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Sequoia National Forest – Still Bright

Kern River, Sequoia National Forest (11/12/17) Niles Armstrong

Niles Armstrong sends this first report of Peak to Past Peak color north of Kernville in the Sequoia National Forest.

Notice how full the river is running in mid November, even though it has not yet begun raining heavily, and the bright spots of gold still seen among cottonwood along the Kern River’s banks.

Kern River – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

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East/West Redbud Debate

Western redbud, cercis occidentalis (11/10/17) Robert Kermen

Eastern redbud, cercis canadensis (11/7/17) John Poimiroo

When it comes to redbud, it’s debatable as to which is prettiest in autumn… East or West.

The eastern variety, cercis canadensis, displays bright gold and green heart-shaped leaves.

Whereas, western redbud, cercis occidentalis, display orange, red, gold and lime heart-shaped leaves.

Both are equally stunning.

Redbud is often overlooked by color spotters who give up looking for great fall color as soon as the forests of aspen have turned, but not Robert Kermen or me.

Robert found western redbud growing along Big Chico Creek in Chico’s Bidwell Park.

Cercis occidentalis are native to the Sierra and North Coast foothills. Native California indians used their barks for basket weaving and as a red dye. In springtime, their showy pink and magenta blossoms grow in clusters all over redbud shrubs that garnish foothill river canyons.

Western redbud, cercis occidentalis (11/10/17) Robert Kermen

Western redbud, cercis occidentalis (11/10/17) Robert Kermen

I have the pleasure of enjoying an Eastern redbud all year long. It grows in my side yard (El Dorado Hills) and provides an inspiring show when autumn light backlights the leaves in kelly green and yellow.

Eastern redbud are a popular landscape and street tree, appreciated for their shape, shade and autumn color (best from late October to early November).

Their heart-shaped leaves flutter in a soft autumn breeze, as if they’re beating.

OK, there’s no debate. East or West, who couldn’t love redbud with all they have to show?

Cercis Occidentalis Range – Wikipedia

Redbud – Peak (75-100%) – Their range forms an upside down fish hook, leading from the SF Bay Area north through wine country and the Redwood Highway, then bending east through Trinity County to the northern Sierra foothills, then south to the Southern Sierra. GO NOW!

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More Photographic Perspectives

Black oak, bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Fridays are a quiet day to catch up on posting photographs that arrived too late to be included in a timely fall color report. The first selection is of photographs taken by Laura Jean near Hayfork along CA-3, two weeks ago.

The color seen in these images has long since fallen, though her shots provide perspective about what it was like to drive the Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway in late October. Click on photo to enlarge.

Hayfork, Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway (CA-3) – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Dogwood, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Black oak, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean










Black oak, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

California ash, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Dogwood, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean








Also, here is a selection of images contributed by Dona Montuori-Whitaker in mid October. They arrived too late to be posted in a timely fashion, but are now in order to show additional views of Plumas County.

What is particularly striking about the Shasta Cascade region are the number of old wooden bridges, barns and cabins that have aged beautifully and contrast so emotionally with fall color.

Plumas County – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Maple, Quincy (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Genesee Valley (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Indian rhubarb, Keddie (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Long Valley Creek Bridge, Sloat (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker










Shed, Indian Falls (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Taylorsville School (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker










Fallen maple, cottonwood and dogwood leaves, Yosemite National Park (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

As reported here on the day Tracy Zhou took these photos, peak color has shifted from bigleaf maple, dogwood and cottonwood to black oak in Yosemite National Park.

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou


Wawona – Vibrant Yellows, Amazing Reds

Gates of the Valley, Yosemite National Park (10/28/17) Mohan Ram

Wawona Road, Yosemite National Park (10/29/17) Mohan Ram

Yosemite National Park is at the last of its peak. The dogwood, bigleaf maple and cottonwood are past peak, though black oak and willows continue to dazzle.

Mohan Ram describes the Valley’s oaks as “glowing in the sunlight,” though the best show is seen at Wawona along CA-41 that Mohan describes as “stunning throughout the entire stretch from vibrant yellows to amazing reds. Not to be missed!”

Wawona Rd. – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Yosemite Valley (4,000’) – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

Bigleaf maple, dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/28/17) Mohan Ram

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Insane Color On Nor/Sierra Circuit

Couthouse, Quincy (10/27/17) Phillip Reedy

North Fork Feather River (10/27/17) Phillip Reedy

North Fork Feather River (10/27/17) Phillip Reedy

Some of this site’s contributors go to great lengths to spot fall color.

We put Phillip Reedy in that category, as he’s submitted photographs taken in the Hope Valley (on several occasions), Eastern Sierra and now the Northern Sierra.

Phillip drove a “long circuit” up CA-70 from Marysville to Quincy, south through Graeagle and the Lakes Basin, then down on CA-49 through Downieville and back to Davis.

In a day, Phillip!?

While we’re questioning his sanity, we’re not questioning the beauty he captured or the veracity of his reports.

Phillip reported back that there was “plenty of yellow and gold at the top of the Feather River Canyon, in Quincy and Graeagle (often missed by Plumas County color spotters). Aspen were still dressed in yellow around Sardine Lake.

Couthouse, Quincy (10/27/17) Phillip Reedy

Couthouse, Quincy (10/27/17) Phillip Reedy

The big bonus, he reported was not being disappointed by his stop in Quincy, as we’d raised  his hopes, considering how many times in the past two weeks that peak color has been reported there.

Not only did his photos show those trees in new perspectives, but they certified that indeed both Western Sycamore and sugar maple grow side-by-side, there.

“The colors were awesome,” he said. And, that’s saying something, since Phillip always combines a little fall color spotting with fly fishing.

On this outing, he visited the North Fork of the Yuba River and Lavezzola Creek near Downieville and though we don’t know how many he caught, he maxed limit in great fall color shots.




Middle Fork Feather River, Graeagle (10/27/17) Phillip Reedy

North Fork Yuba River (10/27/17) Phillip Reedy

North Fork Feather River – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Quincy – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Middle Fork Feather River, Graeagle – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Lavezzola Creek, Downieville – Peak (75-100%) – GO NOW!

North Fork Yuba River – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!








North Fork Yuba River (10/27/17) Phillip Reedy


Donner Lake – Just Past Peak

Black cottonwood (foreground), Donner Lake (10/26/17) Robert Kerman

Aspen on the south side of Donner Lake have lost about 40% of their leaves, putting them just past peak.

Robert Kerman was there on a balmy autumn day to find kayakers paddling across the lake as flushes of nearly stripped yellow aspen were being reflected in the lake.

Donner Lake (5,935′)- Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.


Autumn in the Higher Sierra

Anthony Occhipinti flew his drone over the Eastern Sierra and Hope Valley this autumn to capture these videos.

As of today, these areas are Past Peak, though the videos provide inspiring testimony as to what one videographer witnessed.

Past Peak – You Missed It.

Credit: Anthony Occhipinti, Coruscating Images, Sacramento


Yosemite – No Reason To Wait. Just Do It.

Yosemite Valley (10/22/17) David Olden

Yosemite Valley (10/22/17) David Olden

After visiting Yosemite Valley this past weekend, David Olden wrote, “I can’t see any reason to wait.” He added, “Go now. Just do it.”

He found “most of the valley floor to be 75% to past peak, with small areas still in the 50-75% range. Low elevation dogwoods mostly yellow with some green and red just starting. (higher elevation dogwoods are peaking or gone).”

Olden reported that black oak on the valley floor are “in full glory as well as the bigleaf maple. Most meadows are showing golden grasses and even the ferns are showing their more subtle Fall yellow.”

Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It. GO NOW! JUST DO IT!


Carson Pass to Monitor Pass by Drone

Aerial color spotter Titus Davis flew his Phantom 4 Pro drone at points between Carson and Monitor Passes (CA-88 and CA-89) to create this video.

Here’s a rundown of where he flew:

  • :00 – Silver Lake Latitude: 38°39’54.90″N  Longitude: 120° 7’13.94″W
  • :52 – East Fork Carson River  38°40’33.38″N  119°44’12.25″W
  • 1:37 – Hope Valley Latitude: 38°44’58.72″N Longitude: 119°56’11.51″W
  • 3:34 – Monitor Pass Latitude: 38°40’30.87″N  Longitude: 119°37’21.42″W

The drone provides perspectives not seen previously. Titus’ video of Silver Lake has the best closeup view we’ve seen of the copses of color on the far side of the lake, as they’re difficult to photograph other than from the water.

Similarly, while the color along the E. Fork of the Carson River can be seen from Hwys 4 and 89, only part of it is visible. Whereas the drone gives us a bird’s-eye view of the color.

The same is true of the breadth of color atop Monitor Pass, which is not really realized until seen higher than the trees, as shown by the drone.



Where Do You Go When A Pass Closes?

Black oak and bigleaf maple, Yosemite National Park (10/20/17) Darrell Sano

Yosemite NP (10/20/17) Darrell Sano

Color spotter Darrell Sano attempted a trip to the Eastern Sierra on Friday. He’d planned to drive across Tioga or Sonora Pass, but the passes had closed due to an early snowfall. So where did Darrell head to find fall color? Straight to Yosemite National Park.

At this time of autumn, early storms will close passes across the Sierra intermittently. If the snowfall is light, affected passes will reopen soon after snow has melted off the pavement. However, once “environmental conditions” preclude continued safe operation of vehicles across the mountain passes (Monitor, Sonora, Tioga), they will close for the winter, or until clear of snow and ice.

Prevented from crossing the Sierra, Sano detoured to Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point. He wrote he’d forgotten “how colorful Yosemite is. At 4000’ elevation the valley floor, as well as Big Oak Flat Road, are at peak.

Some trees have lost leaves, perhaps by rain, but there was ample color along Big Oak Flat, Southside Drive, and Glacier Point Road. Even the mid-day light at noon had a special autumn glow, a clarity, and intensity that brings out every detail and texture.

Glacier Point Rd. (10/20/17) Darrell Sano

“Along Glacier Point Road, I could detect smoke, and later see smoldering tree trunks blackened by fire. There was snow on the ground, and splashes of fall color among it! The evening sunset behind the fall color illuminated leaves even further. A wonderful day!”

Some photographers believe conditions have to be perfect for the best photographs, but often the opposite is true. A wisp of smoke in the air, a blackened forest made vibrant by drips of fall color within it… all these can make for memorable photographs and experiences.

So, don’t let the closing of a pass, past peak conditions at an area you’d planned to visit or other changes to your plans keep you from exploring. There’s just too much beauty out there to miss, just because a pass closes.

Dogwood, Yosemite NP (10/20/17) Darrell Sano

Dogwood, Yosemite NP (10/20/17) Darrell Sano

Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Glacier Point Road (7,214′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!