Cascade Trail to Spanish Creek

Bigleaf Maple, Spanish Creek (10/14/17) Michael Beatley

Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley hiked the Cascade Trail beside Spanish Creek toward Quincy, yesterday, discovering one beautiful reflection after another.

He wrote, “The area has a profusion of color and reflections, with Indian Rhubarb, Bigleaf maple, black oak and grasses providing the color.”

Spanish Creek is along the trail to the Cascades. It runs into the North Fork of the Feather River, which continues down to the Sacramento River and the Delta.

Michael advises that mornings (9 to 10 a.m.) are best for light and reflection photographs at Spanish Creek.

Daytime temperatures are in the 60s with nights in the 20s to 30s, blue skies and a lot of clear, rushing water and still blue lakes.

Plumas County has been spared the haze caused by this autumn’s wildfires.  So, skies are blue, windless and smokeless.

Spanish Creek, Plumas County (2,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Spanish Creek (10/14/17) Michael Beatley

Spanish Creek (10/14/17) Michael Beatley

Spanish Creek (10/14/17) Michael Beatley

Spanish Creek (10/14/17) Michael Beatley


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Whitney Portal Aflame With Color

Whitney Portal (10/13/17) Blair Lockhart

The hiking trail at Whitney Portal in southern Inyo County often gets overlooked by color spotters because it takes some effort to see it, but as these images from Blair Lockhart attest, it shouldn’t be missed at peak.

This is definitely, a hike of the week.

Whitney Portal (8,374′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Whitney Portal (10/13/17) Blair Lockhart




Mono County Keeps On Giving

June Lake (10/12/17) Phillip Reedy

June Lake (10/12/17) Phillip Reedy

Oh, to be Phillip Reedy. It seems he’s always to be at beautiful places.

This past week he and Ben Waterman visited Mono County, sending back these wonderful images.

Phillip reported that while Bishop Creek is basically Past Peak at higher elevations, it’s still nice at lower elevations, but the real trophy winner is McGee Creek in southern Mono County with lush Peak color.

June Lake (7,654′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!





June Lake (10/12/17) Phillip Reedy

June Lake (10/12/17) Phillip Reedy




June Lake (10/13/17) Ben Waterman

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/12/17) Ben Waterma

McGee Creek (10/14/17) Phillip Reedy

McGee Creek (10/14/17) Phillip Reedy

McGee Creek (10/14/17) Phillip Reedy

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Dogwood and Bigleaf Maple Paint Yosemite

Dogwood, Bigleaf Maple, Yosemite National Park (10/11/17) Michael Caffey

Splashes of bright pink and yellow are painting the hillsides of Yosemite National Park.

Siesta Lake, Yosemite National Park (10/11/17) Michael Caffey

Ranger Allen of the National Park Service public affairs office said a general estimate would be that about half the deciduous trees in Yosemite Valley are now showing color, though the famous eastern sugar maple near Yosemite Chapel is at full peak. GO NOW! as peak on this tree is very short lived. It’ll be gone next week.

Yosemite’s color comes primarily from willows (orange), dogwood (rose), bigleaf maple (yellow) and black oak (orange). The black oak are the last to change – typically around Halloween.

Colorful reflections of yellow, rose and orange can be seen in lakes and the Merced River where trees are near the water.

Caffey’s photograph of Siesta Lake is reminiscent of Ansel Adams’ photograph of the same water, taken in 1958. In both images, the fallen remains of a tree lies in the same lake. There, of course, the similarity ends, as an original gelatin silver print by Adams is sold by  The Ansel Adams Gallery for $9,500.

The best location for fall color viewing in the national park is Yosemite Valley, with favorite spots being Fern Spring (at the entrance to the Valley), riparian areas in the Valley and Superintendent’s meadow and the base of Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite National Park (4,000′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – All species except black oak are now peaking. Black oak will peak at the end of October.  GO NOW!

Caffey continued across Tioga Pass to the Eastern Sierra, reporting:

South Lake Rd. (10/12/17) Michael Caffey

Mono County

Lee Vining Canyon – Peak (75-100%) – On the drive down from Tuolumne Meadows, foliage in Lee Vining Canyon is at full peak. The aspen in this area are in the best shape of any Caffey saw, having benefitted greatly from last winter’s heavy snows.  The deer have come out of the mountains to winter at lower elevations, so look for them amid the Aspen. GO NOW!
Lundy Canyon -Peak (75-100%) – Fall color is pretty consistent; pretty much everywhere you look the Aspens have turned.  This is a must-do, now.By next weekend you’ll have missed it. GO NOW!
June Lake Loop – Peak (75-100%) – Michael has been visiting June Lake for years, but classifies it right now as the nicest “I’ve ever seen there.  It is definitely at peak so this is the best weekend to go there, but there are a few areas where Aspen are still green, so I’d say you’ll find something interesting there for another 10 days.” GO NOW!

Inyo County – Bishop Creek Canyon

North Lake – Past Peak – You Missed It.
Sabrina Lake -Past Peak – You Missed It. –  There are spots of nice color along Sabrina Approach, but in a couple of days they will all be gone.
Aspendell -Peak (75-100%) – Aspendell is the Show Stopper in Bishop Creek Canyon for the moment.  The trees have been very healthy, full of leaves and draped with color. GO NOW!

South Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (10/12/17) Michael Caffey

South Lake Road – Peak to Past Peak (75% to You Missed It.) – Surprisingly, there is still good color along the road to South Lake.  Parts are past peak but some other areas are still very nice.  Still worth a trip up there at least this weekend. GO NOW!

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Mt. Laguna Majesty

Black Oak (10/12/17) Shane Coker

Black oak (10/12/17) Shane Coker

Often, a photograph is more than a reflection of reality, it is a glimpse into another reality.

That’s what color spotter Shane Coker took away from his drive over Mt. Laguna, through Julian and Lake Cuyamaca, yesterday.

His drive provided our first report from San Diego County, but more, it provided a glimpse of this photographer’s vision.

Mt. Laguna (5,738′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

Julian (4,226′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

Lake Cuyamaca (4,613′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

Fremont cottonwood (10/12/17) Shane Coker

Fremont Cottonwood (10/12/17) Shane Coker

Black oak (10/12/17) Shane Coker



Apple Hill – Ripe for Picking

Apple Hill (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

A detour on my return from Lake Tahoe, yesterday, included a stop at Apple Hill in Camino to take photos and – what else!? – buy an apple pie.

Newtown Rd., Placerville (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

Bigleaf maple (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

My route took me through Pleasant Valley (great wine tasting) down Newtown Rd. toward Placerville, US 50 and Camino.

Newtown is a lovely, winding road canopied by huge black oak and bigleaf maple, that now are speckled with huge bright yellow and lime-colored maple leaves.

At Camino, apples lay rotting between the trees at Boa Vista Orchards, as kids romped through a nearby pumpkin patch.

Similar to the experience at Julian in San Diego County, Apple Hill is more than a place to grow apples.

It is an annual harvest festival that continues from late summer to Christmas, with all kinds of homemade preserves, pies, baked goods, fresh fruit and produce on sale, along with handmade crafts and wine tasting at nearby Sierra Foothill wineries.

At this time of year, Apple Hill is wholesome fun and ripe for picking.

Apple Hill, Camino (3,133′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Newtown Road, Pleasant Valley – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

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Losing Hope? Not Quite Yet

Norway House, Sorensens Resort (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

The Hope Valley still has lots and lots of peak color, though it’s all below 7,400′.

A scouting trip through the Hope Valley (CA-88, Carson Pass) found peak color at Sorensen’s Resort at the top of Woodford’s Canyon and in the Hope Valley below Red Creek Cabin.

Comparison photos of Red Creek Cabin (admittedly shot at different times of day at different locations and with different framing) shows what’s happened there in the past ten days. They also show the affect of smoke in the air.

Red Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

Red Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/2/17) John Poimiroo

Aspen high on the ridge behind the cabin have moved from Just Starting to Patchy.

Those directly behind the cabin, that were peaking previously, are now Past Peak and those that were Patchy to Near Peak are peaking.

The most vivid peak probably occurred between the time I took the first and second photograph.

Hope Valley (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

Hope Valley (10/9/17) Dan Varvais

Above the cabin, Red Lake and Caples Lake have peaked. Only spotty color remains. Similarly, at Sorensen’s, stands at the resort are at full, glorious peak, while those across the road and along the West Fork of the Carson River are Past Peak.

Nevertheless, you haven’t missed it. This weekend will still be spectacular in the Hope Valley with great color to be seen along CA-88 between Red Creek Cabin and Woodford’s Canyon (Sorensens). Haze from Northern California wildfires softened the scene, slightly, but as seen in these photos, could be corrected.

If you are attentive, a few dirt and gravel US Forest Service roads lead from points along the north side of CA-88 to the color. They are marked with USFS tags. Do not, however, drive on any private roads, which usually are marked “No Trespassing.”

Also, parking at Sorensens is limited to resort guests and diners, so if you want to take pictures there, please buy something. They have a very excellent book/gift shop with tantalizing items, including the Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling – another fun way to capture fall color.

Hope Valley (10-/12/17) John Poimiroo

During my visit to the Hope Valley, I spoke with John Brisenden, owner of Sorensens Resort who said 29 mph gusts had passed through on Wed. night, but there was little sign that many of the leaves had been carried away.

Instead, at Sorensen’s and in the lower Hope Valley, there continue to be large groves of aspen with peak color that will likely hold for another week or more.

So, don’t lose Hope. GO NOW and be dazzled by it.

Hope Valley (7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Luther Pass (7,740′) – Peak to Past Peak (75-100%) GO NOW as you almost missed it! – Big Meadow on the north side of Luther Pass is the only area along this section of CA-89 that has any color.  Large aspen on the east side of the meadow are peaking and add romance to a hike along the meadow trail. Though, the color is an added benefit to the hike, not a reason in itself to visit the meadow.

Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Past Peak – You Missed It. – Steve Greer reports he just crossed Monitor Pass and 80% of the trees up there are stripped. It’s so exposed up there, that the wind John Brisenden mentioned may turned the aspen into sticks last Wed. night.





South Lake Tahoe – Find The Drainages

Tallac Trailhead, South Lake Tahoe (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

Taylor Creek, CA-89 (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

The City of South Lake Tahoe has spots of planted dogwood and aspen near downtown businesses and hotels, and in its residential  neighborhoods, but to see spectacular stands of native aspen, cottonwood and bigleaf maple, you have to head out of town and search for  drainages.

On the west side of SLT, CA-89 winds north toward Emerald Bay and continues eventually to Tahoe City. Pockets of fall color can be seen all along the route, but if you look for creeks and streams on your nav or map, you’re likely to find ribbons of bright color climbing up into the Sierra Nevada.

Taylor Creek and the road to the Tallac Trailhead are two of them, not far from South Lake Tahoe. They’re not far from SLT by car or bike.

Camp Richardson (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

A paved bike path runs from Stateline to Taylor Creek, and bikes can be rented in SLT, just after the “Y.”

Don’t expect to see much color along the path until you reach Taylor Creek, as the pine forest has almost none. There’s a little color beside the Camp Richardson Hotel, but otherwise the route is pretty brown, as it’s in the drainages where the best fall color is found.



Bigleaf maple, Taylor Creek (10/12/17) John Poimiroo

At Taylor Creek, a hiking trail winds beside the creek, with bigleaf maple and aspen lighting it. Parking is at the trailhead and at turnouts along CA-89.

The road to Tallac Trailhead crosses a winding band of brilliant yellow aspen, at several points. There are narrow shoulders at points at which to pull your vehicle to the side, so that you can get out and explore the aspen.

South Lake Tahoe (6,237′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!


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Weekend Drive – LaPorte Road, Quincy

LaPorte Rd., Quincy (10/9/17) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Bigleaf maple, LaPorte Rd., Quincy (10/9/17) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Dogwood, LaPorte Rd., Quincy (10/9/17) Jeff Luke Titcomb

The LaPorte Road, just out of Quincy, “is ripe for color drives, all along the road,” reports Plumas County color spotter Jeff Luke Titcomb.

Yellow bigleaf maple, rosy dogwood and black oak, their big leaves splotched with orange, yellow and lime, “are just stunning right now,” Jeff writes, “It’s a great drive, especially when the sun changes direction and just makes the yellow glow.”

LaPorte Rd., Quincy (3,432′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Time to be Outside on the Eastside

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Whoa, if ever there were a weekend to get Outside on the Eastside, this is it in Mono County.

Peak color can be found anywhere you go and whichever direction you drive. We’ll be posting an update on Lake Tahoe and the Hope Valley, after returning to scout those locations (Oct. 12) and fully expect the color to be great, just as it is in Mono and Inyo Counties right now.

Part of the reason this autumn is so good is why it is so confusing. On the exact same day for the same location we’ve received conflicting reports stating, “It’s gone” or “it’s spectacular” or “not yet there.”

What’s happening is that the aspen forest, for the first time in anyone’s memory, is turning by grove. Stands of aspen are different genetically, and they’re demonstrating their individuality this autumn. In past years, the genetic differences between the groves seemed to make little difference, as the trees at least acted as if they were on the same clock. Not this year.

What that means for fall color viewing is that the show is lasting longer, but not as uniformly at any given location.

The big change this past week occurred at the highest elevations, which for the most part went Past Peak. Places like Upper Rock Creek (10,300′), Tioga Pass (9,943′) and Sagehen Meadows (8,139′ – High Desert, so it’s drier there) are now Past Peak.  Though, that’s not universally true. Some of the groves at “you’ll-get-winded walking there” heights are still green.

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Some spotters began declaring calamity after seeing stripped stands at some locations, posting on Facebook and elsewhere that high winds had stripped the color. So, I called Mono County fall color guru Jeff Simpson (Yes, you’ve now achieved guru status in your life, Jeff).

Jeff lives on the eastside and has been reporting autumn color for years. He seemed to be offended by the suggestion that fall had ended, saying, “in no way have all the leaves blown off.”

OK, Jeff, OK. I believe you, especially since you’re now a guru and after seeing your photos, taken as late as yesterday.

So, count on it.

This weekend, there’ll be lots of gorgeous color to be seen at: Twin Lakes Bridgeport, Lundy Canyon, Convict Lake, Rock Creek Road, McGee Creek Canyon, Conway Summit, Summers Meadow Road, Lobdell Lake Road, Lee Vining Canyon, Monitor Pass and the June Lake Loop, even if a few leaves have fallen, as seen at right.

Here’s a detailed report from Mono County, a go-to destination for great fall color this week:


Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Peak (75-100%) – Aspen on the summit are perfect, right now. Look for the large grove of trees on the east side of the summit to have the best display of color. GO NOW!

Lobdell Lake Road (8,600′) – Peak (75-100%) – This area has never looked as good. Lots of peaking trees with deep reds and yellows. Get here fast, as some stands are past peak or will not last much longer.  Note: Burcham Flat Road to Lobdell lake Road are dirt roads – AWD or 4WD vehicles are recommended. GO NOW!

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Walker Canyon (5,200′)- Patchy (10-50%) – Walker canyon has slowed since last reported. There are stands with great yellows and lime greens while others are just getting started. Give it a week and it’ll be rating “Go Now!”, but not just yet.

Towns of Walker & Coleville – Just Starting (0-10%) – A few cottonwoods have started to turn but this is traditionally the last place to peak in Mono County. Look to go here in the 3rd or 4th week in October. Nevertheless, there are spots where the tall cottonwood are crowned with yellow in the midday sun.

Sonora Pass (9,623′)- Peak (75-100%) – It’s a fall color inversion here, as colors are looking nice around Leavitt Meadows Pack station and the lower sections of Sonora Pass, whereas aspen near the summit never seemed to get going. You’ll find peak to past peak groves along the road and is still worth the trip this weekend. See our earlier report about Obsidian Campground – glorious! GO NOW!

Twin Lakes, Bridgeport (10/9/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism


Twin Lakes (7,000′) -Peak (75-100%) – The biggest change in Mono County this week has occurred at Twin Lakes near Bridgeport. Wonderful color has appeared along the upper and lower lakes, and up the mountainside toward Horse Creek. GO NOW!

Virginia Lakes (9,819’) –Peak (75-100%) to Past Peak – The leaves never got going at Virginia Lakes, this year. Though, there’s still some great color along Lower Virginia Lakes Road. GO NOW! as You’re About to Miss It.

Conway Summit (8,143′)- Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – There is lot’s of great color at Conway Summit right now. A few stands are a little green while most of the mountainside is at full peak. Tip: visit in the late afternoon, as shadows make this difficult to photograph in morning light. GO NOW!

Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Peak (75-100%) – – Simply spectacular. Entire groves of peaking aspens make this location a must stop.  NOTE: The Summers Meadow bridge sustained significant damage during the spring runoff. The bridge has been reduced to one lane traffic but is currently open to visitors traveling to Summers Meadow. GO NOW!

Conway Summit (10/11/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism


Tioga Pass & Lee Vining Canyon (9,943′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – There is great color to be found in Lee Vining Canyon, especially along Log Cabin Mine Road. Higher up, Tioga Pass and Saddlebag Lake are past peak. GO NOW!

Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′)- Peak (75-100%) – Be prepared for brilliant color up Lee Vining Canyon at the first set of waterfalls. Color along the road and campground is our peak as Peak of the Week. GO NOW!


Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – Past Peak (You Missed It.)


Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/11/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – There is lots of bright lime, yellow and orange in the aspen around the June Lake Loop. There are peak trees just about everywhere. And yet, the June Lake Loop will last another week or two. We do not recommend delaying, but if you only can visit in two weeks, you should still find spots of good color. GO NOW!

Parker Lake (8,000′) – 50-100% Go Now!  – Wow. From Parker Bench to Parker Lake be prepared to drop your jaw. You will find a mix of color from Patchy to Near Peak, to Peaking, to Past Peak, but overall it’s lovely. GO NOW!


Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – Mammoth has come into its own, with good color along Mammoth Creek Road and Sherwin Creek Road and among bright orange willows at the Mammoth Lakes Basin. GO NOW!

Summers Meadow Rd. (10/9/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism


McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – – McGee Creek Canyon is at full peak and has wonderful color right now while the road is still a bit patchy. GO NOW!

Around Crowley Community (6,781′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – Poke around the community and you’ll find bright color there and along the hillsides beside U.S. 395. Take the “old US 395” road from McGee Creek to Tom’s Place for great views of the color change that’s occurring up the mountain. GO NOW!

Convict Lake (7850′) – Peak (75-100%) – Convict Lake is a “must” stop this week. Colors are at their peak along the lake and up Convict Canyon. Take the 2.5 mile “Convict Lake Loop Trail” around the lake for a close up view of the leaves and different angles of Mt. Morrison. GO NOW!


Rock Creek Road (9,600’) –Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) –  – Wonderful color along the lower section of Rock Creek Road from Tom’s Place. There are sections of great Yellows and Oranges while other areas above the lake may be past peak. GO NOW!

Lower Rock Creek Road(7,087′) – Patchy (10-50%)