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With the summer crowds slowly dissipating and the autumn colors transforming California's landscapes, now's the perfect time to plan your fall family trip and experience NorCal's beautiful lakes in a whole new light. Spend your fall vacation enjoying outdoor activities in the spectacular alpine scenery, dining at fabulous restaurants, and cozying up by the fire in your cabin rental.
While there are numerous California mountain towns that beckon to visitors, it's hard to beat Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes, especially when it comes to lakeside fall getaways. Not sure which one to visit first? Worry not—we've rounded up the top things to do in Tahoe and Mammoth this season, so get ready to pack your bags and add these awesome activities to your itinerary.
Lake Tahoe is an alpine wonderland that is particularly stunning in the autumn months, with the breathtaking hues of crimson, gold, and fiery orange contrasting with the azure waters. From traversing scenic trails to visiting underrated small towns near the lake, here are the top things to do in Tahoe when visiting in the fall.
The Lake Tahoe area boasts miles of singletrack routes perfect for mountain biking and road cyclists. The paved, multi-use paths are perfect for families who love to cruise alongside each other as the sun sets behind the mountains. You can bring your own bike or save yourself the trouble by heading to the Tahoe Bike Company to rent your wheels.
If there's biking, there's hiking—the crisp weather and colorful trees make it a prime time to traverse the local trails (just make sure to visit in early autumn to miss the heavy snowfall). Strap on your hiking boots and pick up your essentials from Willard's Sport Shop before heading to the Vikingsholm Trail for a quick out-and-back hike. If you plan on bringing your furry best friend, the Angora Lakes Trail is dog-friendly and suitable for a short morning walk.
Head to the waters for an exciting kayaking or paddleboarding session. With the sun setting earlier than usual and the temperatures dropping, these activities are the best way to experience Lake Tahoe without actually getting in for a swim. You can rent your kayaks or paddleboards from Tahoe Sports Hub and begin your adventure.
Looking to ski or snowboard down some epic slopes? Time your visit in late November, when significant snowfall typically occurs in Lake Tahoe. This region is home to several of the best ski resorts in California, so you'll have plenty of places to choose from when you're ready to have an early White Christmas.
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There are many ways to enjoy your time at Lake Tahoe, and watching a film at the Tahoe Art Haus and Cinema is sure to be on the list of the best Lake Tahoe activities. Take your partner on an old-fashioned, romantic outdoor date to the drive-in where you can enjoy independent films along with gourmet popcorn.
An autumn getaway is never complete without time spent admiring the majestic California fall foliage. Leaf-peepers and travelers seeking peace and solitude will love visiting Lake Tahoe in the autumn.
Tucked away in the southern part of Tahoe is the small town of Markleeville, which comes alive in the autumn months. Indulge in the views of Lake Tahoe's fall colors while meandering through Grover Hot Springs State Park. With lush forests, alpine meadows, hot springs, and looming mountains, this is an underrated state park worth visiting.
Not very far from Markleeville, Hope Valley's fall colors are astounding; it's the ultimate place to catch fall foliage and observe the golden colors. There are a few campgrounds located in the valley as well as cozy resorts such as Kirkwood Ski Resort—a divine place for a fall getaway.
Located north of Lake Tahoe, Mount Rose Highway Summit boasts breathtaking views of the lake surrounded by golden trees and meadows. Get in a workout by hiking the Tahoe Meadows Trail, which showcases views of local peaks such as Slide Mountain and Mount Rose.
With cool fall weather and stunning colors, Mammoth Lakes, CA, welcomes visitors with plenty of activities. This town is one of the best weekend getaways from L.A.—escape the hustle and bustle of the city and unwind in this beautiful fall destination.
Fishing in Mammoth Lakes is ideal during this time of year. Come fall, the trout in the lake react to the cooler temperatures and begin changing their colors and behaviors in time for mating season (or shall we say cuffing season). You'll also have the picture-perfect backdrop of fall foliage as you cast a line and catch your next meal. Before heading to the waters, gear up at Rick’s Sports Center in the middle of town.
Hiking and fall foliage go hand in hand, just like skiing and snow-capped mountains. One of the top Mammoth Lakes activities includes hiking one (or several) of the trails. Wake up early for a 14-mile long journey at McGee Canyon, just 20 minutes away from Mammoth Lakes. (You can always cut the trail short and turn your hike into a quick out-and-back trek back to town.) Or, make your way to the Reds Meadow Valley via Mammoth Pass for a 3.9-mile hike through the fall wilderness. If you can't bear to leave this gorgeous locale, set up camp at the Reds Meadow Campground—one of California’s top lake camping destinations.
Ski and snowboard season usually begins in late November or early December, so time your visit to Mammoth towards the end of the fall season. With the highest peak of any ski resort in the state, thousands of acres of terrain, and 100-plus runs accessible to enthusiasts of all ability levels, Mammoth is a great place to hone your skills.
The Eastern Sierras' fall season attracts droves of visitors due to its famous terrain and vibrant foliage. Autumn's presence is truly felt starting in late September, as temperatures begin to drop in higher-altitude areas. In places of lower altitude, the leaves begin to change color in October and November. This, in turn, creates a wondrous tapestry of colors.
Hike the seven-mile Mammoth Town Loop Trail, which takes you to Mammoth Creek Park and Snowcreek Ponds and provides views of the fall colors reflecting on the deep-blue waters.
Find yourself torn between Mammoth and Big Bear? Read on to discover what you need to know before choosing your next mountain getaway.
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