DAY 1 10.01.2016
As soon as we knew we were coming to California and had our first job placement, we booked this trip. We originally planned on running the Spartan Race and got our campground reserved for that same weekend. We ended up backing out of the Spartan Race but had a very memorable time. A year later, the number one memory is probably the last night of camping, sleeping in the back of the Element due to 30 degree weather and snow! Anyways, we had Friday night through Monday morning and here were our plans for day 1 (Saturday):
Camping: Fallen Leaf Campground, Site 167
Coffee at Alpina Coffee Cafe
Hike the Rubicon Trail
Eagle Falls, Vikingsholm Trail
Relax at Baldwin Beach
Alpina Coffee Cafe: We loved this place. We normally enjoy sitting at the campground and having a relaxing morning after making some coffee and tea using the pocket rocket while getting a fire going. Being in Tahoe the last weekend in September, we could not quite handle the cold mornings. Lucky for us, Aplina Coffee was an awesome spot with great beverage and food options. Very relaxing spot and we went back Sunday morning, too!
Rubicon Trail: This was the hike I was the most excited about for the weekend and we
did it first. We parked at the parking area for Emerald Bay State Park [38.954289, -120.110863] and used the self-serve pay station for the parking fee. You start down walking on the paved path and then it connects to the Rubicon Trail [Click here for a Google Map link of the trail]. It was about 5 miles one-way ending at Lester Beach. I don’t think the trail continued North past that point but we didn’t try so I don’t know for sure but it seemed like a solid place to relax before turning around. To the left is a photo from our turnaround point at Lester Beach. Wherever you decide to turn around on this hike, it is a must-do. It’s pretty flat and not very difficult overall. It runs along So. Lake Tahoe so expect beautiful scenery all around you wherever you are along the trail.
Eagle Falls: We were kind of tired from the 10 miles we had just hiked so we didn’t do the whole Eagle Lake hike but if I could go back in time, I’d reconsider. Eagle Lake is supposed to be gorgeous and it’s only a 2 mile RT hike from the start of the hike. It’s only about a half mile RT to the falls so that’s what we did. When we were there, not much was going on. I’m sure it’s more "flowy" (yes, flowy) in the spring and early summer!
Lester Beach (Rubicon Trail)
Vikingsholm: I am no tour guide of this place, nor do I know anything about it all so here’s my summary of what it is: a large, old mansion. I won’t try to explain any more than that but click here for the CA parks description! Tours are offered in the summer months. We hadn’t planned on doing a tour but we got there the weekend after tours stopped anyway. It is a neat piece of architecture and was fun exploring the outside.
Baldwin Beach: After all of our explorations and hiking for the day, we drove to Baldwin Beach to just sit and relax for a short while. We saw some stand-up paddleboarders there. It was a quiet, naturey spot. It would be perfect for a picnic. After that, we went back to the campground, made dinner and a campfire and called it a night!
DAY 2 10.02.2016
We didn’t plan too many big hikes other than the Rubicon Trail but we still found plenty of fun things to do for day 2. We begin the day back at Aplina Coffee and found a cool hiking area around the campground. We accidentally stumbled upon Oktoberfest and went to a casino! I wouldn’t call this a dream day for your visit, but it’s what we did Here were the plans for Sunday:
Coffee at Alpina Coffee Cafe (again)
Hike around Fallen Leaf Lake
Drive up route-50 along E. Tahoe
Lose a little money at Hard Rock Casino
Pull off for a couple views on the drive home
Fallen Leaf Lake: If you’re camping at Fallen Leaf CG, just walk right over to the trails (or drive to the start – there is parking) and there are a lot of trails to explore along the lake. There was some sort of marking system that was confusing to understand, however, the trails themselves were pretty easy to follow. If the ones we took had any names, we had no idea what they were. No planning went into this for us; we just explored! Here’s a photo I took of a great spot for a picnic at Fallen Leaf Lake!
Fallen Leaf Lake
Oktoberfest: We had no idea that Oktoberfest was the same weekend we were there. On our way back out of the campground, there was a ton of traffic and we could tell something was going on. We found a parking spot and as we walked over, we realized it was Oktoberfest and it was pretty awesome. There was beer and food, of course. There were vendors, live music, and lots of Oktober-ey things going on.
East Lake Tahoe: Not too much to say here. Beautiful views along the drive and there were some pull-offs worth stopping at to take in some of the views from other angles of Lake Tahoe!
Hard Rock Casino: With all the casinos around, I felt compelled to try to end my losing streak at craps. The streak didn’t end and I lost about $50 in 5-10 minutes. One of the quickest losings I’ve had. We didn’t stay long but playing craps is (usually) fun. Oh yeah, and when we got here it had just started snowing!
Sidellis Brewing: With all of that snow and cold on the ground, it was a great idea to grab a beer and some sandwiches at this awesome little place. Leslie and I both ordered the Clockwork White, since we enjoy light and wheat beers the most and it was delicious. The French Dip sandwich was pretty fantastic as well. It was an excellent way to cap off the day.
With that being said, that night was memorable. Remember I said it had been snowing? Well it was snowing at the campground as well and we had never camped in the snow nor did we intend to! We got back to the campground after dark and it was about 30 degrees. We tried to get a fire going but it the ground was far too wet. We ended up taking our sleeping bags out of the tent and used the back of the Honda Element as our tent that night to make sure we at least stayed dry!
DAY 3 10.03.2016
The snow didn’t pick up much after we went to bed. There was less than an inch overall when we got up. We made our coffee, tea and breakfast and packed everything up as quickly as we could to get out of there and go to Apple Hill to be festive! Like on Sunday, we didn’t really have a plan for Apple Hill. We were just going to get a map and make random stops along the way. Here’s what we ended up doing:
O’Halloran’s Apple Trail Ranch
Jack Russell Farm Brewery
High Hill Ranch
O’Halloran’s Apple Trail Ranch: Leslie loves apples. She wanted to eat some. To start the day, it seemed appropriate to go get some. It was very rustic looking from the outside and definitely got us in the apple and autumn spirit. We got an early start so we were the only ones there (and it was Monday). We came inside and there were a whole bunch of crates with as many varieties of apples as we could have imagined. I think it seemed a little pricey, but it’s nice to support a local Apple Hill ranch while filling up a bag of apples.
O'Halloran's Apple Trail Ranch
Jack Russell Farm Brewery: This is what I was most excited for at Apple Hill. They also have a brewery with a restaurant over in downtown Placerville but we wanted the farm brewery. We timed it perfectly and got there right as it opened at 11AM and were the only ones there again (at least to start with). Being in the spirit, I went with the Apple beer and Leslie got a cider. Outside is a patio with tons of seating. The inside had a little bar with some seats at the bar. The beertender was very nice and we chatted while enjoying our beverages. She also gave us some samples of the other beers they had to offer.
Jack Russell Farm Brewery
High Hill Ranch: If you only have time to go to one place, I would definitely recommend this one. [We probably didn’t go to enough places to say this is the best for sure.] They have everything. Apple treats, apple cider, apples, games, wine tasting, pond fishing, a pumpkin patch, a craft show, pony rides, probably more. We got our hot cider and went down by the pond to sit and drink. The only bad thing about this place was the long lines for the delicious treats.
High Hill Ranch
Abel’s Acres: We couldn’t go everywhere so the last thing we needed was some lunch and an apple fritter and we chose the right place here. Another place with some good crowds. This place did not seem to have as many attractions but was perfect if you’re hungry. They had a full menu for food and I got pulled pork with sides and it was absolutely fantastic, filling, and everything I wanted for lunch. As we were headed out, we got in line and each got an apple fritter for the road (which was also delicious). I wish I had some pictures of the food from here to share!
It seemed like a lot in Apple Hill was closed on a Monday but there was still plenty to do. I would imagine everything is open on the weekends and everything would be even more festive. Of course, the crowds are probably much more on the weekends as well. I’m pretty glad we were there on a Monday because there was still plenty to do and we picked some great places and we didn’t have to battle too many crowds.
To wrap things up on this post, I would by no means consider myself an expert on Tahoe so I can’t say if these are the best things to do but everything certainly made for a memorable weekend!
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to chat about your trip to South Lake Tahoe!