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The Tail End

Willows, Alabama Hills, Eastern Sierra (1/1/18) Bruce Wendler

Fall color is still being glimpsed around California as the tail end of autumn’s show lingers.

Bruce Wendler found willows glowing yellow-orange at the intersection of Movie Road and Whitney Portal Road and commented that “Some of the Primrose Brush and Reeds turn a little red in the winter, so don’t give up on color in January.”

Willows, Turtle Pond, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough

Tabeuia impetiginosa, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough

Anita Baldwin Statue, Gingko biloba, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough

Willows are also providing bright color in Arcadia at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens. A broad variety of willows grow throughout California, providing the state’s longest display of fall color.

The show has been so long-lasting that willows, gingko biloba and wax trees (Toxicodendron succadeneum – a variety of poison sumac – look but don’t touch) are still holding color while, nearby, pink trumpet trees (Tabueia impetiginosa) are heavy with winter blooms.

If you are dead set on finding fall color in winter, the best opportunities to see it are in locations at the lowest elevations (deserts, islands) and where exotic varieties can be found (arboretums). Otherwise, the show is now mostly past peak.




LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough

Toxicodendron succedaneum, San Gabriel Mountains, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough















Baldwin Lake, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough

Gingko biloba, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough










Aloes and Nuxia tree, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough

Gingko biloba, Herb garden, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough










Aloe Trail, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough









Incandescent dusk, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (1/4/18) Frank McDonough


Droning On

OK, Fall Color video junkies. While working on our year-end recap video, I ran across these videos of California Fall Color taken in October. All locations are past peak, though they give a glimpse of what was happening, as seen by various videographers and drones.

First up: Peter Mikuljan visited several locations in the Eastern Sierra on Oct. 14. Here’s his video of Big Pine Creek, South Fork Bishop Creek.

Peter’s take on Intake II in Bishop Creek Canyon. This area provided one of the best shows along the middle fork of Bishop Creek.

More of Peter’s crew in Bishop Creek Canyon.

And on a road trip to Aspendell in Bishop Creek Canyon:

Next: Titus Davis was in the Hope Valley in early October and got this zen-inspired video.

Titus also rocked out over the color he found on Monitor Pass in mid October.

Finally: William Thompson also took a road trip to the Hope Valley in mid October.

And, to Yosemite Valley in October (FYI, If you’re shooting commercially in a national park, always follow park rules and apply in advance for a commercial filming permit from the National Park Service. The fines for not doing so are pretty hefty).


Owens Valley Still Crackling

Cottonwood, Owens Valley (11/10/17) Walt Gabler

Rabbitbrush, Owens Valley (11/10/17) Walt Gabler

The Owens Valley, from Bishop south, continues to carry crackling bright orange and yellow color, with cottonwood and rabbitbrush still at peak.

Mendocino County color spotter Walt Gabler passed through the Owens Valley on a trip down US 395 to the Imperial Valley.

He recommends the route as more scenic and satisfying than I-5 or CA-99, despite the added time, when driving to southeastern California.

Color spotter Clayton Peoples adds his endorsement of Walt’s report, stating he was traveling the eastside and “took a quick detour to the Alabama Hills (Whitney Portal Road just west of Lone Pine) and was not disappointed.”

The trees are still peaking along Lone Pine Creek, which weaves its way through the Alabama Hills. He sent his photo of his favorite cottonwood, “one that stands as a lone sentinel above the boulders near the painted rock.” Presently, it is “bursting with yellow.”

Cottonwood, Alabama Hills, Inyo County (11/10/17) Clayton Peoples

A bonus of visiting the Alabama Hills right now, Clayton writes, “is that one can include the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada–including the tallest, Mt. Whitney–in fall foliage photos.”

Owens Valley – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!


Last Call: Mono County

Lower Rock Creek (10/22/17) Alicia Vennos | Mono County Tourism

West Walker River (10/22/17) Alicia Vennos | Mono County Tourism

If you’re in Mono County on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, you will find nice pockets of color along Lower Rock Creek Rd.,beside the West Walker River and along US 395 in Walker, Coleville and Topaz.

A few stubborn splashes of fall color are also hanging on near Silver and Grant Lakes on the June Lake Loop.

Otherwise, Mono County is mostly Past Peak.

As such, this will likely be our last report from Mono County until next autumn.

Sincere thanks are expressed to Alicia Vennos, Jeff Simpson and Josh Wray of Mono County and Mammoth Lakes Tourism for the reports and photographs they provided this autumn.  Here’s Jeff’s final report:


  • Lower Rock Creek Road (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

    Walker/Coleville (10/22/17) Alicia Vennos | Mono County Tourism

  • Walker Canyon (5,200′)- Peak (75-100%) – The banks of the West Walker River are still lined with gold. There are heavy shadows here in the morning and afternoon for long exposure photography. Go mid-morning for the best backlit leaves. GO NOW!
  • Towns of Walker & Coleville – Peak (75-100%) – This is the prime location for this week. The big cottonwoods around town are looking beautiful and displaying wonderful color. GO NOW!

Lower Rock Creek Trail (10/22/17) Alicia Vennos | Mono County Tourism


Creekside Inn, Bishop

Remington bronze cowboys welcome guests to the Creekside Inn

Bishop Creek runs through the middle of Creekside Inn

When traveling US 395, there is no more “Eastern Sierra” accommodation than the Creekside Inn, in Bishop on Main Street (US 395) nextdoor to Erick Schat’s Bakkery.

The inn is so stylistic a reflection of the Eastern Sierra that Bishop Creek actually winds through the middle of it, with planted aspen, pine and alder along a landscaped corridor of conversation decks, gas-fed fire pits, umbrellaed tables and a large swim/spa area.

The inn’s recent floor-to-ceiling remodeling of its guest rooms and public areas has been styled to reflect a grand western lodge with natural stone, fabric and wood, a large wood-burning fireplace in the lobby  lounge, oversized leather furniture, even a welcome by bronze cowboys sculpted by western artist Fredric Remington.

Creekside Inn knows who they serve… people of discriminating taste, there to experience the Eastern Sierra in style, affordably. The inn even has a fish-cleaning room for fish caught nearby and will open a new breakfast restaurant (The Whistling Trout) to replace its buffet at the beginning of trout season, with table service and hearty servings of French toast, sausage, house-made granola with Greek yogurt, for its active guests.

Spa and pool at the Creekside Inn in downtown Bishop

For photographers, there are large desks, free WiFi and Internet to make it easier to upload images to the cloud, as well as Simmons Felicity pillow-top mattresses, top-of-the-line linens and other comforting amenities to make getting up to catch the early light a bit easier.

I stayed there recently on a scouting trip to the Eastern Sierra. Presently, fall color is now past peak up all the canyons on the Eastside. Though, the Creekside Inn is such a temptation, I want to go back.

Editor’s note: CaliforniaFallColor.com has added Booking.com. On it, Creekside Inn is rated a 9.2, as one of the best in the Eastern Sierra. We plan more lodging reviews in the future (Destinations) and encourage readers to visit Booking.com on this site to plan their stays wherever fall color is peaking.


Bishop Creek in Bronze

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/23/17) Mark Harding

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/23/17) Mark Harding

It seems so appropriate to close out today’s postings with a couple of parting shots from Bishop Creek, and even more that they are bronze toned.

As, Bishop Creek is definitely Past Peak from top to bottom. The real action in Inyo County has moved to lower elevations: Pine Creek, Round Valley, Bishop, Buckley Ponds, Rawson Ponds, Big Pine and south.

Mark Harding could resist a last look at Bishop Creek today, which we now share.

Bishop Creek Canyon – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Bishop (4,150′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!


Bishop (10/23/17) Mark Harding

Bishop (10/23/17) Mark Harding

Bishop (10/23/17) Mark Harding

Bishop (10/23/17) Mark Harding

Bishop (10/23/17) Mark Harding

Bishop (10/23/17) Mark Harding

Bishop (10/23/17) Mark Harding



Peak Moves to Northern Mono County

Topaz Lake (10/21/17) Jeff Hemming

Peak has moved up US 395 to Bridgeport, the Antelope Valley, Topaz Lake and the West Carson River.

Color spotter Jeff Hemming found little pockets of it around Bridgeport on Saturday, beside Little Walker Rd., lining Topaz Lake and beside CA-4 along the West Carson River.

US 395, North Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!



California’s Best Show of Peaking Cottonwood

Round Valley (10/21/17) Michael Morris

Black cottonwood and Frémont cottonwood growing across the Round Valley northwest of Bishop are now peaking, reports Michael Morris.

Lee Foster and I visited this area a month ago and reported then that it would be spectacular at peak. Morris’ photographs confirm that prediction. This, quite likely, is the best show of peaking cottonwood in California.

If you’re in Bishop this week, we recommend that you set aside a little time to drive Pine Creek Rd. from Round Valley up into Pine Creek Canyon to see a mind-boggling ribbon of orange and gold cottonwood at peak beside Pine Creek.

Big Pine, US 395 (10/22/17) Michael Morris

Big Pine, south of Bishop is also at peak with cottonwood brightening the northern Owens Valley.

The show should continue to improve over this and next week in Big Pine, Bishop, at Buckley Ponds, in Round Valley and up Pine Creek Canyon.

In southern Inyo County, color spotter Mark Harding found Whitney Portal to be Past Peak with color now down to the campground, six miles west of Lone Pine.

Round Valley (4,692′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Big Pine (3,989′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Whitney Portal – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Whitney Portal Rd., Campground (10/22/17) Mark Harding


Silver Lake Silver Moment

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/20/17) Shreenivasan Manievannan

In the Sierra, some of the best times to take a photograph are during or immediately following a storm.

Ansel Adams taught us this with his iconic image of Yosemite Valley, taken from Tunnel View, following a clearing winter storm.

Silver Lake, on the June Lake Loop, similarly delivers many magical moments.  Here’s one taken on Friday as a storm cleared.

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!


Bishop Creek – You Missed It.

Sabrina Lake (10/12/17) Jeff Hemming

Bishop Creek Canyon is now almost entirely Past Peak.

Aspendell, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/14/17) Adam Weist

Whenever we report that an area is Past Peak, there’ll surely be someone who will send a photograph showing we’re wrong. Yes, there is still great color to be seen up Bishop Creek. However, for the most part it has blown. Tomorrow’s predicted wind event (gusting to 30 mph over ridges) will almost certainly strip what little remains.

The featured photograph (above) was taken by Jeff Hemming a week ago (Oct. 12) at Sabrina Lake (Bishop Creek Canyon). It shows Near Peak color at an area that has peaked in September in years past. Such is this autumn. It has been topsy turvy, cattywampus, totally out of sync.

Today, Sabrina Lake is officially Past Peak, though no doubt peak color can be seen today where it was green a week ago. As seen in Suvadeep Ghosh Dastidar’s images, South Lake Rd. still has pockets of late-turning fall color, though most color spotters would classify the canyon, overall, as Past Peak.

That’s the story of this autumn… of stands of aspen changing in staggered displays according to their internal genetic clock.

So, what remains to be seen in Inyo County?

South Inyo County is at Peak or Near Peak at Big Pine Creek, the Whitney Fish Hatchery and Alabama Hills. Spectacular Peak color was seen this past week on the trail to Whitney Portal. Likely, spots of that color remain, though the big ribbon of color (search Whitney Portal to see it), is gone.

Near Peak to Peak this week will be Pine Creek Rd. and the Round Valley, north of Bishop, with an impressive, long and scenic band of lush Frémont and black cottonwood, likely California’s best groves. Eastern Sierra color spotters have ignored Pine Creek, perhaps because it has cottonwood, not aspen. They shouldn’t, as the trees are backed by a breathtaking range of peaks at the western end of the canyon. This could be a great drone shot, which we’d love to post (YouTube).

The Round Valley (north of Bishop) also has towering cottonwood, some near weathered old cabins… well worth a detour.

Eastern Sierra

Southern Inyo County

  • Whitney Portal (8,374’) – Peak to Past Peak  – You Almost Missed It.
  • Onion Valley (9,600’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Big Pine Creek (7,660’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Whitney Fish Hatchery (4,000’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Alabama Hills (4,534’) –Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Northern Inyo County

Mountain Glen, S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/16/17) Suvadeep Ghosh Dastidar

South Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon

  • Weir Pond (9,650’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Parchers Resort (9,260’) -Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Willow Campground (9,000’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Surveyors Meadow (8,975’) -Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Table Mountain Group Camp (8,900’) –Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Mountain Glen -Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Mist Falls and Groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350’) -Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Four Jeffrey (8,000’) – Peak (75-100%)  GO NOW!


S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/16/17) Suvadeep Ghosh Dastidar

Sabrina Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon

  • Lake Sabrina (9,150’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Sabrina Approach (9,100′) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Sabrina Campground (9,000’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Aspendell (8,400’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Intake II (8,000’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Big Trees Campground (7,800’) – Near Peak (50-75%)    GO NOW!


Willows, Campground,
S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/16/17) Suvadeep Ghosh Dastidar

North Lake

  • North Lake Road (9,000’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • North Lake (9,255’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Upper North Lake Road (9,255’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Pine Creek/Round Valley

  • Pine Creek Pack Station (7,441′) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Pine Creek Road (7,200′) – Near Peak (50-75%)  GO NOW!
  • Round Valley (7,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%)  GO NOW!
  • Lower Rock Creek Road (7,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%)  GO NOW!

Owens Valley/Bishop

  • Owens Valley (4,100′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Bishop (4,150′) – Patchy (10-50%)