Eastern Sierra At Full Peak – Go Now!
Extended, warm weather is causing changes not seen in the Eastern Sierra in recent years. Individual groves of aspen are exhibiting a full range of color, from lime, to yellow, to orange, to red, to spotted and dried leaves, to bare limbs – all in the same grove – according to Mono County color spotter Alicia Vennos.
Warm nights at lower elevations (below 8,500′) have not encouraged sugaring. This worries some spotters who say a storm or sudden drop in nighttime temperatures could trigger a rapid change in color, so the advice remains… Go Now!
MONO COUNTY (Northern US 395)
The best color to be seen remains above 8,500’, though there are early signs that the color is descending with aspen indicating at June Lake and the Mammoth Lakes basin.
75 – 100% – Upper Rock Creek (9,500’) – The upper section of Rock Creek are approaching past peak, with many trees now dropping leaves. A big wind will strip them.
30 – 50% – Lower Rock Creek (8,500’) – There’s still a lot of green and lime in the lower stands.
75 – 100% – McGee Creek (9,500’) – Higher areas of McGee are at peak, with some aspen now losing leaves.
15 – 30% – Lower McGee Creek – Flashes of color are seen in the lower drainages.
75 – 100% – Slopes Above Convict Lake – Aspen at the highest elevations leading down to the lake are showing orange and yellow.
30 – 50% – Convict Lake – At lake level, the aspen are showing yellow and have at least a week before peak.
30 – 50% – Mammoth Lakes – Aspen around the lakes are showing color, but it’s still beyond a week from peak.
75 – 100% – Lundy Lake – At peak, though some stands have yet to turn.
15 – 30% – Lower Lundy Canyon – Lime and yellow.
75 – 100% – Lundy Canyon Avalanche Zone – Gnarled aspen in the avalanche zone are at peak with many already past.
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.
50 – 75% – Conway Summit - Approaching peak.
50 – 75% – Sonora Pass – Spotty yellow and orange in lower areas of the pass, though lovely. From Hwy 108 (Sonora Pass) north on US 395 to Walker along the Walker River, the aspen are showing yellow, gold and orange.
0 – 15% – Walker/Coleville – Color spotter Tim Fesko of the Meadowcliff Resort in Coleville says most of the color is seen on Sonora and Monitor Passes. The boulevard of cottonwood trees along US 395 from Walker north to Topaz are not yet showing much color change.
30 – 50% – Monitor Pass – Pam Hamic a color spotter from Walker (try the Walker Burger, when in town… one of the best in California), says the colors are really going off nicely (30-50%) from Topaz up Monitor Pass. Lots of gold, yellow and orange.
INYO COUNTY (Southern US 395)
Color spotter Jared Smith reports the following:
Overall Conditions above 8,500′ – Much of the color above 9000ft is now at or past peak but the best of the best is between the 8,500′ mark and 9,000′ mark on both forks of Bishop Creek. Plenty of yellow, orange, and red to be found. One interesting thing about this season’s fall color change is how fast, and how short, areas of peak color have been. Plenty of opportunity on any given day to capture spectacular views but areas, which usually put on a show for a couple weeks are now showing peak color for just a few days. Almost certainly this can be attributed to the lack of water following one of the driest winters on record.
Overall Conditions below 8,500′ – Lots of color popping at the 8500ft level, in fact much of the peak color is now just above or just below this elevation. Areas like Aspendell, the Bishop Creek Lodge area and the groves just below Sabrina are looking brilliant. The campgrounds along the lower stretches of the canyon are really coming on strong and we’re looking for these areas to peak sometime in the next week or so if the weather holds out.
75-100% – Table Mountain Camp (8,900′) - Some of the aspen are losing their leaves but there is still a ton of color lighting up the hillside at Table Mountain Campground as well as the groves below the camp.
75-100% – Surveyors Meadow (8,975′) - While the aspen along the creek are starting to fade, the hillside and roadside aspen are still worth a look and are attracting a ton of fall color enthusiasts. There is a stand of trees on the far side of the creek due west of the parking area that is exhibiting a lot of rose and red hues – gorgeous!
75-100% – Lake Sabrina (9,150′) - Lake Sabrina still has a lot of color towards the back of the lake including lots of orange hues while the east shore has already peaked and is starting to fade. Just below the dam however is incredibly vibrant and with the slow moving waters of the stream, the bridge, and the spectacular aspen on full display – this is a can’t miss in the canyon right now.
75-100% – Willow Camp to Parchers Camp (9,150′ – 9,250′) - Although it came on late, the road and stretch of stream between Willow Campground and Parchers Camp is wildly colorful right now with a vast array of green, yellow, gold, orange and touches of red. Stunning!
75-100% – North Lake (9,255′) - North Lake has peaked however there is still LOTS of color near the outlet, on hillside west of the lake and along the road. It was better last week but it is certainly worth a look, especially the groves just past the North Lake turnoff which are vibrant!
75-100% – Steiny Loop above Mt. Glen Camp (8,600′) - The eastside of the road from Mountain Glen Camp to Table Mountain Camp is simply stunning right now and even the casual photographers are pulled over all over the place trying to capture the incredible views available all along the So. Fork Bishop Creek.
75-100% – Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350′) – Still plenty of green hues hanging out but the yellows and orange hues have taken over in a big way since last week. This landmark is truly a spectacular view right now.
0-15% – Aspendell (8,400′) – 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 although finally starting to turn a light lime green.
75-100% – Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550′) – While the aspen surrounding Cardinal Village Resort still have a bit more time ’til they peak, the groves on either side of the resort and above the resort are in full autumn color and with the stark granite peaks behind, offer one of the more scenic views in the canyon right now.
50-75% – Intake II, Big Trees Camp, Four Jeffries Camp (8000ft – 8,300′) – These areas hovering just above the 8,000′ mark are definitely showing a lot of color compared to last week but peak color will probably hit sometime next week. There is still plenty of green not yet overtaken by the brilliant yellow of the fall but the aspen and cottonwoods are changing more each day. Look for these areas to be the stars of the canyon by next week’s report.
All Photographs Copyright 2012 by Jared Smith, www.SmithSierraPhotography.com or courtesy of fall color contributors Krisdina Karady.
Location: Mammoth / June Lakes
Temperature: 75.2 °F
Dew point: 24.8 °F
Wind speed: 15km/hr
Wind direction: 280°
Cloud cover: n/a
Tags: Autumn, autumn leaves, California, California Fall Color, Eastern Sierra, Fall Color, Fall Color in California, fall leaves, foliage, High Sierra, Inyo County, Mammoth Lakes, Mono County, photographing fall color, Photography