Current as of October 2016
During the summer South Lake Tahoe might be packed with casino day-trippers, frat boys, and large family reunions, but autumn is another story. With temperatures in the mid to high 70s, no crowds, and vibrant fall foliage, South Lake feels like an entirely different destination. The best way to take advantage of the shoulder season is to get outdoors. Here are a few tips.
1. Fiery foliage
Tahoe may conjure visions of spiky evergreen trees, but it's also home to groves of aspen trees that ignite with fierce colors this time of year. The second half of October is your best chance to witness it. Leisurely drives through South Lake's back roads will reveal tiny pockets of the warm-hued aspens, but Fallen Leaf Lake is a hidden gem. A freckle compared to Lake Tahoe, this small lake is often still and quiet in the fall, so don't be surprised if you have the whole thing to yourself. Follow the “Day Visitors” sign at the end of Fallen Leaf Lake Road, or book a campsite or yurt.
2. The Tahoe Rim Trail, all to yourself
South Shore is home to three sections of the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail—easy, moderate, and Viking. Big Meadow is a leisurely 1.4-mile jaunt through—you guessed it—a large open meadow. Big Meadow East is a tougher 8.8-mile round trip with views of the southern Sierra range. And Kingsbury South to Star Lake is a challenging 17.6-mile slog complete with sprawling vistas and a lake. It’s also not a bad place to go mountain biking. Whichever you choose, be sure to fuel-up accordingly—the trail's website estimates how many calories you burn on each hike: 331, 2,085, and a whopping 4,171, respectively.
3. Relaxing lake sports
The rowdy college kids and family reunions that dominate the lake on speedboats and jet skis are gone for the season. The days are still warm, at least for the next week or so, making it the best time to paddle board on the empty lake. South Tahoe Standup Paddle is one of the only outfitters still issuing rentals.
4. The South Lake Tahoe Food and Wine Festival
South Lake Tahoe draws travelers for its penny slots more often than for its culinary offerings. But this month, the South Lake Tahoe Food and Wine Festival changes all that, with three days of wine tasting seminars, celebrity chef cooking demos, whiskey tastings, and brunches.
5. A hotel for adventurers
Nestled between the mountains and the lake, Tahoe's boutique hotel Basecamp offers a social but sophisticated place to crash, and a refreshing break from the strip of casino-hotels. Rooms are decked with Sierra-inspired décor and perks include a rooftop hot tub, a craft beer and cocktail bar, bike storage, and fire pits stocked with s'mores fixins to facilitate the story-telling process with other guests.