Fallen Leaf Lake

Saturday, August 25, 2012

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There is some morning excitement amongst the guests at the Pine Cone Motel-there is a bear sighting! Earlier on, we heard some banging and clanking going on behind the motel and soon hear dogs barking. Apparently a bear rummaged through a dumpster and fell asleep across the street. It was last seen slowly walking down the street and later climbed up a tree. The big bear was not the only one up there-there were also two baby bears hanging along the limbs of the tree! Best to leave them alone and let them go about their way!

Today’s plan is to do a short leisurely ride out to Fallen Leaf Lake which is located about one mile south of Lake Tahoe.

We exit the motel and head west on Hwy 89 for 2 miles and turn left onto Fallen Leaf Rd; you can’t miss it, there is a huge brown sign right before the turn. At the Y, go left to stay on Fallen Leaf Rd. This narrow single lane road will take you through an open meadow with towering pines, firs and aspens.

The lake will come into view as you ride through the beautiful section of private homes nestled among the trees and along the shoreline. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous! The water is so very blue and crystal clear!

Once you pass the marina and lodge area, the road continues upwards to Glen Alpine Rd. It’s a much narrower section of road with very poor pavement! We stop at a overlook area with fantastic views of a small waterfall and chiseled rocky cliffs.

The road goes for a mile up to Glen Alpine Creek and Lily Lake. Many day hikers take the Glen Alpine Trailhead for the 2 mile hike out to Glen Alpine Falls. The short climb up here is well worth the effort-the views of the surrounding mountains and creek are amazing!

We turnaround and head back down towards Fallen Leaf Lake, be careful on the descent, the road conditions are pretty bad with patches of gravel. Near the bottom of the road, we notice a sign pointing to Stanford Sierra Camp, so we cross the creek over to the campground. It’s a private camp but the road along the shoreline is open to the public. This beautiful half mile out and back through this camp has outstanding views of the lake. It certainly pays to be a Stanford alumni-the lakeside setting is gorgeous! The camp is very well maintained with plenty of on-site activities.

After exiting the camp, we make another stop at the St Francis Chapel; it’s a rustic building filled with lots of old time charm. I could instantly feel the calm and serenitiy of this place the moment I step onto the stone pathway leading to the chapel. The chapel, bell tower and memorial Garden is surrounded by a grove of aspens. The dappled lighting creates a very peaceful atmosphere as you walk through the garden filled with plaques dedicated to the memory of loved ones.

We continue down the road to the lake and decide to stop at the Fallen Leaf Lodge for a bite to eat. The lodge has a small cafe and a general store with a outdoor patio area overlooking the lake. It’s a wonderful place to stop! We shared a BLT sandwich and a green salad.

Traffic has increased heavily as we exit the lake area; remember it’s a narrow single lane road-we have to pull over to the side to let incoming cars pass us safely.

From Fallen Leaf Rd, we decide to head out to Angora Lake and take the right turn on Tahoe Mountain Rd; it’s a steep half mile climb up to the residential neighborhood. But guess what, there is no signage-we missed the turn on Angora Ridge Rd and wasn’t even sure we were on Tahoe Mtn Rd! Best not to get lost so we just turned around and headed back on Fallen Leaf Rd out to Hwy 89.

We make another detour into Camp Richardson out to the beach area-this place is packed with people! What a sharp contrast to where we were earlier-I’ll take the road less traveled any day!

It’s a short mile back to the motel where we finish the ride. Oh yeah, the bear and the cubs are gone!

Another fun day of leisurely ride in the bag! Next time I’ll have to bring a more precise map of the area before going to explore. Fallen Leaf Lake is a great alternative to going to Camp Richardson. There are many hiking trails and a much smaller crowd at the lake. You do have to contend with cars going in and out on the single narrow road, but hey, you just deal with it and it’s not so bad. We all have to practice being patient!

VDO Stats:
21 Miles with 1167′ of elevation gain
Avg climb: 3%
Max climb: 15%

Weather: WONDERFUL! Sunny and warm with light winds. Temps ranged from the mid 60’s to the mid 80’s


Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. ~ John Lubbock


Click here to view the route map & profile

Follow this route for today’s ride (includes the spur out to Angora Lake):

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