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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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california Hiking Tahoe Fabulous Life tahoe summer trail report

Tahoe Rim Trail Hike from the 267 Trailhead

I spent all day on Friday being a river bro, and rafting the South Fork of the American River, so I was pretty exhausted when I woke up on Saturday. Greyson and I had already agreed to meet one of his friends for a hike that morning, so I rolled out of bed and we headed east.

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Luckily, we had planned a pretty easy going day. Greyson and I met Kyle and Stella (the dog) at the Brockway Summit Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead. The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile long loop trail that circles Lake Tahoe (and then some). The trail is single track and open to hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers (except for a few sections). The trail also shares about 50 miles with the Pacific Crest Trail. While dozens of people do the Tahoe Rim Trail as a two or three week thru hike (Greyson did it back in 2007 for a series in the Sierra Sun), its many accessible trailheads make it a great choice for a day hike or several day-long backpacking or bikepacking trip. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association has some great trip planning resources on their website.

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The trailhead we started at is known as the Brockway Summit Trailhead and is located on Highway 267 about 9.5 miles from downtown Truckee. Google map directions can be found here, and there is a parking lot and side of the road parking on the south side of 267 near the trailhead. We headed uphill and climbed switchbacks for a little over a mile until we hit a spur trail that promised a view. This offshoot trail hadn’t been constructed when Greyson thru hiked the TRT, so we decided to go check it out. The spur was about a half mile each way, and the view at the top was beautiful! Despite a hazy day, we could see all the way across the lake, down to the thunderheads building over the large peaks surrounding South Lake Tahoe.

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If you’re looking for a short hike with a bit of a climb and a rewarding view, the hike to this viewpoint would be a good option. It would be about 3 miles round trip with ~700 feet of climbing. The switchbacks make the climb manageable, but they don’t make it feel like you’re going nowhere.

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We headed back down the spur trail and, since it was still fairly early, decided to keep going on the TRT. This section of the trail travels generally northeast. We headed away from stunning lake views for a while, and we traversed through fields full of fragrant mule’s ear and sage and saw a some blooming wildflowers. If you are looking for stunning fields of multi color wildflowers, there are better trails (and times of year) than this one, but we did see occasional pops of color from Indian paintbrush and other flowers I can’t recognize without a guidebook.

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About 2.5 miles past the spur trail, we reached another nice viewpoint with a shady spot – perfect for a snack break. I broke out a new-to-me trail food, Taos Mountain Energy Bars in the Caramel Pecan flavor. I really liked it! It meets my requirement of being soy free (hard to find in an energy bar), and it tasted really good! After this high point of 8,260, the trail starts heading back downhill. We figured that this would be a good place to turn around, as we were pretty much out of water, and the day was heating up.

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The way back was mostly downhill, with a couple of short and steep uphill sections, but the TRT is so well graded in most sections that it wasn’t too hard on the knees and legs. We ended up with 9 miles and 1,970 feet of climbing, but the hike felt much easier than that to me! Afterwards, however, Greyson and I crashed on the couch for the rest of the day. It was enough distance and elevation that, combined with a full day on the river the day before, we were spent.

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This section of the Tahoe Rim Trail is a fun, moderately difficult trail with some great views that are worth the climb. We saw other hikers and bikers out, but the trail never felt crowded, which is especially awesome, since this was a beautiful Saturday morning in July.

Hike Totals: 9.0 miles, 1,970 feet of elevation gain in 3:04 moving time.

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!