Fallen Leaf Lake
Glacier-carved Fallen Leaf Lake is a hidden oasis not far from Lake Tahoe. Tucked into the pines and offering scenic mountain views, this off-the-beaten-path destination features a network of hiking trails, pristine waters for swimming and fishing, and a campground that's typically less crowded than nearby South Lake Tahoe sites.
To make the most of your time at this small lake west of Tahoe, you can reserve a spot at Fallen Leaf Lake Campgrounds or drive in for the day. The hiking here is hard to beat. There are trails just steps from the campground, plus additional trailheads on the south side of the lake. Serious hikers can drive toward the Glen Alpine and Fallen Leaf Lake Trailheads on the south side of the lake, off Glen Alpine Road.
If you want to enjoy the water, swimming and fishing are must-do activities. Dive into the lake to enjoy visibility up to depths of 50 feet (15 meters), or rent a fishing boat or canoe to glide over the alpine waters.
Things to know before you go
- Keep your eyes open as you drive; the turnoff for Fallen Leaf Road is not well marked.
- Shutterbugs can find the most scenic, off-the-beaten-path spots by booking a photography tour.
- If you need provisions, swing by the shop at Fallen Leaf Campground.
How to get there
You can find Fallen Leaf Lake south of Camp Richardson, just a short drive from State Route 89. Take Fallen Leaf Road, and park your car just past the campground—if you want to pull over and hike—or keep driving and after about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) you can see the lake on the right.
When to get there
Since Fallen Leaf Road is closed in the winter, plan to visit in the spring, summer, or fall. Weekends may be tricky if you're driving an RV or hauling a boat trailer. The drive down the narrow road may be stop-and-go, since you need to let others pass in order to make your way.
Exploring Lake Tahoe on the 72-Mile Drive
For one of the most scenic routes anywhere in California, don't miss Lake Tahoe's 72-Mile Drive. Head north from Fallen Leaf Lake, drive west on Highway 50, and pull over when you're inspired. You can stop for views at the Emerald Bay Lookout, visit Squaw Valley, or detour to Truckee. Then head east on Highway 28 at the top of the lake, and return on Highway 50, hugging the waterfront as you go.