Dramatic Change in the High Sierra – Go Now!

Color spotter Jared Smith of Parchers Resort near South Lake reports dramatic change of color up Bishop Creek Canyon in the Eastern Sierra.  Here’s his report:

North Lake Road, Inyo County (9/28/12) Jared Smith

Overall Conditions (above 8,500ft) – There is such a drastic difference in color between the higher reaches of the canyon and the lower that I decided to go ahead split the overview into two sections for the remainder of our fall color reports. So, above the 8500ft level, many areas have drastically changed from last week with many groves going from green to peak color in just over one week’s time… incredible. Plenty of yellow with touches of orange, rose, and red showing both on the middle fork of Bishop Creek towards Sabrina as well as around North Lake. Brilliant yellows and oranges are dominating the So. Fork Bishop with probably the most vibrant groves showing between Mountain Glen Campground and Weir Pond.

Overall Conditions (below 8,500ft) – A little yellow popping here and there with considerable lightening of the aspen and cottonwoods from dark forest green to lime green. Look for this to improve vastly in the next week.

Table Mountain Camp (9/28/12) Jared Smith

75-100% – Table Mountain Camp (8,900ft) – The hill is on fire with much of the aspen displaying the full glory of autumn color. Still some late bloomers in the mix making for a great mix of  yellow, lime green and orange.

Surveyor’s Meadow (9/28/12) Jared Smith

75-100% – Surveyors Meadow (8,975ft) – Another area that really popped this week is Surveyor’s meadow aproximately a mile down from Parchers Resort. Color is splashed from the creekside trail all the way up the mountain to near the Tyee Lakes trail. Still some green left to turn but I would guess this area to be at peak color next week.

50-75% – Lake Sabrina (9,150ft) – Lake Sabrina continues to put on a show, especially the grove across from the café which is notorious for showing some of the most vibrant red in the canyon.


North Lake (9/29/12) Jared Smith

75-100% – North Lake (9,255ft) – I have never seen such a quick transformation as I’ve seen at North Lake since last week. Even day by day the color is popping everywhere. Some of the aspen which were green last week are peaking or even slightly past peak. Still, plenty of gorgeous yellow along the famous North Lake Road along the lake as well as near the campground entrance. The grove that popped first below the first parking lot is starting to fade but there is a lot of great color surrounding the lake and up into the campground.

75-100% – Steiny Loop above Mt. Glen Camp (8,600ft) – This is kind of a sleeper spot as the dirt road accessing this beautiful stretch of aspen growth is easy to miss. Still, if you keep an eye out to your left about a mile past Mountain Glen Campground you should find it. The aspen all along the creek and on either side of the road are at or very near peak color….spectacular.

30-50% – Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350ft) – Not much going on last week but as was the case in much of the canyon, this is a very different week with color developing quickly.

0-15% – Aspendell (8400ft) – It’s a bit surprising given the color just a mile up the road but the aspen in and around this small community on the middle fork of Bishop Creek is still green as green can be. This is a good thing there is plenty of color now and it would be nice to have some more areas developing great fall color in the coming weeks.

50-75% – Groves above Cardinal Village (8550ft) – Brilliant color dominates the vista from just above Aspendell with the crest in the background and plenty of yellow and some orange in the foreground. This area is much closer to the 75% rating and may very well peak within the week. Gorgeous views driving up Hwy 168 towards Lake Sabrina

Jared promises additional reports from Four Jeffery Camp, Intake II, Big Trees Camp next week – all of which are currently at 0-15% of peak color.  To plan a trip to Inyo County, visit www.theothersideofcalifornia.com


Lundy Canyon (9/29/12) Alicia Vennos

Alicia Vennos of Mono County (Eastern Sierra) advises that though an area may have a low overall percent change, pockets of color within an area may be peaking, so don’t avoid visiting an area just because a lower percentage of change is being reported.   Here’s an example of this phenomenon from Lundy Canyon.

0 – 15% – Lower Lundy Canyon – At lower elevations from 7,000 – 8,000 feet, the aspen are still largely green, just starting to turn lime to yellow.  Lower Lundy Canyon, Lower Rock Creek and the famous June Lake Loop (Hwy. 158)  have only just begun to show the change.  However, elevations above 8,500′ are peaking.


Lundy Lake (9/29/12) Alicia Vennos

75 – 100% – Lundy Lake – At Lundy Lake, the color is above 75%, but as you drive higher to the trailhead, the aspen are still very green — with some completely past peak and everywhere in between!

Lundy Canyon Beaver Pond (9/29/12) Alicia Vennos

30 – 50-% – Lundy Canyon Trailhead – At the Lundy Canyon trailhead, aspen above the beaver dam are at 40% of peak

Lundy Canyon Avalanche Zone (9/29/12) Alicia Vennos

75 – 100% – Lundy Canyon Avalanche Zone – Gnarled aspen in the avalanche zone are at peak with many already past.

Mono County waterfalls are still running. (9/29/12) Alicia Vennos

75 – 100% – Canyons above 8,500 feet – the colors are peaking or approaching peak.  Rock Creek, McGee Creek (upper trail at first stream crossing) and Virginia Lakes (9,000′) are all approaching peak.  Below 8,500′, the colors are two weeks from peak.

15 – 30% – Lower McGee Creek –Color spotter Whitney Lennon sends photos taken along McGee Creek, south of Mammoth Lakes (off U.S. 395).  She says Lower McGee Creek has a way to go, perhaps two weeks to peak.

McGee Creek (9/28/12) Dustin Osborne

McGee Creek (9/28/12) Dustin Osborne

50 – 75% – Conway Summit – Approaching peak.

Planning a trip to Mono County:  Alicia suggests now’s the time to plan a trip to see the always-wonderful June Lake Loop.  Don’t wait until we report “Go Now!” or you may miss it entirely.  Her advice is sound in that we measured significant change up Bishop Creek Canyon this past week.  Those holding off visiting until later are likely to be disappointed.   A central site for lodging and camping suggestions is www.MonoCounty.org.  Additional lodging suggestions are found at www.visitmammoth.com.

To get to Mono County, drive US 395 along the Eastern Sierra or from LAX, fly direct to Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) on Alaska Airlines.


The Merc Perks About Fall Color

San Jose Mercury News Travel Editor, Linda Zavoral has posted an article about finding fall color in California, with kind reference to this blog.  To see the full article, buy a copy of the Mercury-News this Sunday.  And, to read excerpts, CLICK HERE.

California Fall Color Facebook friends Larry and Debbie Trettin report that Chinese pistache are leading the color parade in Santa Rosa with reds, oranges and yellows appearing.  They posted a photo on our FB site.  You too can join the fall color parade by submitting photos and reports here, on Twitter (@califfallcolor) or by Friending us on Facebook.

Shasta Cascade Issues First Report

Most of the color in the Shasta Cascade is found above 8,000’ in Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Aspen are showing bright yellow there.  Other areas are several weeks away from peak.  Color spotter Brittini McGuire sends the following report:

0 – 15% – Siskiyou County – Colors in Siskiyou County are just beginning to appear, with about 10% of trees showing lime & yellow.

0 – 15% – Modoc County – The Modoc National Forest and Alturas area are reporting 10% change. Though there is very little to no change at this point, cooler nights portend the shift to orange and yellow.

Lassen County:

0 – 15% – BLM Eagle Lake / Bizz Johnson Trail still only 5%.

0 – 15% – Lassen National Forest – 5% of aspens are exhibiting color.

Shasta County:

0 – 15% – Whiskeytown NRA – 10% of elms turning bright yellow and orange near the visitors center.

Trinity County:

0 – 15% – Weaverville Chamber – Lime and yellow is seen on 15% of trees.

Tehama County:

50 – 75% – Lassen Volcanic National Park – At 8,000′ and higher, aspens are approaching peak, with some losing leaves. At 6000’, the aspen are 30-40% and willows at 60%. Around 5000’ the aspens have a way to go, with 15% showing yellow.

0 – 15% – Butte County – Mostly lime green and yellow and just starting.

Plumas County:

0 – 15% – Plumas National Forest – The forest is beginning to show lime green and yellow on bigleaf maple. Some leaves are edged with red.

What a Difference a Week Makes – Go Now!

Table Mountain Campground (9/21/12) Krisdina Karady

Overall Bishop Creek Canyon – Eastern Sierra – Including lower reaches of Bishop Creek Canyon, color spotter Jared Smith assesses the overall condition as 30-50% of full color, though the entire canyon is closer to 50% than 30%.   Jared says popular areas like North Lake and Aspendell are starting to pop in a big way and areas like Surveyors Meadow and just below Table Mountain are at or very near peak.

Table Mountain Camp (9/27/12) Krisdina Karady

75 – 100% – Table Mountain Camp (8,900′) – The week to week transformation of this area is stunning (as seen in the attached photos taken a week apart).  There’s still quite a bit of lime, though so much as turned that we rate it at peak.  Note the reds and oranges that have appeared among the aspen in the past week.

75 – 100% – Surveyor’s Meadow (8,975′) – Just a mile short of Parcher’s Resort on South Lake Road, Surveyor’s Meadow, like Table Mountain Camp is full of dazzling color.

50 – 75% – Lake Sabrina (9,150′) – Approaching peak, a lot of color has appeared in the past week.

30 – 50% – North Lake (9,255′) – North Lake has been developing slower than other areas of the Bishop Creek Canyon, though that can change quickly.  It’s approaching 50% with lots of bright yellow.

75 – 100% – Steiny Loop abobe Mt. Glen Camp (8,600′) – Orange and yellow among the aspen.  This is often considered one of the sleeper areas of Bishop Creek Canyon.


Virginia Lakes and Conway Summit – Go Now!

75 – 100% – Virginia Lakes (9,770′) – Carolyn Webb of the Virginia Lakes Resort reports that wind a couple of days ago “blew about 15% of the trees free of color, but it was not a huge loss.  We are in 75% yellow at the lakes, and should be total yellow in a couple more days.”

50 – 75% – Conway Summit (8.143′) – Carolyn continues that Conway Summit (US 395) “is a huge mix of yellow, lime and a few going into rust, but it is not near it’s peak yet.  Normal peak for Conway is around October 4 to 7th depending on the night temperatures.  We have not had a second burn of the leaves so should another wind storm show up it should not affect too much as they have to be in full yellow with spots to drop.”  Expect peak at Conway, next week.  Weather conditions permitting, Virginia Lakes will likely still have color, though it will be close to past peak.

Independence Begins To Glow

Black Cottonwood (9/24/12) Dennis Vance

0 – 15% – Independence (3,950′) – Independence resident and color spotter, Dennis Vance reports that Black Cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa) at the community wood lot are starting to glow yellow-gold.


Black Cottonwood (9/24/12) Dennis Vance

Fremont cottonwood prefer desert oases, whereas black cottonwood are the mountain stream-hugging variety.  At elevations where they overlap, according to Paul McFarland of Friends of the Inyo, they form trees that mix the characteristics of each’s leaves.  Fremont cottonwood have triangular leaves, where black cottonwood have spearpoint shaped leaves.

Black Cottonwood (9/24/12) Dennis Vance


What Color Are Aspen Leaves?

Aspen Leaves (9/23/12) Alicia Vennos

From afar, quaking aspen often look uniformly yellow.  Their leaves fluttering in the wind, provide mellow rustling music to the fall air.  Though, in the High Sierra, aspen are often multi colored, as are these, photographed by color spotter Alicia Vennos at Little Walker Lake.

30 – 50% – Mammoth Scenic Loop (8,861′) – This scenic drive loops from U.S. 395, north of Mammoth Lakes to Minaret Road, which leads from Mammoth Lakes to the Mammoth Mountain base lodge.  The drive passes forested meadows and dramatic views of the Minarets (a sawtooth range) and Mammoth Mountain.  Numerous Jeep roads travel from the loop into the forest.

East Bay – Could It Be Early This Year?

For the past month, color spotters have been sending comments and questions as to whether this autumn is appearing earlier than usual.  We think the jury’s still out on that, as individual species often turn early and the Eastern Sierra seems just about on track, though – at most – a week early.

Today, Natural History blogger and color spotter Sandy Steinman reports he posted a review of a visit to Tilden Park in the East Bay and comments that the fall color there “still has a way to go there before it matures.”  He notes no large displays but some color from maples and Indian Rhubarb, to berries and flowers.  Most of the color in the park comes from blooming flowers.

Liquidambar, Pleasanton (9/25/12) Alison Maloney

Color spotter, photographer and graphic designer par excellence Alison Maloney posted this photo on our Facebook page, showing auburn liquidambar leaves in Pleasanton.  Alison always has an eye for the graphic in her photographs, as seen here.  If you photograph color in your area, post it to Facebook or comment here.


Yosemite Fall Color Update

Excerpted from the Yosemite National Park Daily Report: “Summer-deciduous California buckeyes always let their leaves wither and brown by late summer, even as their seeds continue to develop. Dogbane over the higher elevations seems to be changing color normally this season, typically a month ahead of the trees. Bigleaf maples on driest sites often start to show some yellow or brown along veins and margins as early as August, but leaves in moister locations can still peak with good color in November.  Best weather for fall color is always dry, with short, warm days, and cool, but not freezing nights. For more information go to: http://www.nps.gov/yose/naturescience/fall-color.htm

Upper Bishop Creek Canyon Peaking – Go Now!


Surveyor’s Meadow, Bishop Creek Canyon (South Lake Road) (9/23/12) Jon Klusmire

Color spotter Jon Klusmire sends these photographs taken Sunday along South Lake Road.  The forest is at full peak above 9,500′

South Bishop Creek Canyon (9/23/12) Jon Klusmire

South Bishop Creek Canyon (9/23/12) Jon Klusmire

75 – 100% – Upper Bishop Creek Canyon (9,000′) – Full peak.