the tallest point in the Lakes Basin. There are dozens of other great day hikes in this area – check out this link from Plumas National Forest as a resource. The Pacific Crest Trail goes through the Lost Sierra as well, with Sierra City and Quincy being popular town stops for thru hikers. Day hikes on this section of the PCT will take you to some incredible places and views.

Lost Sierra Rivers // tahoefabulous.com

There are quite a few rivers and streams flowing through the Lost Sierra which means there’s great fishing, swimming, rafting and floating. There’s rafting and whitewater kayaking on the Feather River, and it has gentle stretches and tributaries that can be tube floated or canoed. The confluence of the North Yuba River and the Downie River is in downtown Downieville, and it makes basically a perfect swimming hole. Nothing feels better than jumping in after a hot, summer mountain bike ride! For lake recreation, Bucks Lake, southwest of Quincy, and Gold Lake, north of Sierra City are great options. If hot springs are more your style, Sierraville is home to the Sierra Hot Springs, a private, relaxing resort in the Sierra Valley.

The Lost Sierra is also a great place to experience history, art, and culture. Did you know that Downieville was almost the capital of California? Also, it was the most populous city at one point during the gold rush. Located in a building from 1852 in the heart of downtown, the Downieville Museum is small, but worth a visit. There are also a few historic fire lookouts throughout the region. There’s one on top of Mills Peak that you can drive to (via rough road) and one at Calpine that you can reserve and stay at!

High Sierra Music Festival // tahoefabulous.com
Photo via highsierramusic.com

The High Sierra Music Festival is an incredible festival that happens in Quincy every year during the first weekend in July. Beyond the music, there is a parade, costume contests, art, comedy, a pool, great food and much more. Much smaller, but just as awesome is the Lost Sierra Hoedown, which takes place in September at the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl. It’s got a focus on community, music, outdoor recreation, and it’s fundraiser for local groups.

Quintopia Brewing // tahoefabulous.com

Small rural towns aren’t usually known for their food scenes, but there definitely a few great restaurants in the Lost Sierra. The Brewing Lair (Blairsden) is one of my favorite breweries in all of California. They don’t serve food, but they sometimes have a food truck, and you can always bring your own. If we’re doing that, we usually stop at Graeagle Mountain Frostee to grab greasy, comfort food to go. Also in Blairsden is Bread & Butter, which is an excellent stationary food truck with outdoor seating. Quintopia Brewing in Quincy is fairly new, but already has great beer, delicious food, and reasonable prices. Try the chicken tikka masala fries! My favorite place in Downieville is Two Rivers Cafe. It’s a little on the pricy side, but the food is good and the deck seating overlooks the river confluence. Finally, Los Dos Hermanos is a good Mexican restaurant tucked away in Sierraville.

This is just scratching the surface of all of the great things to do and see in the Lost Sierra region. I hope you’ll plan a trip to the Lost Sierra this summer or fall and that you love it as much as I do.

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california eastern sierra Hiking Tahoe Fabulous Life

Hiking Fern Lake Trail – June Lake, California

I spent an amazing four day weekend in June Lake recently, celebrating at a bachelorette party for one of my best friends. We did many super fun things – beer at June Lake Brewing, swimming in June Lake, dancing to Lizzo, barbecuing, etc. A huge highlight was a short but hard hike up to the incredible Fern Lake.

Fern Lake Hike // tahofabulous.com

The trail to Fern Lake is only 3.2 miles, but it gains around 1,500 feet of elevation. It’s really steep – apparently the trail builders didn’t believe in switch backs. I think there’s only a couple on the whole trail! There are also a few short sections that are closer to scrambling than hiking. It’s also at altitude, starting above 7,000 feet and topping out around 8,900 feet. The trail is rated as difficult – which I agree with. Everyone in our group struggled at some point, but we took it slow with lots of breaks and we made it to the top.

Fern Lake Trail // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Kristen Boysen

We parked at the Yost Creek/Fern Lake Trailhead – even on a beautiful Saturday during a busy weekend there was plenty of parking. The trail was easy to find and we headed up Yost Creek Trail, which would eventually fork into Fern Lake Trail. The trail starts climbing immediately through an aspen grove. It was really mosquito-y through this part, but there were also fields of mariposa lilies, which was incredible.

Fern Lake Trail // tahoefabulous.com

After about half a mile, we were out of the mosquitos and aspens, and the trails started to have incredible views of the surrounding mountains, the green valley below us, and waterfalls off in the distance. At about one mile into the hike, the Yost Creek Trail heads east and crosses Fern Creek – which was raging and basically a waterfall when we were there. The Fern Lake Trail is the right fork and heads steeply up. While the whole route is a steep climb, this next ~0.25 mile section is the steepest, loosest and most technical. It’s also exposed and hot.

Fern Creek Raging

Eventually, the trail flattens out for a bit and we got back in the cool shade of the trails. This flat section (less than 0.2 miles) is a nice respite from the mostly relentless climb, but we weren’t totally done climbing yet (despite what the well-meaning but entire wrong trail runner we encountered told us). After another ~0.1 miles of climbing, Fern Lake came into view.

Fern Lake Hike // tahoefabulous.com

It was totally worth the work to get there! We shared summit beers & snacks and a few of us jumped in the very cold lake before heading back down the trail. The descent was much easier physically than the climb up, but it required a lot of mental energy since it was dusty and rocky. We all slipped a few times, but luckily no one got hurt. Before we knew it, we were back at the car. (Click here for my Strava route for just the downhill. I forgot to turn on my watch for the trip up.) We made a beeline for June Lake Brewing for hard earned Hawaiian food from Ohana’s 395 and delicious IPAs (This summer, I’m loving June Lake Brewing’s Changing of the Guard IPA). This trail is incredible, and I’d highly recommend it to in shape hikers who have experience with steep, sandy climbs.

Fern Lake Hike // tahofabulous.com
Photo by Katie Riley

Trail Stats
Mileage: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: ~1,500 feet
Difficulty: Difficult
Northern Paiute, Western Mono/Monache, and Central Sierra Miwok Land

Categories
climbing Hiking mountain biking Tahoe Fabulous Life tahoe summer Truckee

25+ Summer Things To Do In Truckee – Outdoors

Summer Things To Do In Truckee // tahoefabulous.com

Summer is an amazing time of year in Truckee, and I want to share some of my favorite things to do. In honor of the solstice and summer OFFICIALLY starting, I thought I’d share the best things to do outside in Truckee.

Hiking Truckee // tahoefabulous.com
Hiking on Donner Summit

Go for a hike! (Note: some of the hikes at higher elevations might not be completely melted out due to the heavy snows this winter. Be sure to check conditions before heading out.) My favorite after work hike is to summit Donner Peak, which is about 4 miles round trip and 950 feet of climbing from the parking area. For a longer hike, the 14 mile trek from Sugar Bowl to Squaw via the Pacific Crest Trail is a local favorite, but not heavily trafficked. Lower Sagehen Creek Loop Trail and Elizabethtown Meadows Trail are both flatter options at lower elevation.

Mountain Biking Truckee // tahoefabulous.com
Big Chief Trail in Truckee

Check out Truckee’s awesome mountain bike trails! Truckee has mountain bike trails for all levels and types of riders. For easier rides, I’d recommend the Emigrant Trail segment that goes from Highway 89 to Stampede Reservoir, which is an out and back and can be made as long or short as you like. Sawtooth Loop is a 10 mile, intermediate route that is slightly more cross country style. For a fun but challenging climb, head up towards the Donner Lake Rim Trail from the Wendin Way Access Trail. If you prefer to shuttle, the Donner Lake Rim Trail has a couple of great options, either riding in from the Castle Valley side or from the Glacier Way trailhead in Tahoe DonnerThe newly completed Big Chief Trail is a great option for advanced riders. For groups with a variety of skill levels, check out the trails in the Tahoe Donner neighborhood, especially those around the Alder Creek Adventure Center. There’s a wide variety of trails at all levels here. Finally, the Truckee Bike Park is a must do for mountain bikers visiting the area.

Donner Lake // tahoefabulous.com

Get in the water! Though you might not guess it from my blog name, in some ways I prefer Donner Lake over Lake Tahoe. I love that there are publicly accessible, free docks that are available on a first come, first serve basis – the Donner Lake Public Piers. They tend to fill up fast on summer days, so get there early to claim one! If a regular beach is more your scene, the West End Beach is great for that. It’s $5 for an adult entrance fee (or $50 for a season pass), and, besides a great swimming beach, there are life guards, nice bathrooms, concessions, picnic tables, a play area, grills, boat rentals, and more! Floating the Truckee River is a popular activity, and you can avoid the crowds by choosing a less popular section to float. I recommend the stretch from the Truckee Regional Park to the Glenshire Bridge which is rowdier than the booze cruise section between Tahoe City and Alpine Meadows, but still doable by amateurs. Be sure to check river conditions, it can be too cold, deep and fast moving to be safe early in the summer. I’d also recommend a raft that’s a step up from a cheap innertube!

Green Phantom Climbing // tahoefabulous.com
Greyson top roping on Green Phantom

Get on a rock! I haven’t been climbing a ton lately, but it’s still one of my favorite ways to experience the outdoors. My favorite top roping spot (mainly for the awesome views of Donner Lake) is Green Phantom on Donner Summit. If bouldering is your thing, Donner Memorial State Park has a bunch of fun routes that are super easy to access. If you want a little bit of a hike before you climb, the Grouse Slab boulder area is a fun area with great views.

Photo by Pacos Truckee

Go with a group! During the summer, Truckee has a lot of opportunities to hike, bike, run, and learn with locals, visitors, and experts. The Truckee Donner Land Trust runs a free, docent led hiking program in the summer. This is a great chance to get out on incredible TDLT properties, including ones that are not yet open to the public, like Carpenter Valley. Paco’s bike shop has a group road ride on Wednesday nights and a no-drop ladies mountain bike ride on Fridays. For trail running enthusiasts, Donner Party Mountain Runners hosts lots of group events and has an up to date calendar on their website.

Road Biking Truckee // tahoefabulous.com

Other outdoor stuff! The Truckee River Legacy Trail is a paved trail paralleling the Truckee River that is great for running, dog walking, and biking. For another easy road bike route, I like doing a lap around Donner Lake (though I highly recommend doing it clockwise!) – it’s 7 miles and under 400 feet of climbing. The climb up to the top of Donner Summit up Old Highway 40 is a lung burning challenge. It’s more than 1,000 feet of climbing in about three miles and tops out at over 7,000 feet. Truckee is a great place to do some high elevation trail running – Emigrant Trail and the Boreal to Old 40 section of the PCT are both great options. Disc golf is a great, low key way to spend time outside and Truckee has a few options. Right in town, there’s a course near the entrance of the Truckee River Regional Park and one on the campus of Sierra College. Up on Donner Summit, the Donner Ski Ranch resort has its own course.

This is just scratching the surface of fun outdoor things to do this summer in Truckee. Get outside and enjoy this great place!

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california Hiking Tahoe Fabulous Life tahoe winter trail report

Five Snowshoe Hikes in Truckee

Five Truckee Snowshoe Hikes // tahoefabulous.com

This winter, I’ve been getting more and more into snowshoeing. If you don’t want to by a lift ticket or a season pass, snowshoeing is a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter. There are a bunch of great places to snowboard in and around Truckee, and here are some of my favorites:

1. Donner Summit Train Tunnels
Truckee Train Tunnels Hike // tahoefabulous.com
This is not your typical Truckee snowshoe! This route takes you into the abandoned Transcontinental Railroad tunnels. Don’t worry, the tracks have been pulled out so there’s no chance you’ll get hit by a train. The appeal of the tunnels is the natural ice sculptures and graffiti that collects in the tunnels. Click here to read my blog post with more details, and don’t forget your headlamp!

2. Donner Memorial State Park
This state park commemorates the site of the ill-fated Donner Party, who spent the winter of 1846-47 in this area and famously resorted to cannibalism to survive. Park at the Visitor’s Center ($10 parking or use your California State Parks Pass) and explore the east end of Donner Lake. During the summer, this park is packed, but it’s much emptier in the winter. Be sure to check out the giant statue memorial to the men, women, and children of the Donner Party (the base of the sculpture is the height of the ’46-’47 snows!) and head into the recently remodeled museum when you’re done with the hike.

If this visit gets you interested in the story of the Donner Party, read the book The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown. I just finished it, and it’s amazing!

3. Donner Summit Canyon
Donner Summit Canyon Snowshoe // tahoefabulous.com
Donner Summit Canyon is a moderately strenuous hike with beautiful views of Donner Lake, Donner Peak, and Shallenberger Ridge. It doesn’t get a ton of sun, so it’s a great option when snow has melted off of other sunnier trails. Check out my blog post with more details here.

4. Coldstream Canyon
Snowshoeing Coldstream Canyon // tahoefabulous.com
For a mellow, flat snowshoe, I highly recommend Coldstream Canyon. It has more widely spaced trees than a lot of the snowshoe hikes in the area, so it gets great sun on a bluebird day. It’s a perfect hike for a sunny day after some storms, and it’s close to both downtown Truckee and Donner Lake. It can be a pretty popular area on busy weekends, so get there early if you don’t want to have to park too far away. Check out my blog post with more details here.

5. Commemorative Overland Emigrant Trail
So there were actually two Donner Party camps, and the eponymous Donners didn’t actually camp at Donner Lake! They set up their shelters a few miles away by Alder Creek, which is now the home of the trail most locals just call “Emigrant”. This is a great place to explore via snowshoes. You can stick to the flatter areas, or climb up the small hills for a view of Prosser Creek Reservoir. To get here, head north on Highway 89 to the Donner Party Picnic Area. The actual parking lot is closed in the winter, but there are plowed spots across the road. Click here to see my Strava route.