As summer comes to a close, fall gives new views of Nevada. Although the beautiful Nevada hikes in the many canyons eroded by ancient rivers are some of the most popular, we will focus on less rocky hikes filled with trees for maximum autumn potential. From the steep trail leading to Mount Rose's summit to the long round trip around Lake Tahoe or the cascading falls at the end of the Mary Jane Falls Trail, these all-level trails grant a respite from big-town hustle. Fall foliage season brings the trails to new life, with golden paths filled with resting leaves amidst some of the evergreen conifers trees, and autumn is undoubtedly the best time to visit these majestic locations.
The Sierra Canyon Trail, Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park
The Sierra Canyon Trail is not for the faint-hearted and is pretty strenuous. This 4-mile long hike that is chockfull of switchbacks can be tricky for inexperienced hikers, especially with the steep inclines at times. The trail provides incredible views of the Carson Valley along the way, and, of course, Lake Tahoe is ever-present. Fall foliage hits its peak in October in Lake Tahoe, making incredible golden aspen paths to explore. The lower end of the trail begins from the Sierra Canyon access point at the junction of Centennial Drive and Snowshoe Lane. For those who decide to go for Genoa Peak, it is another mile of hiking with a 700-foot elevation gain. Parking close to the nearby Eagle Ridge Trailhead will spare you around 200 feet less elevation to climb. Another parking option is designated on the east side of Centennial Drive across from Snowshoe Lane, providing close access to the Sierra Canyon Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail.
Mount Rose Trail, Mount Rose
Taking around 12 miles to complete, the Mount Rose Trail allows hikers to witness this gorgeous area of Nevada whilst also climbing a whopping 2000+ feet! At around 11,000 feet, Mount Rose is the highest mountain in Washoe County, making for one of the best hikes in Nevada if you're looking for a serious challenge. This extensive trail might see you hiking from dawn to dusk, so plan accordingly. Dogs are welcome here but must be on a leash. Conquering the summit of Mount Rose will grant an unbeatable vantage point over the alpine lakes, waterfalls, and views of Lake Tahoe in the distance. Sometimes, a fall color show in a given area doesn't happen all at once. It occurs in stages. Starting in September, the dense undergrowth turns yellow, contrasting with the tall, evergreen pines with the occasional strokes of amber aspen.
Mary Jane Falls Trail, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
Mary Jane Falls Trail is the perfect trek for a waking morning spent in the wilderness. With a round trip distance of around 3.2 miles and a convenient parking lot at the trailhead, this hike may appear easy, but it is relatively difficult, in truth. The elevation change of this trail is nearly a thousand feet, so be prepared. The beautiful waterfall that you will be able to see at the end of the trail is well worth the effort. This trail is popular with locals and guests, so avoid the weekend and plan for an early morning start if what you seek is a less populated path. Gold aspen coins are tossed along the trail during autumn. Hues of crimson red and light orange last only a few weeks and then transition to just a few splashes of brightness contrasting pine greenery.
Tahoe Rim Trail, Lake Tahoe
This one will require a few days, so it is recommended for experienced hikers. Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile trek that loops around the entirety of Lake Tahoe. If you are planning to complete this mammoth trail, it is suggested that the plan includes bringing tents and equipment to spend the nights camping. Nine different trailheads are conveniently located throughout the entire trail, so you can choose your starting point freely. Amidst the abundant pines and white fir, some aspens provide mesmerizing orange fall foliage, which will contrast with the evergreen trees and the deep blue water of Lake Tahoe. Early fall is the latest time we suggest visiting the Tahoe Rim Trail, as the temperatures at night outside this period are often below freezing. Dogs can roam the entire trail but need to be on a leash. Additionally, the north half is also open to bikes and horseback rides.
The Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail, Great Basin National Park
The trailhead of the Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail is accessed from the end of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive in the Bristlecone parking area. This easier trail leads to a magnificent view of the Wheeler Base Glacier. The terrain is rocky, and you may also encounter snow depending on the time of year. The Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail winds through groves of old-growth park trees and through a glacier-carved canyon to the nation's southernmost glacier. The trail also features interpretive signs that grant information on the flora and fauna of the area. Here, the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine has been known to live for over 4,900 years and is the world's longest-living tree. This deciduous pine stands amongst the many other green pines in the park, while the sporadic quaking aspen shows its fall colors, giving the Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail a healthy dose of fall foliage.
Ruby Crest Trail, Ruby Mountains
The Ruby Crest Trail stretches almost 43 miles, going through the Ruby Mountain range from Harrison Pass to Lamoille Canyon. If this beautiful trail attracts your interest, the most common approach is hiking from south to north, starting at Harrison Pass to reach Lamoille Canyon. Before reaching the true trailhead, you will need to walk several miles on a forest service road amidst a peculiar whitebark pine forest. Lack of water on the big day is a concern. Be prepared to cover more than ten miles between water sources. Fall brings with it an explosion of bright colors as the leaves change from green to orange. Though exquisite and offering easy access, the Ruby Crest Trail is not very crowded.
Hunter Creek Trail, Reno
The Hunter Creek Trail is amongst the most popular hikes for both visitors and Reno locals alike. Found just 20 minutes from downtown Reno, the trail is heavily trafficked, so avoid peak hours if you desire a more quiet experience. This relatively easy 6-mile out-and-back trail features a spectacular 30-foot waterfall and promises gorgeous mountain views. The trail is well-marked, making for a great, easy-to-moderate hike for the whole family, and is dog friendly—just make sure you use a leash. Due to the lack of shade in some sun-exposed stretches, it is recommended to apply some sunscreen before hitting the trail. There are several creek crossings throughout the path, but most are very shallow and easy to cross without particular gear or skill.
With some of the most extraordinary and unique natural scenery, a visit to Nevada would not feel complete without getting out into the wilderness and taking a trek around Lake Tahoe. Embracing autumn, Nevada changes its colors, with orange hues taking over trees resembling the amber sand of the deserted canyons. Whether visitors choose to hike over Mount Rose Peak, through the Ruby Mountain range on the Ruby Crest Trail, or simply desire to witness the magnificent highlander Bristlecone Pçine on the Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail, the aspens will reward by tossing gold coins at your feet. So pack your gear and get ready to get some dirt on those boots!