Napa Valley (Peak 75-100%) - Reports from the Napa Valley have been that this has been one of the most gorgeous autumns in years. Susan Taylor’s striking photos from this past weekend show what’s happening. GO NOW!
When Ben Carlson of San Francisco’s Friends of the Urban Forest asked colleagues what fall color they were seeing in The City, he said they responded, “Not much – San Francisco is always late.”
True. SF peaks from now through Thanksgiving Day, though notable exceptions are the bright yellow of exotic Ginkgos (Ginkgo biloba and American Sweet Gums (Liquidambar styracifluas). Then, Doug Wildman, FUF’s program director, mentioned to Carlson that Washington Thorns (Crataegus phaenopyrums) are showing fall color and red berries throughout San Francisco. He sent these photos of a tree that FUF planted in 1999.
San Francisco (Patchy 10-50%) – The City should be peaking over the next three weeks. It’s now patchy, though SF’s fall color should move to near peak between this weekend and Thanksgiving Day. Beautiful color is seen throughout the city’s neighborhoods, though is best in Golden Gate Park at the Arboretum and Japanese Tea Garden, where it is peaking now.
This will likely be the last week to see peak color in Plumas, Lassen and Siskiyou counties in the Shasta Cascade region of northeast California. Many of their trees are now losing leaves, though beautiful color can still be found in spots. While these higher elevation areas are moving past peak, all lower elevation areas near the Trinity, Feather and Sacramento Rivers in the Shasta Cascade are now peaking. They will likely carry full peak through next week. Here’s the lowdown:
Butte County (Peak 75%-100%) As reported earlier this week, Esplanade Blvd. in downtown Chico is glorious. A canopy of fully peaked towering trees overhangs the broad boulevard. Bidwell Park and the CSU Chico campus are now painted with auburn, crimson, purple, yellow, gold and orange. Exotic plants are showing brilliant color. GO NOW!
Tehama County (Peak 75-100%) Tehama County, at the north end of the Sacramento Valley, is now peaking. The best color is found beside the Sacramento River at William P. Ide Adobe State Park, the Red Bluff Recreation Area off Sale Lane, Red Bluff River Park downtown and northeast of Red Bluff where Jellys Ferry Rd crosses the river. In Red Bluff, there is lots of color on Main Street, with contrasts of historic architecture framed by trees. GO NOW!
Shasta County (Peak 75%-100%) Towering cottonwood and other riparian trees at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Garden, at Sundial Bridge and along the Sacramento River Trail are peaking. Anderson River Park in Anderson has a beautiful blend of red, yellow, soft green, and orange, all on one tree. Cottonwood along the river are now losing leaves. GO NOW!
Trinity County (Peak 75%-100%) On Hwy 299 from Redding west to Fortuna motorists pass pockets of golden cottonwood, yellow bigleaf maple and chartreuse wild cucumber, all accented with spots of crimson beside the Trinity River. Weaverville is a must stop on a fall excursion along this route is visiting the interior of Joss House State Historic Park, an elaborately sculpted Chinese temple, with its red and gold carved altar. GO NOW!
Modoc County (Peak 75%-100%) Modoc National Forest is at peak with an abundant display of fall color. GO NOW!
Siskiyou County (Peak to Past Peak) Fall is fading fast in Siskiyou County. In the town of Mt. Shasta, many planted trees have peaked and are now losing leaves. Snow-covered Mt. Shasta provides a dramatic backdrop to the remaining color, though it lacks the luster of the photos taken last week by Cory Poole. GO NOW!
Plumas County (Peak to Past Peak) Plumas County was the first part of the Shasta Cascade to peak and color spotter Karen Moritz there says Plumas is “definitely past peak” though color can still be found in the Feather River Canyon and around Greenville. GO NOW!
Lassen County (Peak to Past Peak) Similar to Siskiyou and Plumas, Lassen County is now past peak, though some areas are still lovely as seen in this photo of a boy taken by Joel Rathje. GO NOW!
San Bernardino Mountain color spotters Nick and Alena Barnhart headed north to Yosemite this past weekend and found the Valley at full peak.
From the Yosemite Chapel shot, it’s easy to see that Yosemite’s trees have been dropping their leaves for a couple of weeks. Nick delayed his trip a week with hopes rain would occur and the waterfalls would be flowing again.
However, very little rain or snow has yet reached the high country, keeping the waterfalls nearly dry.
Nick said the leaves were showering the valley floor as they departed (note to self: recruit more spotters to check out Yosemite Valley in late October each year), though he imagines the color will continue for another week and will probably be near past peak by Thanksgiving Day. It is surprising to me that we don’t receive more photo submissions from Yosemite, considering it’s probably the most photographed location in California.
Presently, fall color is mostly limited to Yosemite Valley, though Wawona also has good color and areas opened up by wildfires in the past 25 years have become repopulated with colorful bigleaf maple, black oak, dogwood and shrubbery.
Temperatures have chilled significantly across the Sierra Nevada this past week. Considering we’ve had clear skies, that would normally lead to more intense color, but in Yosemite’s case the color is unlikely to improve, as the trees have already peaked.
One special aspect of autumn in the national park is wildlife photography. As leaves drop, the forest opens up leaving the wildlife little to hide behind. Also, they’re often backgrounded by warm color, as seen in Nick’s shot of the mule deer.
The animals most easily photographed are bear, mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, ground squirrels and birds. The deer and coyotes are particularly visible and mostly ignore people.
Santa Clara Valley (most of you know it as Silicon Valley) color spotter Anson Davalos provides a view of the Big Oak Flat Road (North Entrance – Hwy 120) as it descends toward Yosemite Valley above Foresta. This area was grey with cinder and ash following the park’s 1989 fire.
Today, young aspen, dogwood and oaks now paint the hillside with yellow, rose and orange fall color. Given the present beauty of this area, it should improve to being one of the most spectacular displays of fall color in the national park in coming years.
Yosemite National Park (Peak 75-100%) - All areas in the national park are at peak or past peak. Yosemite Valley and Wawona have a week, perhaps two (depending on wind) of peak color left to go. GO NOW!
Color spotter Cory Poole made an incredible road trip this past weekend, stopping at points all around the San Fancisco and Monterey Bay areas, reporting that he didn’t get into the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park but that a peek over the fence had it peaking. C’mon Cory, you mean to tell us you toured the rainforest exhibit at the Academy of Sciences instead!? Can’t blame you.
Still, he did send this shot of monarch butterflies wintering on eucalyptus trees at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz. We often make a trip to that great park and also to Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz where the monarchs are seen now through early December.
Wildlife viewing is a legitimate aspect of California Fall Color (look for our next post on Yosemite) and the return of the monarchs is special. The butterflies cluster on the branches, close to one another to avoid the cold, but when the sun is clear and shining on them, they spread their wings and flutter about, often landing on you. Definitely a must do for fall color spotters.
To read previous posts about the monarchs and where they can be seen, search “Monarch” or CLICK HERE.
In other news from Santa Cruz County, color spotter Nicole Coburn reports from Soquel that the Summit Road which runs from the summit of Hwy 17 down to Soquel is peaking with canopies of bright yellow bigleaf maple overhanging the road.
Monarch Butterflies (Peak 75-100%) - The monarch butterflies have returned to Natural Bridges State Park and other nesting areas along the California Coast. To attract monarchs to your backyard, plant milkweed this coming year. Read Cory’s comment, below, for an absolutely vivid description of the experience of standing amidst thousands of swirling butterflies being attacked by a corvid. GO NOW!
Summit Road (Peak 75-100%) - Summit Road is canopied with yellow bigleaf maple. GO NOW!
We drove north in search of fall color on Saturday, traveling from Auburn to Lincoln, then north to Yuba City and on to Chico and Vina. This route skirts the northern goldfields of the northern Sierra foothills, passing through trim and tiny farming communities known for their walnuts, prunes, olives, almonds, rice, kiwifruit and grapes.
Fall color is best seen in the walnut orchards, streams and towns the along the route. The walnut groves are mostly patchy, though close to being near peak. Riparian cottonwood are at peak or past peak, while the tall shade trees planted in the towns are peaking.
The brightest fall color to be seen along the route is in residential areas of Auburn and Chico.
Auburn (Peak – 75-100%) - Beautiful fall color is seen throughout Auburn’s neighborhoods, as exotic trees are at full peak. GO NOW!
Highways 65, 70 and 99 North (Near Peak – 50-75%) - Towering shade trees on the highways leading to and within the farm communities of Wheatland, Olivehurst, Live Oak, Gridley and Vina are near peak. Walnut orchards along the highway are patchy. Riparian cottonwood have peaked or are past peak. GO NOW!
Chico (Peak – 75-100%) - Downtown Chico and Bidwell park are at full peak with towering shade trees full of yellow, gold, red, auburn and orange color. Esplanade north of CSU Chico has a beautiful canopy of color. GO NOW!
Color spotters Tim Colvin and Jonathan Patterson sent these photos of Southern California’s Lakes Gregory and Hemet, which are now both peaking.
Lake Gregory (Peak 75-100%) - This is one of the last resort areas of the San Bernardino Mountains to peak; color should remain good through the coming week. GO NOW!
Lake Hemet (Peak 75-100%) - Large cottonwood provide a golden canopy to the campgrounds at Lake Hemet in the San Jacinto Mountains, providing for a colorful place to camp while out color spotting. Weather permitting, peak should last for two weeks. GO NOW!
Napa Valley (Peak 75-100%) – Color spotter Marc Hoshovsky was driven by curiosity to the Napa Valley, after not seeing any recent reports from wine country.
What he tasted on a color spotting trip, yesterday, was a well-balanced blend of mature fall colors that is ready to drink.
Marc drove the Mt Vreeder Road on the west side of the Napa Valley and descending to the floor of the valley, continuing north along the Silverado Trail from Yountville to Deer Park Road . He writes, “… the colors were really wonderful.”
As we have noted previously, vineyards change by location and grape variety. It may be peaking in one vineyard, past peak in another and not even close in a third – all within a given location. Though, what Marc reported, “… was easily Near Peak, if not Peak.”
He continued up to Pope Valley and Chiles Valley before returning to Davis. “Those valleys are in similar state of color. Very nice.” GO NOW!
Ukiah Valley (Peak 75-100%) - Mendocino County color spotter Walter Gabler responds with these images of vines in the Ukiah Valley. Note that the different grape varieties show color differently. GO NOW!
Color spotter Kimberly Kofala recommends an autumn hike around Jenkinson Lake in the El Dorado County community of Sly Park (Western Sierra).
We mentioned Sly Park and the Mormon Emigrant Trail early last month. At the time, very little color was showing. Now it’s at peak.
Kimberly says this is a mellow, gentle hike with beautiful fall foliage. She jogged and hiked around Jenkinson Lake on Saturday as the fall color was peaking. Black oaks, bigleaf maple, cottonwood, dogwood. willow and grasses are all displaying deep color, which should last through this week.
Jenkinson lake is a quiet and peaceful area with a few fisherman dotted along its banks. It’s also a great place to see waterfowl, geese, grebes and migrating black and white coots. The entire loop is 8.1 miles or hikers can easily do a portion then turn around. And, there are picnic grounds and campsites.
Jenkinson Lake (Peak 75-100%) - Fall color should remain at peak through the coming week, weather permitting. GO NOW!
If only finding real gold were as easy as finding figurative gold in California. Color spotter Cory Poole posted this photo on his Facebook site of with the comment that he “found some gold in a gravel bar along the Sacramento River. We’re all richer for his discovery.
Poole is a find, as well… an extraordinary photographer taking compelling photographs of the Shasta Cascade. He is a high school physics and math teacher at University Preparatory School in Redding who just also happens to be an exceptional photographer. We’ve linked to his Facebook page at left.
Presently, the vast Shasta Cascade region of northeast California is near peak, with the last of peak moving north through the northern Sierra into the southern Cascades.
Shasta county (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – Riparian areas beside the Sacramento River seen from I-5 and urban forests in Redding and Anderson are at full peak with black oak, cottonwood and willows colored yellow, orange and red. GO NOW!
Plumas County (Peak 75-100%) Plumas County continues at peak. Bigleaf maple are dropping huge yellow leaves in the Indian Valley. The Road to the Round Valley Reservoir is flanked by trees covered with yellow and orange oak and maple leaves. Indian Rhubarb are losing their red-orange intensity, though the North Fork of the Feather River is now being drapes with yellow. You’ll find color along the Arlington Road, near the Hideaway Motel in Quincy, surrounding Greenville and along the Round Valley Road. GO NOW!
Tehama County (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – Tehama is forecast to peak this or next week. Many of the cottonwoods flanking the Sacramento River are heavy with gorgeous yellow- orange leaves. GO NOW!
Butte County (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – Downtown Chico, the CSU Chico campus, Paradise, orchards along CA-99 and Bidwell Park are the places to find the most color in Butte County. A favorite mid-November road trip is to Chico for lunch at the Sierra Nevada Brewery Restaurant (top rate), a tour of the brewery, fall color viewing in Chico and at Bidwell Park, visits to Orient and Flume Art Glass and Chico’s many exceptional art galleries. GO NOW!
Modoc County (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – The Modoc people called this land at the extreme northeast corner of California, “The Smiles of God,” for its beauty and bounty. In autumn, Modoc National Forest is where people head to see its fall color and majesty. The forest is renowned for its western juniper – the largest unbroken expanse in the world, though it also has mountain mahogany, white-barked quaking aspen and purple sage that in autumn provide beautiful color. More than 300 species of wildlife pass through the region including many migratory waterfowl, Rocky Mountain elk, wild horses, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope. Peak is about to occur and should last almost to Thanksgiving Day. GO NOW!
Trinity County (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – Quite a bit of change has occurred in the past week with the Trinity River now brightly colored with yellow bigleaf maple, chartreuse wild cucumber and orange black oak surrounding Weaverville and along CA-299. GO NOW!
Lassen County (Peak 75 – 100%) – Fall Color has about another week to show in the Susanville area and Bizz Johnson trail, Mountain Meadows Reservoir and northeastern Lake Almanor are exploding with fall color. GO NOW!
Siskiyou County (Peak 75 – 100%) –Siskiyou County peaked last week and is now moving toward past peak. Beautiful color is found in Dunsmuir, Mt. Shasta, Weed and McCloud from both native and exotic trees. GO NOW!