This article originally appeared on Outside
Don't be fooled by Reno's well-deserved reputation as the gateway to summer fun on Lake Tahoe and winter sports in the northern Sierra Nevada. Those popular travel windows aren't the only seasons in town. The unsung hero when it comes to outdoor recreation in the Reno area: fall. Not only do you get fewer crowds, but you'll also enjoy delightful daytime temperatures--which make for glorious outdoor time among the autumn colors. Here are the things that put Reno at the top of our list for fall travel.
Enjoy Top-Notch Fall Colors
Calling all leaf peepers: Reno is an ideal base camp for seeing fall colors in the Sierra Nevada. You can explore the nearby mountains, but you really don't have to venture out of the city to see the colors popping. The elevation in the area ranges from about 4,500 feet in Reno to more than 10,000 feet in the mountains, and this change in altitude creates a spectrum of leaves that begin turning in mid-September at high elevation and extend through the end of October at low elevation.
In the Mountains
When temperatures start to drop at high elevation, willows and aspens along the creeks are the first trees to show signs of fall. Spooner Lake, on the east side of Lake Tahoe, is an easy 40-mile drive from Reno. Meander along the mellow 2.5-mile Spooner Lake Trail around the lake, or immerse yourself in golden aspens on the 10.2-mile round-trip trail from Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake and back. With elevation in this area ranging from about 6,800 to 8,200 feet, expect to see aspens, willows, and cottonwoods, which all turn beautiful shades of yellow and gold.
Note: The Spooner Lake parking lot, in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, charges an entrance fee.
In the City and Nearby Parks
Later in the season, well into late October, leaves at low elevation put on a color show. Along the Reno Riverwalk, maple and oak trees add more traditional red and orange shades to the mix, complementing the yellow leaves that dominate the nearby mountain landscapes. Just north of downtown, Rancho San Rafael Regional Park is home to a mix of native trees and plants as well as a manicured arboretum and botanical garden that show off a broad color palette in the fall.
Less than 25 minutes from town, Galena Creek Regional Park is a great stop en route to the mountains. Try the 1.5-mile Jones Creek Loop Trail for a short walk. Or if you're feeling more adventurous, take a hike on the Jones and Whites Creek Trail--a ten-mile loop lined in parts with aspen groves.
Access World-Class Mountain Biking and Mellow City Cruising
Whether you're looking for thrill-a-second mountain-bike trails or casual rides in town, Reno is a great place to set out on two wheels. Plenty of bike shops in town have a variety of rentals, and the City of Reno rents adaptive bikes through the Parks and Recreation department.
Explore downtown Reno along the Truckee River Bike Path, a 12-mile section of the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail. The path runs right through the Reno Riverwalk District, so plan on a pit stop to enjoy the city's breweries and eats along the way.
On the north side of Lake Tahoe, cruise along the Tahoe East Shore Trail for a low-key ride with seriously gorgeous views of the lake. Named "America's Most Beautiful Bikeway," the paved trail extends three miles along the shore from Incline Village to Sand Harbor.
Mountain bikers looking for longer, more challenging rides should head to the famous Tahoe Rim Trail. The 165-mile route offers endless opportunities to discover loops, vistas, and groves of deciduous trees above Lake Tahoe. Or become an early adopter of the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail: a mix of dirt and road routes extending from Tahoe City to Pyramid Lake, with several access points. When complete, it will connect the 116-mile route along the Truckee River.
Tip: For quieter days on the trails during the peak of fall (late September through October), plan your Reno trip for midweek.
Go Where the Fish Are Biting
Fall fishing is one of the best-kept secrets in the Sierra. Even the popular spots to cast a line are far less crowded this time of year than in the summer. As the waters cool and aquatic food sources wind down for the season, the trout focus on hunting terrestrial insects, which means they have an appetite for surface feeding.
The Truckee River--one of the top spots for fly fishing in the region--flows through the heart of the city, so Reno has amazing access to fishing. Hit the Reno Fly Shop before heading out to the fly-fishing-only, catch-and-release section of the river just outside downtown. Or head upstream between Reno and Truckee to find some of the best fishing holes. This area of the river is open to fishing year-round, and it's a great spot to land rainbow and brown trout. As you finalize your plans, be sure you have the appropriate state-issued fishing licenses on hand.
Not familiar with the hatch in this part of the Sierra? A local fly fishing guide can show you the ropes. Hire a Native Paiute guide with the Kooyooe Pa'a (Pyramid Lake) Guide service and catch cui-ui or Lahontan cutthroat trout, all while learning about Numu history.
See a Quieter Side of Lake Tahoe
Fall is prime time for exploring Lake Tahoe without the summer crowds. For a special perspective on the changing leaves, get out on the water on a kayak or paddleboard to enjoy the colorful aspens that line the shore. Launch your vessel from one of the many public access points, including Sand Harbor, Zephyr Cove, and Kings Beach, all a quick drive from Reno. Then paddle between the granite boulders around Sand Harbor, or even float in California and Nevada at the same time at Stateline Point.
Fall can be chilly on the water, so dress for crisp autumn air and cool water and launch early to beat the afternoon winds.
Indulge in Seasonal Flavors
Reno's craft-brewery scene goes big when it comes to fall fun. Visiting in mid-September? You'll be in town for the Legends of Beer Fest, where you can try craft beers from more than 30 local and regional breweries. But don't worry if your trip doesn't line up with the event this year. Local breweries have countless festive seasonal brews on tap throughout the fall.
For European vibes, try Record Street Brewing's Oktoberfest Marzen Lager Bier, the Vienna Lager at Pigeon Head Brewery, Lead Dog Brewing's Festbier, or The Brewer's Cabinet's Oktoberfest. If you're more into ambers or red ales, go for Great Basin Brewing Company's Truckee River Red. It features a rich, malty sweetness that pairs well with crisp fall evenings.
If pumpkin-spice everything is more your style, sample the array of fall drinks and treats at Reno's cafes. Dive into pumpkin-spice goodness at any of the three Walden's Coffeehouse locations. Or try the Oktoberfest Pretzel Croissant from Perenn Bakery for a savory treat.
For a meal with a side of fall glory, grab a table at a restaurant that offers views of fall colors while you dine.
Go All Out for Spooky Season
The Biggest Little City takes fall fun seriously with a full schedule of events and activities. From the fright-filled Dark Corner Haunted House in downtown Reno to family-friendly PumpkinPalooza and the Reno Zombie Crawl closer to Halloween, there's an event for every traveler.
For a real-life spooky experience, visit nearby Virginia City--one of the most haunted towns in America--about 20 miles southeast of Reno. Once a booming mining town, Virginia City has a colorful history that comes to life in guided ghost tours of the town's many haunted spots. Learn more about legends of the Old West and present-day paranormal activity before heading back to Reno to calm your nerves with one of those fall brews.
But the fun fall events go beyond the spooky. For music lovers, October brings two exciting multiday music festivals in Reno: Battle, Axe & Tracks and the Off Beat Music Festival. And who doesn’t love a mix of music and food? The Great Italian Festival has the best of both worlds with a grape stomp, an Italian farmers' market, food booths, and live entertainment all weekend long.
Find more travel inspiration at visitrenotahoe.com.
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