When I first googled “Fall Colors in California,” among all the Eastern Sierra locations, I saw Hope Valley. The place was somehow totally unknown to me. Then I started my research, and the trip idea appeared.
Hope Valley rests at 7,000 feet south of Lake Tahoe on the eastern side of Carson Pass. The drive, hike or just a short walk there is a grand fall adventure in the kingdom of bright yellow and orange of the autumn foliage of aspens.
Hiking to Scott Lake
What came as a surprise for me was the fact that I wasn’t able to find a huge number of trails here. And after some thinking, Scott Lake became a really good option.
The hike starts from a pullout on Luther Pass road and goes through a pine forest for almost a mile. The trail has some incline, but still on the easy side. After a short walk path leads to a rocky overlook over the valley, and after that, you will start to pass places with pick-a-boo views of Carson Pass road, aspens on the mountains south of the valley, and the valley itself.
However, the best of the trail waits for you near the lake. Scott Lake is surrounded with groves of aspen. The place is very secluded, and you will have most of it for yourself.
The lake is not the best view though. It looked like an artificial one, and the water level was shallow. The banks were muddy.
You can drive to the Scott Lake if you have ATV or good Jeep with high clearance. But the hike itself is enjoyable.
Total hike was near 4.5 miles. The description of the hike could be read on alltrails.com
Drive Carson Pass
And stop million times to take photos
Luther Pass Road North of Picketts Junction
The drive through the Hope Valley is a fantastic experience if you have time to stop and enjoy the natural beauty. We drove Hwy 89 (Luther Pass Rd) to Hwy 88 (Carson Pass Hwy), and then all the way to Carson Pass. If you are in the place at the right time (and by the right time, I mean the foliage started to peak), you will see a lot of places worth to stop.
And the first place for us after hiking Scott Lake was a pullout just before Picketts Junction. The road goes over the small hill, and you have this stunning display of colors right before your eyes.
Dirt Parking Lot of Picketts Junction
After the stopping before the junction, we crossed Hwy 88 and stopped immediately in the huge dirt parking lot. It’s the closest place to the aspen grow we saw on our first step. There is a trail along the road closer to the grove.
Hope Valley along Hwy 88
So what I forgot to say, we had a chance to visit Tahoe two weekends in a row. On September 23rd, we drove through Hope Valley after camping at Fallen Leaf Lake. Then next week we spent a weekend with friends on Tahoe North and decided it’s good to take a scenic road back to the Bay Area. So we again drove Carson Pass Hwy.
What I noticed that not all groves looked the same. On the first weekend, some of the trees only started to turn red, but next week some of the aspens had no leaves at all.
The most prominent display of colors are the trees along the Hwy 88. There are meadows between the road and the woods, that was so gold and beautiful I was afraid to walk on them.
23rd of September
30th of September
Wooden Hut near Red Creek Lake
Actually, Wooden Hut (which is private territory) is more like a sign where you need to stop. But the place is seen well before you reach it. It’s like a fiery orange corridor of aspens. This part of the road has a wide curb where you could park.
As I mentioned previously, the land on the right side is private. The woods on the left weren’t marked but still better to double check before going too deep.
The place felt like a wild old West. The wooden building, mountain beyond it, aspens all around…
23rd of September
30th of September
Red Lake Viewpoint
Map and Links
Scotts Lake Trail on alltrails.com