California Fall Color
Dude, autumn happens here, too.

Posts Tagged ‘Autumn’

Sierra Primed For Fall

Mon ,26/06/2017

North Lake (6/26/17) Alena Nicholas

Summer has just begun, but all indications are that the Sierra Nevada are now primed for a spectacular autumn.

Convict Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Virginia Lakes (6/17) Alena Nicholas

South Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

South Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

June Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

June Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Gull Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas




















Alena Nicholas spent the past week touring the east and west sides of the central Sierra, returning with these beautiful images. She said all the lakes were “pretty much full to capacity” with locals reporting the lakes are as high as they can remember them ever being. Even Grant Lake (in Mono County near June Lake) is full. Alena says the last time she saw it, it was not much more than a stream of water.

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Creeks have become mini rivers in places where Alena waded, previously. Now, they’re so full its too unsafe to enter them.

Quaking Aspen (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

North Lake Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas








The aspen I’ve seen on springtime trips into the Sierra, and those which Alena captured, are healthy and green with no indication of black spot fungus. Though she also noted several aspen whose branches have been bent or snapped branches from heavy snows. This is particularly evident “along Silver Lake, and up below Sabrina Lake” where “a few of the Aspens seemed to have lost their leaves,” perhaps from broken branches.

Bishop Creek Meadow (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Western Blue Flag iris, Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Gull Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Western Tiger Swallowtail and willow (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Mule Deer, Rush Creek Meadows (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Mule Deer, Rush Creek Meadows (6/17) Alena Nicholas














Alena reports meadows as being lush green and full of wildflowers and wildlife. At higher elevations, like Virginia Lakes, there’s still a good amount of snow melting with waterfalls everywhere. I returned from the east coast this past week, flying over the snowcapped Sierra which looked more like they do in March, than June.

Mono Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

What does this all mean for fall color spotters, leaf peepers and photographers? In past years when there’s been a lot of water, the autumn show seems to start slightly later (a few days to a week) and last longer. That’s because the leaves are healthier and less likely to dry out and drop sooner.

As for the intensity of the color, that all depends on autumn weather.  As, once days begin to shorten and trees stop producing chlorophyll, as long as the days remain warm and the nights cold (clear skies), autumn color should be intense and vibrant.

Until then, let’s enjoy California’s 8-month spring (wildflowers began appearing in the Deserts in February and continue to bloom at increasingly higher elevations through September).

Bishop Creek – Getting Past Peak, But Lots to Enjoy

Thu ,06/10/2016
Groves at Cardinal Village, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Groves at Cardinal Village, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

A lot changed this week which we were unable to report, due to “technical difficulties.” Fundamentally, high areas of the canyon were at peak on Friday, then conditions deteriorated with North Lake – in particular – taking the biggest hit.  Wind stripped the beautiful color on Saturday and it was gone by Sunday.

We weren’t sure, until we’d received confirming reports from several spotters, as some of our very reliable spotters up the canyon were unable to report. Now, I know you all want to know:

Q. “What does this mean for fall color viewing and photography?”

A. Peak color can be seen at many, many areas of Bishop Creek Canyon and throughout the Eastern Sierra. More areas will peak in coming days. So, despite that several favorite areas have peaked, the show isn’t over.  Far from it.

Please be mindful, however, of where it’s peaking and avoid fruitless trips to places where it has already peaked. You missed it, there.

In a nutshell, here’s where to go and where not near Bishop, Calif.

North Lake Road, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

North Lake Road, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

General Conditions – Bishop Creek Canyon

  • Above 9000’ – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!
  • 8,000’ and 9,000’ – Near Peak (50-75%) to Peak (75-100%)
  • 7,000’ to 8,000’ – Patchy (10-50%)

Weir Pond (9,650’) – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!

Sabrina Lake, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Sabrina Lake, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Sabrina Campground Area (9,000’) – Peak ( 75-100%) to Past Peak GO NOW! or YOU MISSED IT!  – The aspen along Hwy 168 are now past peak, however aspen within the campground itself and along the stream are still peaking.

Parchers Resort (9,260’) – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – The canyon walls to the east and west of the resort are now past peak.

Willow Campground (9,000’) – Peak to Past Peak YOU ALMOST MISSED IT! – The campground and the aspen lining the road and the beaver pond are still holding their peak color, though many have peaked.

Table Mountain Camp (8,900’) – Peak to Past Peak YOU ALMOST MISSED IT! – The mountainside down canyon from the campground is now past peak, though aspen along the creek are peaking.

Surveyors Meadow (8,975’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Surveyor’s meadow is now a mix of peaking and past peak stands. Give it another week of peak color here.

Lake Sabrina (9,150’) – Peak (75-100%) to Past Peak YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!  

Sabrina Approach, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Sabrina Approach, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Sabrina Approach (9,100’) – Near Peak (50-75%) – The approach to Sabrina and the small ponds below the dam are peaking.

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

North Lake (9,255’) – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!

North Lake Road – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!

Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – Absolutely beautiful. This area has a week or two left of peak color.

Aspendell (8,400’) – Patchy (10-50%) Aspendell is often one of the last areas of Bishop Creek Canyon to change.  This area has many stands of lush aspen in it.

Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The canyon slope from above Cardinal Village up to Cardinal Pinnacle is losing its peak color, though areas near the middle fork of Bishop Creek and surrounding Cardinal Village are peaking.

Four Jeffries (8,000’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)  – More yellow is appearing.

Intake II (8,000’) – Near Peak (50-75%) – Lovely right now!

Big Trees Campground (7,800’) – Patchy – (10 – 50%) – Yellow is now showing among the aspen.

Round Valley – Patchy (10-50%) – Gigi deJong reports that the Round Valley, northwest of Bishop, is carpeted with brilliant cadmium yellow rabbitbrush, providing a spectacular scene, particularly in morning light. Cottonwood along Pine Creek are a mix of developing gold and lime.

Elliot McGucken Captures Glory

Sun ,02/10/2016


North Lake (9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

North Lake (9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

Photographer Elliot McGucken knew to GO NOW! and traveled to Bishop Creek Canyon over the past few days to capture these glorious images of the canyon at peak color.

If you’ve done similarly, email your best photos to:

We’ll post them for those to enjoy who can’t GO NOW!.

North Lake (9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

Surveyor’s Meadow 9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

Table Mountain (9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

Surveyor’s Meadow, Bishop Creek (9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/16) Elliot McGucken

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/16) Elliot McGucken

South Fork, Bishop Creek (10/1/16) Elliot McGucken

South Fork, Bishop Creek (10/1/16) Elliot McGucken

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/16) Elliot McGucken

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/16) Elliot McGucken

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/16) Elliot McGucken

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/16) Elliot McGucken

When Should I Go?

Fri ,30/09/2016
Laurel Canyon, Mono County (9/28/16) Josh Wray

Laurel Canyon, Mono County (9/28/16) Josh Wray

“When should I go?” is the most common question we receive.

“Go Now!” is our response. Don’t put off visiting an area if it is Near Peak or, certainly, at Peak. As, when a location is peaking it only has two weeks – at most – of peak color to be seen at that elevation.

Each photo posted on this site, identifies when and where it was taken. We try to post photos not older than a week. What you see in a photo will be different by the time you get there.

Above, Josh Wray captured yellow and lime aspen leaves on his hike up Laurel Canyon, near Mammoth, this week.  Today, many of those green leaves have turned to lime, the lime leaves to yellow, and some of the yellow leaves have fallen.

If you want to see a specific area at peak, go to “Categories” on the left side of this site and click on the region you plan to visit.  Then, scroll back in time to see where it was peaking and when in the past.

If you can only travel on a given date, click on “Archives” on the left side of this site and scroll back in time to see what was peaking.  Then, go there.

If you want to see reports for specific locations (e.g., Laurel Canyon), enter the location in the Search bar above the map.

But mostly, GO NOW!

DogTrekking in the Vineyards

Wed ,28/09/2016 is the of traveling with dogs in California.

So, it was a satisfying bone to chew, reading this week’s number about autumn treks to wine country with man’s best friend.

The issue describes what to expect on visits to Mendocino County, the Suisun Valley and Vacaville, the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, setting readers up for great trips to California’s best wines and fall color in the vineyards.

CLICK HERE to read Dogtrekker’s report on spending autumn days in the vineyards with Fido.

Autumn Arrives

Thu ,22/09/2016


The autumnal equinox marks the official change of seasons today, though fall color has been reported since August.

That does not mean an earlier autumn. The change of seasons is fairly consistent in California.

Last year, peak was first reported on Sept. 24, this year on Sept. 21. OK, we reported peak three days earlier, but that may have been more a result of who reported what, than that peak was actually earlier. It could have peaked earlier last year, we just didn’t get a report documenting it.

What is consistent is that peak usually occurs within a week of what occurred historically. That means, though you may see one area being reported as peaking, other nearby areas will peak soon thereafter.

We’ve received anxious questions about a given trail or area (news of the color at Lundy Lake has been hotly anticipated of late). If we’re not reporting an area that you want to visit, that’s because no one has sent a report about it, but it does not mean the area has or has not peaked.

We depend on reports submitted by volunteer color spotters and local tourism offices; they don’t always get to every location.

One way to estimate peak in a non-reported area is to follow reports from areas in the same region at similar elevations. The area you want to visit will likely be peaking about the same time as a reported area in the same region and at the same elevation.

#FirstDayofFall is trending on Twitter with over 152,000 tweets as of the posting of this blog. So, there’s high interest in the season and more reports are sure to follow.

If you’d like to be part of the trend, send photos and descriptions to

The Low Down on Down Low

Thu ,25/08/2016
Chinese pistache, Watsonville (8/21/16) Chuck Eads

Chinese pistache, Watsonville (8/21/16) Chuck Eads

For the past week and a half, we’ve received a flush of reports of near peak fall color appearing down low (Oakland, Berkeley, Watsonville, Salinas, San Diego), though spots of color have been reported up high, too (Eastern Sierra, San Bernardino Mountains).

So, what’s the low down on color that’s down low?

Almost all the early peak color seen at lower elevations so far (with the exception of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve in San Diego) has appeared on non-native trees, whereas native trees appear to be developing normally.

Every year, we get reports of trees with early color.  Often the trees happen to be exotics (non-native), like the liquidambar that LA Leaf Peeper reported as fringed with red in June.

Does this mean an earlier autumn? We suspect not. Early change is more likely a product of a particular environment, locale or specie, than it is a harbinger of an early autumn, statewide.

Our recommendation to see the best color is to plan travel to see fall color in California, as normally.  The best way to do this is to use this site as a research tool, by looking back at the area you want to visit (category) or date when you plan to visit (archives).

Notice when the color was at peak at a given location during the past five years, then pick an average date for past peaks, or find locations where it was peaking when you can travel and go there.

With either approach, your choice should be very close to peak color. And, that’s the low down on traveling to see the best fall color in California.

Near Peak (50-75%) – Watsonville Community Hospital (Go Now!)

California Fall Color Looks Back at 2015

Thu ,26/11/2015

On this Thanksgiving Day, is indebted to every color spotter and photographer who contributed photographs and reports in 2015.

They include (from first turned leaf reported): LA Leaf Peeper, Alicia Vennos, Jon Klusmire, Alena Nicholas, Trapper Felt, Carol Waller, Christine Osborne, Julie Yost, Crys Black, Nikhil Shahi, Misti Sullivan, Kevin Lennox, Ashley Hollgarth, Jen Heger, Kimberly Kolafa, Julie Kirby, Aditi Das, Jeff Hemming, Erick  Castellon, Shanda Ochs, Jackson Frishman, Cuong Diep, Maddie Noiseaux, Leor Pantilat, Lara Kaylor, Jeff Simpson, Clayton Peoples, Lisa Wilkerson-Willis, Phillip Reedy Ruth Hartman, Charles Porter, Greg Newbry, Elliott McGucken, Jared Smith, Dotty Molt, Sherry Gardner, Jill Dinsmore, Josh Wray, Mike Nellor, Ivan Alo, Pushkar Gejji, Mariusz Jeglinski, Gary Young, Patricia Costa, Lisa May, Laurie Baker, Shuo Li, Dylan Ren, Brian Patterson, David Olden, Gabriel Leete, Jeri Rangel, Jim Beaux, Cory Poole, Walter Gabler, Max Forster, Jim Adams, Jeff Luke Titcomb, Nancy Wright, Bonnie Nordby, Kathy Jonokuchi, Linnea Wahamaki, Sarah Showalter, Vera Haranto Fuad, Jas E Miner, Susan Taylor, Santhakumar V A, Darrell Sano, Frank McDonough, Anson Davalos, Sandy Steinman, Anirudh Natikar, Jennifer “JMel” Mellone and Ron Tyler, who produced the above video.

We’re also grateful to the many hundreds of readers who posted comments and photos to our Facebook page and retweeted our Twitter posts. If we missed thanking you here, please know it wasn’t intentional.  We we are indebted to every color spotter, photographer and commenter. Thank you all.

Additional thanks are expressed to Inyo County Tourism, Mono County Tourism, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau, Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association, and The California Parks Company for underwriting California Fall Color. And, to the many reporters and media who carried our reports and gave attention to what we have shown about California’s fall color.

This thank you list is incomplete without mentioning Joan, my wife, who has: humored my recording of color percentages, species and elevations; pointed out particularly beautiful color; and driven the car and pulled it over to the shoulder, at my whim, so that I could jump out to photograph a particularly beautiful location.

Of course, our deepest thanks go to the many tens of thousands of people who have followed and our Facebook and Twitter pages.  You are, after all, the reason we do this.

Autumn doesn’t end on Thanksgiving Day. It has 26 more days to go.  We’ll continue to post photos and reports as received and plan a Special Report on San Diego County. Though today, we begin to dial back our reports, posting them less frequently. We also stop sending weekly reports to California TV meteorologists, travel and outdoor writers.

So, enjoy Thanksgiving Day, and we’ll see you next autumn, dude.

California (Peak 75-100%) – In our hearts, California is always peaking. GO NOW!

Seeing From A New Perspective

Mon ,02/11/2015
Little Walker Lake (10/19/14) Alicia Vennos

Little Walker Lake (10/19/14) Alicia Vennos

“This could be the best fall ever. Why not?,” Los Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine poses, while musing over whether a splash of leftover coffee in his onions made them better.

His random tome challenges us to see life from a new perspective, and that autumn is the season that forces introspection.  CLICK HERE to read his column.

First Report: Ebbett’s Pass

Wed ,07/10/2015
Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kolafa

I can’t recall when we’ve received a report on the fall color at Ebbett’s Pass, but today we correct that with one from color spotter Kimberly Kolafa.

Kimberly apologized for not having sent photos until this week, as she was in Maine backpacking amidst fall color “that never happened!” Un, huh, and…

Well, we have our own dismal story here, as most observers are noting that the drought has “really impacted leaf peeping,” so we quoteth Ms.Kolafa.

The drought is making it very difficult to rate an area, as aspen (such is the case with Carson Pass) may be stripped, while willows and ground shrubs are still Patchy but developing beautiful color.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. — Henry David Thoreau

If you’re driving this route, look for interesting subjects to contrast what color is there, as Kimberly did, while turning rotten apples into sweet-tasting apple cider (couldn’t pass up the autumnal metaphor).

Chalmer's Mansion, Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Chalmer’s Mansion, Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kolafa

She found the Chalmers Mansion and Cemetery, edged with bright color and came away with this story to complement her image.

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kolafa

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kolafa

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Lewis Chalmers was superintendent of a mine in the Silver Mountain mining district (1870s – ’80s).  He and his brother had emigrated from Scotland; he returned to Britain in 1885 to raise funds for his mining operations and died there in 1904. Several of his family are buried near the mansion.

Photos like Kimberly’s shot of Chalmer’s Mansion could make up for the lack of color, in some locations, this autumn.

Editor’s Note: Please read the following comment about Hwy 4. This beautiful and historic route could use a little TLC, right now.  As, recent events (the Butte Fire, in particular) hurt the local economy and folks who live along the route would welcome seeing photographers, leaf peepers and all who appreciate beautiful places visit their communities and spread the word that the beauty and history are still there.  Favorites of ours are Ironstone Vineyards (Japanese maples in autumn, daffodils in springtime) in Murphy’s and Calaveras Big Trees State Park up the highway, where dogwood are getting good.  Bonnie Nordby suggests a particularly photogenic location. Our arms reach out to Brad Nordby’s family which lost their home during the fire.  Autumn is a reminder that what is lost always returns.

Patchy (10-50%) Ebbett’s Pass (Hwy 4) Shrubs – Grasses are yellow with green undergrowth and shrubs are yellow to maroon red along Silver Creek.

Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – Ebbett’s Pass Trees – Like Carson Pass and the Hope Valley, most of the aspen have lost their leaves, though again similar to these areas, there are patches of aspen and cottonwood that remain green or are changing to lime and yellow.

Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – Monitor Pass.

Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – Taylor Creek, South Lake Tahoe – Aspen are past peak, but there’s hope for a good salmon run, as the creek appears to be running better than past years.