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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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Lime, Yellow, Orange and Gone

Table Mountain Group Camp, S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/3/17) John Poimiroo

Bishop Creek Canyon is a mix of every level of peak, from Just Starting, to Patchy, to Near Peak, to Peak, to Past Peak, some occurring at the same location.

North Lake is a puzzle. It’s lime, yellow, orange and gone, all at the same place.

Peak color is near the lake with green aspen far above. We rate it Near Peak, though it’s peaking in areas, nowhere close in others and past peak, too.

Sabrina is topsy turvey. The higher you go, the less consistent the color is. Intake II (at the lowest elevation) is Near Peak, while Sabrina Approach (higher up) is Patchy.

Aspen at the center of the Groves Above Cardinal Village were past peak and surrounded by a ring of patchy, though mostly green aspen. Aspendell has hardly any color, though that’s not unusual. It’s often the last to peak.

We were there to sort it out and ran into dozens of color spotters and photographers who were shrugging their shoulders in confusion. Seeing me trying to find some color along a stream at Sabrina Approach, one photographer turned and said, “I did the same thing, and came to the same conclusion… not yet there. Still, I’m glad to be here.”

Those of us who were there this week, were certainly glad to be in Bishop Creek Canyon searching for fall color, as there were moments of breathtaking wonder.

Travel writer/photographer Lee Foster and I found it in a dazzling display along the South Lake Road. From Parchers down to the Mist Falls at Mountain Glen the hillsides are lit with pink, orange, yellow and lime aspen.

While several of South Lake’s groves could technically be rated as “Patchy,” Oh!, how beautiful they are in the midday sun. No one photographing them was disappointed. That’s why it gets rated as peaking. GO NOW!

Southern Inyo County

  • Whitney Portal (8,374’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Onion Valley (9,600’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Big Pine Creek (7,660’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery (4,000’) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Alabama Hills (4,534’) – Just Starting (0-10%)

South Lake

  • Weir Pond (9,650’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Parchers Resort(9,260′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Willow Campground (9,000’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Table Mountain Group Camp (8,900’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Surveyors Meadow (8,975’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Mountain Glen (8,500′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Four Jeffrey Campground (8,000’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)

Sabrina Lake

  • Lake Sabrina (9,150′) – Patchy (10 – 50%) to Peak (75-100%)
  • Sabrina Approach (9,050′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Sabrina Campground (9,000’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550’) – Patchy (10 – 50%) 
  • Aspendell (8,400’) – Just Starting (0 – 10%)
  • Intake II (8,000’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Big Trees Campground (7,800’) – Just Starting (0 – 10%)

North Lake 

  • North Lake Road – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • North Lake (9,255’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Upper North Lake Road – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Round Valley/Pine Creek

  • Pine Creek Pack Station – Peak GO NOW! – A small grove of aspen is at peak near the trailhead and pack station.
  • Pine Creek Rd. – Patchy (10-50%) – The black and Fremont cottonwood along Pine Creek will be gorgeous when they peak.
  • Round Valley – Patchy (10-50%) – Landmark black cottonwood grow throughout the Round Valley, often near old weathered cabins. They are now crowned with yellow and will be beautiful at peak.
  • Lower Rock Creek Rd. – Patchy (10-50%)

Owens Valley/Bishop

  • Owens Valley – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Bishop – Just Starting (0-10%)

Here’s a fun gallery of snaps taken at various unidentified Bishop Creek Canyon locations.

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf


Surveyor’s Meadow – Near Peak to Peak

(South Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon – 10/3/17) Although there is lots of green along South Lake Road in Bishop Creek Canyon, the combination of full peak, near peak and patchy color at midday is spectacular and well worth the trip. GO NOW!


Mist Falls at Mountain Glen

(Mist Falls, Bishop Creek Canyon – 10/3/17) The color surrounding the Mist Falls and Mountain Glen is spectacular, particularly when backlit at midday. The mix of green, lime, yellow, orange and red provide a Near Peak palete along South Lake Rd. that is breathtaking.


Unsynchronized North Lake

(North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon – 10/3/17) – Here’s a report from Bishop Creek Canyon, recorded today.

North Lake and Sabrina Lake are Near Peak, though with large areas of Patchy color. South Lake has Peak color and is glorious!

Please note: This autumn is very different in Bishop Creek Canyon from previous ones in that the color is not synchronized. Groves in the same area are at all stages, from Just Starting to Past Peak.

So, if you delay visiting, you’re likely to miss it all, as no one area is going to peak all at once this year.  Only South Lake has that potential, but even the green among the groves is spectacular, there. Expect to see bare limbs near brilliant color, beside green trees.

Bottom Line… GO NOW!


Spot Report: Bishop Creek Canyon

Reports just received (text and email) from Inyo County indicate that fall color is moving from just starting to patchy at the highest elevations in Bishop Creek Canyon.

No photos have been supplied, but expect to see spotty splashes of yellow among otherwise green to lime aspen above 9,000′.

Locals anticipate it moving quickly from patchy to near peak next week.

Bishop Creek Canyon (8,000′ – 9,768′) – Just Starting to Patchy – Splashes of yellow are emerging above 9,000′



We’re Back Up and Rolling!

Hot car + hot color at Bishop Creek Canyon on (10/2/16) = a hot photo by Elliot McGucken

Hot car + hot color at Bishop Creek Canyon on (10/2/16) = a hot photo by Daniel Stas

So sorry for the delay in posting.  The readers of are so fanatical about seeing the best fall color that high traffic crashed our site for nearly 24 hours.

Whew! As soon as I can, I’ll be posting photos again.  In the mean time, here’s a sugarplum of a shot taken this past week in Bishop Creek Canyon by Daniel Stas.

Keep those cards, letters, and fall color photos coming in to We love hearing from you and sharing what you’ve seen.

Elliot McGucken Captures Glory


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

Full Peak Above 9,000′ – GO NOW!

Sabrina Approach (9/30/16) Kevin Lennox

Sabrina Approach (9/30/16) Kevin Lennox

It’s peaking at the highest elevations in Bishop Creek Canyon (Inyo County) and that has color spotters wondering if autumn is arriving early. Actually, it’s right on time.

It always seems early when areas above 9,000′ in the Eastern Sierra peak in September, but that’s actually quite normal. Lake Sabrina, South Lake and North Lake often peak before October.

Kevin Lennox, a color spotter from Pasadena, was there today and assessed North Lake as Past Peak. Here’s what you’re likely to see this weekend:

Overall Conditions Above 8,500’ – Peak (75-100%) – It’s time to head to Bishop Creek Canyon to see high areas of the canyon at peak. All the highest areas are peaking, some are being reported as approaching Past Peak.

Overall Conditions Between 7,500’ and 8,500’ – Just Starting (0%-10%) to Patchy (10-50%) – Most of the lower canyon is still just starting, though areas between 8,000 and 8,500 are still patchy or just starting at the lowest elevations.

Weir Pond (9,650’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The canyon wall above the pond are peaking with yellow and some orange. Aspen around the pond’s shoreline are now more yellow than lime.

Parchers Resort (9,260’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The canyon walls to the east and west of the resort are brightly painted with yellow, orange and rose, as are many of the aspen on the resort grounds.

Willow Campground (9,000’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – This area has really developed in the past week with yellow filling in. Views up canyon from the campground are beautiful but the campground and the aspen lining the road and the beaver pond are a mix of lime and fresh yellow.

Table Mountain Camp (8,900’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The mountainside just down canyon from the campground is covered with brilliant yellow and a touch of orange. The aspen along the creek are now filling in with lime and yellow.

Surveyors Meadow (8,975’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – Surveyor’s meadow is gorgeous, though there are still many more stands to turn. This area should remain at peak for two weeks (conditions permitting).

Lake Sabrina (9,150’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – Lots of orange color can be seen at the lake along the back slopes that descend to the lake and along the eastern shoreline. The highest color will likely not last another week.

Sabrina Approach (9,100’) – Peak (75-100%) – The approach to Sabrina and the small ponds below the dam are full of bright orange and yellow aspen.

Sabrina Campground Area (9,000’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The aspen along Hwy 168 are going off in a big way right now and are at peak.

North Lake (9,255’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The approach to the lake and the groves on the mountainside above the lake are now at low peak color. More yellow is appearing along the road, though it will be another week to full peak on North Lake Road.

Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350’) – Patchy (10-50%) – Yellow is filling in.

Aspendell (8,400’) – Just Starting (0 – 10%) Cold nights have pushed the color, with a lot more yellow appearing in this neighborhood.

Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The canyon slope from above Cardinal Village up to Cardinal Pinnacle is at peak. More lime and yellow are now showing near the middle fork of Bishop Creek and surrounding Cardinal Village; give it another week for peak color there.

Four Jeffries (8,000’) – Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Still scattered yellow branches.

Intake II (8,000’) – Patchy – (10 – 50%) – Lime and yellow, scrub aspen on the hillside have turned.

Big Trees Campground (7,800’) – Just Starting – (0 – 10%) – Still green


Weekend Geography Assignment: Bishop Creek

Surveyor's Meadow, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/23/16) Robert Provin

Surveyor’s Meadow, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/23/16) Robert Provin

Robert Provin knows his geography. He ought to.  As, he works in the Department of Geography at Cal State Northridge.

This weekend, Robert knew just where to go to find fall color… the Eastern Sierra.

He found it to be Near Peak along South Lake Road and at Lake Sabrina in Bishop Creek Canyon (west of Bishop). Robert has promised to return in a couple of weeks, “to see how things have progressed.”

Quaking Aspen, Sabrina Approach (9/23/16) Robert Provin

Quaking Aspen, Sabrina Approach (9/23/16) Robert Provin

Quaking Aspen, South Fork, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/23/16) Robert Provin

Quaking Aspen, South Fork, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/23/16) Robert Provin

Quaking Aspen, South Fork, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/23/16) Robert Provin

Quaking Aspen, South Fork, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/23/16) Robert Provin