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Looking Back at 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016

Tomorrow, we post our annual Thanksgiving Day message and video review of 2017.

It will be our fifth annual “California Fall Color Looks Back” video. As, although CaliforniaFallColor.com went live in 2009, it wasn’t until 2013 that we began posting video reviews.

In advance of seeing “California Fall Color Looks Back at 2017,” we thought you might like to see those from years past.

Ron Tyler created each video. Ron is head of the Tyler Marketing Group, an El Dorado Hills-based marketing communications consultancy with expertise in social media, product marketing and video.

Each of the photographs selected for these videos is representative of what happened that autumn, the extent and diversity of fall color then seen across the state, and some of the finest photographs taken that year.







Back in the Saddle Again

Jennifer Roeser rides her mule, Pearl, in McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

After 36 frustrating hours, CaliforniaFallColor.com is back in the saddle again.

This website crashed after too many backups filled the server and overloaded it. That required the host to remove the backups (a slow process) in order to provide room on the server so that the site can function properly.

I cannot thank our loyal readers enough for expressing concern and attempting to reach me, and I apologize if going dark disrupted your travel planning.

The server crashed Wednesday night as I was attempting to post photographs from a scouting trip through the Hope Valley, Monitor Pass, US 395, Bishop, Bishop Creek Canyon, Pine Creek, Round Valley, Rock Creek, McGee Creek, Convict Lake, Mammoth Lakes, June Lake loop, Sagehen Meadows and Conway Summit.

During that sojourn, I took many photos (produced a few videos) and was sent many others by contributors, which I’m just now receiving (the server crashed my email account, as well). I plan to post them today and over the weekend.

In the meantime buckaroos, saddle up for some great fall color. As, Peak has arrived in the Eastern Sierra.


Foster Travel on California Fall Color

Foster Travel

Travel writer/photographer Lee Foster and I will be heading Outside on the Eastside starting on Monday to photograph and record fall color.

Lee has published many books on California and holds the distinction as the first travel writer to fully embrace and be truly successful in online publishing. Recently, he posted this article on California Fall Color.

Our route will take US 50 east to Placerville, then south along Mormon Emigrant Trail to CA 88, then east again across Carson Pass through the Hope Valley, turning south through Markleeville and over Monitor Pass to US 395.

From there, we’ll travel south, checking Eastern Sierra canyons for color, arriving at North Lake in Bishop Creek Canyon for the sunset.

I’ve been asked where the locations identified on this site are located, since many are not identified on Google or Apple maps. That is why I’ve placed a custom map on this website. You’ll find it in the column to the right, just below the weather forecast.


California Fall Color Map

The California Fall Color Map identifies precisely where fall color has been seen and to what stage the color has progressed. However, the updating of the leafs is done manually as new reports arrive, and I am sometimes delayed from posting updates. So, the map is only as current as time permits to post updates.

Still, if you’re reading this site and go to the map, you can find locations about which we’ve reported on this site.

To use it, click on the brackets at upper right. The map will open in a new window. Then search for the location you want to visit or click on a leaf. Expand the view to make clicking on leaves easier. You may have to click “View in Google Maps,” for a closeup view of nearby roads.

Good hunting.

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It All Begins at 1:02 p.m. Today

Autumn begins throughout California at 1:02 p.m.

That’s when the autumnal equinox occurs, starting a new astronomical season. At that moment, the sun’s rays are almost equally divided between the northern and southern hemisphere.

Thereafter and continuing to the winter solstice on Dec. 21, days get shorter and colder, as the amount of sunlight reaching the northern hemisphere declines.

Less light results in less chlorophyll being produced in deciduous plants. As the green chlorophyl subsides underlying brown, red, orange and yellow colors are seen. Colder temperatures also intensify red, orange and yellow colors. Though, eventually, the leaves weaken and fall.

Autumn is the only season with two names: Autumn and Fall. It gets the latter from those falling leaves.

Many believe California’s best weather occurs in autumn. Days remain clement, but nights are cooler. There’s a crispness in the air, but also a soothing envelopment that almost feels as if you’re being embraced by the season.

Why is it that there is such celebration when pumpkin-spiced lattes return to cafe menus in autumn?  Is it their taste, or the recollections of this gathering season that they inspire?

Autumn is the season of harvest, reunion, tailgating, wine making, costume parties, sweaters and thanksgiving. Though it would not be what it is, without Fall.

Over the past couple of days, snow has fallen in the High Sierra. Several of you have asked what effect the early snow might have on autumn color. The answer is: “Little to No Effect.”

Snow usually only damages the change of color on leaves that have turned color or have nearly turned color. Leaves that are vibrant and still producing chlorophyl shake off a little snow with no effect on the color. However, were the same to occur at an elevation that was near peak to peak, leaves in the process of turning would either be spotted or blown from their branches.

Rock Creek Canyon (9/22/17) Will Ridgeway

Rock Creek Canyon (9/22/17) Will Ridgeway

Will Ridgeway took these photographs near Rock Creek Pack Station yesterday morning.

He writes that “The snow on green Aspen leaves makes it look like we’re going straight from Summer to Winter, though that’s temporary.

“That said, there was a good amount of colour above Lake Sabrina this morning, roughly equal parts green, yellow and orange depending on the location of each grove.” he describes.

Lake Sabrina – Near Peak (75-100%) – Will Ridgeway rates the upper groves high above Sabrina Lake near 10,000′ in elevation as nearing peak. GO NOW!

Sagehen Meadow, Mono County (9/22/17) Bruce Wendler

Sagehen Meadow, Mono County – Patchy (10-50%) – Color spotter Bruce Wendler found “the first fire of autumn” lighting the hills around Sagehen Meadow, south of Mono Lake. Frigid temperatures are stimulating vibrant color change in high areas of Mono County.

Unidentified exotic tree, Downtown LA near Fig Plaza (9/21/17) Mohammad Delwar

Los Angeles – Just Starting (0-10%) – Often what appears to be autumnal change is not exactly the same thing. Del Hossain saw this blooming tree in downtown Los Angeles yesterday and had the presence of mind to photograph it and ask if it might be fall color.

This is one of the myriad of non-native (or exotic) trees that have been planted in our urban forests. It has a flower or seed pod (similar to a Bougainvillea bloom) that Del described as “a splash of pinks, reds,or orangish”.

What is most important is that Del turned a break while working in the heart of Los Angeles (Downtown Magnets High School – Go Suns!) into an inspirational fall color sojourn.  Fall color creds to anyone who can identify the tree, and to Del for sharing.

How to Submit Reports and Photos

Bear Creek (11/1/15) Robert Kermen

Over 75 volunteer “color spotters” (our term for contributors) submit photographs and reports to CaliforniaFallColor.com each autumn.

To be one of them is very easy. Email photos within a few days of when they were taken* to editor@californiafallcolor.com. Include the photographer’s name, date the photo was taken and the location where the photo was taken.

If you know the foliage seen in the photo (particularly if it is unusual or wouldn’t be evident to us), please describe it (e.g., bigleaf maple, black oak, silver willow, etc.).

Photos should be** high resolution, particularly if you’d like them considered as one of the best photos of the week. The week’s best photos are (with photographer’s permission) sent to major broadcast and print media and they won’t accept any photo less sized than 300 dpi. Photographers are credited and get valuable recognition/exposure.

Reports should include: % of color change (Just Starting, Patchy, Near Peak, Peak or Past Peak) at the location, the name of the location, roads (e.g., take Rock Creek Rd. east from US 395), date visited and any helpful information (e.g., “The trail is steep for the first 500′. but then levels out for the two mile hike to the lake. A grove of peaking aspen is found at the western side the lake trail.”).

Reports and photos can also be posted CaliforniaFallColor’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Though, emailing photos and reports is the best way to get them on this site.

Thank you and happy wandering!

* Historic photos, like Robert Kermen’s shot of Bear Creek (seen above), are published – on occasion – days or even years after they were taken, but only to illustrate an article that is not time-sensitive. Fall color reports only use photos taken during the previous week, in order to present what can be seen at that location.

** Please don’t hesitate sending a photograph just because it isn’t 300 dpi. Pictures taken with mobile devices often get included in our reports.

Same Website: New Look & Functionality

If you’re a regular to CaliforniaFallColor.com, it probably took a little longer for this website to upload today. That’s because we’ve been making some changes to it.

The colors are the same. We wouldn’t change that, considering how many of you have complimented its orange and black theme. Though, behind what you see there’s a lot that’s new.

The site has a better search tool (the magnifying glass atop the page). As you type, suggested stories will drop down, making it faster to find articles about particular places or plants.

We’ve kept our archive of past reports, though it is now located to the right side. Use it to research where and when to go to see peak color (Peak color is so dependable here that you can reliably visit the same week, year to year).

Also retained are the Fall Color Map and weather forecast. Right now, the map is showing dark green leaves, but as soon as reports arrive, lime, yellow, orange, red and brown leaves will appear. As for the forecast, we’ve chosen to report what’s happening at Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra, as that station is nearest to where fall color will appear first.

Links to blogs, articles and sites with fall color reports are also found on the right side of the page. As we find more current links, they’re updated. And, for ease of knowing what’s inside any article, keywords are now shown above headlines.

The most obvious change is the new slider atop the page.  For years, California Fall Color displayed Greg Newbry’s great shot of June Lake.  Over the years, it attracted a lot of interest in California’s autumn. However, we wanted to say more about what makes California Fall Color different.

So, the six photos selected for the slider were picked for what they represent about California Fall Color, not just because they’re great photos from great photographers, which they are.

The slider begins with a spectacular photograph of sunset at North Lake by Elliot McGucken, taken on the last day of September in 2016. Elliot is the only photographer with two images in the slider (a coincidence, really).

His photograph embodies what sets California Fall Color apart… the combination of fall color and grand landscapes. Other areas in North America have beautiful fall foliage and scenery, but few compare to California’s landscape. Elsewhere, autumn color descends by latitude across the continent, whereas in California it drops by elevation, at a rate of about 500′ a week. Because California’s terrain varies from over 14,000′ in elevation to below sea level, the show lasts from September to December.

This downward progression is clearly evident in Elliott McGucken’s shot where aspen are nearly past peak at tree line (10,000′) and near to full peak at lake level  (9,255′).  That’s 745 ft. of color in one image.

The second slider photo was taken in Lundy Canyon (Mono County) by Curtis Kautzer. It shows a couple enjoying the scene, during a break from hiking.

In choosing this photo, we encourage everyone to venture into the woods for the best California Fall Color experience. We say this even though most of California’s autumn show can be seen without ever getting out of your car.

The third slider shows a sunset at Lake Gregory (Crestline, San Bernardino Mountains) by Alena Nicholas. This photo expresses that beautiful fall color is not limited to any given area of California. It’s nearby, everywhere. You just have to know where it’s peaking.

Lots of autumn color can be seen in Southern California’s mountains. Because they do not have the extreme elevation change, like the Eastern Sierra where eight weeks of peak color can be seen, Southern California’s mountain ranges peak over a shorter period. However, their aspen, bigleaf maple, black oak, willows and spectacular sunsets are glorious.

Great fall color is also found in the Southern Sierra, Central Sierra, at Lake Tahoe, the Northern Sierra, Salinas Valley, Redwood Highway and the Shasta Cascade.

“Chicken of the Woods,” a mushroom, is one of a number of colorful and interesting plants found in the Shasta Cascade (the vast northeast corner of California). Others include fiery orange-red Indian rhubarb, which decorates the banks of streams in Plumas County.

Gabriel Leete’s photo was selected for the slider because it teaches us to look down not just up, when searching for fall color. Some of the most remarkable autumn discoveries are seen on or near the ground.

Our fifth slider is Elliot McGucken’s shot of the cabin in the woods in the Hope Valley (Carson Pass – Hwy 88). We chose it to illustrate the variety of character to be seen in our woods, from settler’s cabins, to Spanish adobe homes, to white gothic steeples set against orange, gold and red.

Open your mind to California Fall Color and you’ll find orderly rows of burgundy, orange and yellow vines flanked by golden boulevards leading to tasting rooms.

California’s Mediterranean climate allows for the cultivation of colorful species not seen anywhere else on the continent and fills our cities with color-laden urban forests. Our unusual climate is why we claim California has the most diverse show of fall color on the continent.

The last of the photos we chose for the slider is Josh Wray’s image of paddle boarders on Parker Lake near Mammoth Lakes. It illustrates that Californians like to do things differently.

These ladies were out for an adventure and carried their boards on an exhilarating hike up to this High Sierra lake then paddled upon it, surrounded by sawtooth peaks and brilliant gold reflections. It took a bit of effort, but boy was the experience worth it!

We hope you enjoy using our “new and improved” site. As always, if you’d like to comment, click on the headline to open the comment section.

See you in autumn, dude. 


Spring Aspen Report

Quaking Aspen, Agate Bay (6/10/17) John Poimiroo

With only a week of springtime left in 2017, a quick trip to Lake Tahoe found some quaking aspen bent by this past winter’s heavy snowfall, but few signs of black leaf spot fungus.

The two aspen, seen above, were bent to more than a 90-degree angle from snow drifts that piled as high as the house. Prior to this past winter’s snow, the aspen were as straight and as tall as those to their left.

Such phenomena are often seen in aspen groves and I’ve often wondered how the trees got so distorted. Now I know. It’s the snow.

Fortunately, most aspen leaves are deeply green and healthy. Black leaf spot develops when it rains a lot in late spring and early summer, followed by a week of warm temperatures.

A day after the photo was taken, a light dusting of snow fell down to 4,500′ in elevation. This week, temperatures have risen.  So, the conditions are such that black leaf spot could develop. Let’s hope not.

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Fall Color Guide and Map

Fall Color Guide & Map

Fall Color Guide & Map

Eastern Sierra destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have again published a comprehensive guide to fall color along US 395, a route named by USA Weekend as “one of the USA’s five best road trips.”

California’s Eastern Sierra Fall Color Guide & Map lists major annual events, significant fall color plants, and directs color spotters to 21 locations along US 395 from Big Pine to Topaz where spectacular fall color can be viewed.

The publication can be obtained at Mono County and Inyo County websites and visitor centers or CLICK HERE.


There’s Still Hope

Cabin, Hope Valley (10/10/15)  Elliot McGucken

Cabin, Hope Valley (10/10/15) Elliot McGucken

Even when you think the color has peaked, when most of the trees have lost their color, a photographer like Elliot McGucken sends an image that teaches you, again, that there’s still hope.

Such is the case with this image of a cabin in the Hope Valley, near Sorensen’s Resort (Hwy 88). Though it does not have the spectacular splash of yellow many fall color photographers would want for their ultimate image of autumn in the High Sierra, it is layered with emotion and texture.

This photograph is near perfection, even though the forest was far from it.

Where’s The Color?

Remembering Lake Sabrina at Peak (10/1/14) Jared Smith

Remembering Lake Sabrina at Peak (10/1/14) Jared Smith

CaliforniaFallColor.com has been posting reports since 2009.

To date, hundreds of reports from photographers, local tourism officials, leaf peepers and others who just love beauty and nature have been received.  With so many reports under our belt, we figured they might be useful in showing where most of the fall color has been seen in California. Using the state’s tourism regions as guide, here’s the ranking:

  1. High Sierra – 44%
  2. Shasta Cascade – 15%
  3. Inland Empire – 9%
  4. Los Angeles County – 7%
  5. Gold Country – 6%
  6. San Francisco Bay Area – 6%
  7. North Coast – 4%
  8. San Diego County – 3%
  9. Central Valley – 2%
  10. Central Coast – 2%
  11. The Deserts – 1%
  12. Orange County – 1/2 of 1%