The colors have been beautiful so far this fall – and not just in the usual places. From the local’s favorite fall hike on Elizabethtown Meadows to Royal Gorge, here are three options to leaf peep on Land Trust Land.
Fall color on the forest floor at Royal Gorge
Royal Gorge Fall Color Walk:
While evergreen conifers including some beautiful fir trees dominate the forests of Royal Gorge, the ground cover beneath is awash in gold and red this fall, with gooseberry and other species spread out across the forest floor.
Follow the winter ski trail signs from the Summit Station Trailhead off of Pahatsi Road. Take Big Ben Trail to Rodney’s Run (right), then turn left on Killy’s Cruise. Turn left out to Lyle’s Lookout for an incredible view of Palisade Lake and Devil’s Peak, then backtrack to Killey’s Cruise, turning left to continue on to Palasade, where you’ll turn right and head back to the trailhead.
Route marked in red.
Wendin Way in Johnson Canyon:
This south-facing canyon above Donner Lake gets a lot of sun on a cold, blustery fall day, making it a great option when the weather turns. Fall colors are dominated by the bitter cherry that lines the trail, small bunch willows, and a giant Scouler’s willow that towers over the Wendin Way Trail.
Start at the top of Donner Lake Road, just above Interstate 80, where you’ll find the Land Trust’s trailhead parking area. The trail climbs steadily up the canyon, eventually reaching the Donner Lake Rim Trail, where you can choose to make a longer hike either heading up toward the Drifter Hut in Tahoe Donner or toward Summit Lake on the way to Castle Valley.
Elizabethtown Meadows Trail:
Our go-to fall hike thanks to its large aspen stands, Elizabethtown Trail starts at the intersection of Highway 267 and Northstar Drive, meandering 2.3 miles through Jefferey pine forests and popping out to the meadows edge where bright aspen stands are turning yellow and gold. Be sure to stop at the trail head kiosk to learn more about the property’s human history – the land has been used for thousands of years by Native Americans and Elizabethtown was a short-lived silver mining town located in the meadow.
With little elevation gain, it’s a great choice for a short walk for those not looking for a strenuous outing.
Aspen at Elizabethtown Meadow. Photo by Bill Stevenson