“Crazy Good” is how color spotter Jared Smith of Parchers Resort describes fall color conditions between 7,500 and 8,500’ elevation this week. Though, above 8,500’, if you weren’t there this past weekend, you missed one of the most spectacular shows of fall color, ever.
The upper reaches of Bishop Creek Canyon have now dropped much of their leaves, though a few areas still have very beautiful, but also very fragile color.
Peak has moved down to areas like the lower Bishop Creek Canyon, June Lake Loop, Hope Valley and Lake Tahoe.
What we’ve noticed to be consistent this autumn is that once color begins to change at a given elevation, it happens quickly. We had some areas as Just Starting last week, but within days they progressed to full peak.
EASTERN SIERRA – BISHOP CREEK CANYON
Overall Conditions Above 8,500′ Elevation – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
Jared Smith from Parchers Resort reports that this past week was incredible for fall color, especially last weekend which exhibited an absolute peak at North Lake and Lake Sabrina. An impressive number of weekend visitors traveled to Bishop Creek Canyon for the show. Several areas above 8,500’ still have color yet to develop, though many trees have now lost their leaves.
Because some of the more popular locations in the higher reaches of the canyon like Weir Pond, North Lake and Surveyor’s Meadows were better a week ago, Jared has rated them as Past Peak. Still, there are still lots of postcard quality views above 8,500’ on both sides of the canyon, most notably the groves near and above Parchers Resort, the North Lake Road, the old road between Willow Campground and Parchers, and the Cardinal Mine area which are still at peak color.
Even as much of the color on the mountain slopes has faded or is fading, the aspen along South Lake Road, and both the middle and south forks of Bishop Creek have exploded into full color making for an incredibly scenic drive.
Overall Conditions Between 7,500’ and 8,500′ Elevation – Patchy (10 – 50%)
The difference between this week and last was stunning, especially between the 8,000’ and 8,500’ elevation, where last week’s lime green and patchy yellow turned to brilliant yellow and orange with touches of rosy red.
Jared says it was wonderful to see that for each location passing the peak color mark, a new area in the canyon seemed to turn brilliant and show peak or near peak color to replace it.
Some of the more famous views in the canyon, including Mist Falls and the view up canyon from Aspendell are now showing peak color providing visiting photographers and painters with as much fall color as they could possibly need to inspire their artistic spirit.
With a favorable forecast through the weekend, we’re expecting one more week of crazy good color to enjoy. Jared rates the overall conditions in this elevation range right at 75% of peak. Here’s Jared Smith’s report:
Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Weir Pond (9,650′)
The canyon wall above the pond is pretty well stripped of color now and even the aspen behind the pond have faded. There are still some brilliant aspen in full fall splendor along either side of South Lake Road but this location certainly isn’t as beautiful as it was last week at this time.
GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Parchers Camp (9,260′)
Somehow the color around the resort has really held on strong with lots of peak color, mostly yellow and orange, especially on the mountainside to the north of the resort. Some gorgeous old growth aspen behind the resort and along Green Creek are showing some of the brightest and purest yellows in the canyon making for some wonderful forest views. Also noteworthy is the old road along the So. Fork Bishop Creek that flows between the resort and Willow Campground. The sheer granite cliffs have some awesome red shrubbery adding a unique contrast to some of the yellow aspen clinging to the rock. There are also some tremendously large trees which provide a rather awe inspiring canopy to those who wander down from Parchers or up from Willow.
Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Willow Campground (9,000′)
The aspen along the road around the campground, and to a large degree the aspen within the campground, have past their peak and begun to lose their leaves for the season. Still, some excellent opportunities for color can be found by parking on the shoulder or in front of the gate to the campground and walking up the old road. Some gorgeous yellow and rosy red groves can be found just above the campground and the slow moving stream in this area makes for some gorgeous reflections if you can find the right angle and light. This area is no longer on the must-see list, but it’s certainly worth a stop and on the should-see list.
Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Lake Sabrina (9,150′)
As incredibly gorgeous as the color still is at Lake Sabrina, the peak color around the reservoir was probably late last week, at least to Jared’s eye. Much of the color has faded or disappeared altogether from the east shore with the best color, especially some seriously bright orange and touches of red, near the back of the lake and all along the inlet stream at the very south end of the lake. The first pond just below the dam and the road from there up to the boat landing is an area that is still showing peak color, and in my opinion is still a must-see for anyone visiting the canyon.
Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Sabrina Campground (9,000′)
There is still some color hanging around in the campground and along Hwy 168 above the campground but this area was certainly better late last week than what we’re seeing now. Many of the trees have already shed their leaves and most of the yellow aspen are exhibiting some brown spotting, a sure sign that the leaves won’t be around much longer. There are still some wonderful views along the slow meandering stream but it will probably be over by week’s end.
Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Table Mountain Camp (8,900′)
The groves just below the campground are now mostly kaput but some exceptional color can still be found by walking into the campground itself. The forest floor is littered with soft yellow aspen leaves and the groves across the meadow to the south are still brilliant and just now peaking so there are at least a few great shots to be taken here, even if the color is past peak.
Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Surveyors Meadow (8,975’)
There is still a lot of color in this area but even so, its past peak. The group of about 20 painters hit the peak on Saturday and we’ve seen a slight decline in the amount of color here each day since. Plenty of yellow and orange can still be viewed, especially along the stream just above the meadow. The aspen on the left side of the road are also showing peak color.
Patchy (10 – 50%) – Big Trees Campground (7,800’)
Nothing terribly impressive happening down below the South Lake turnoff yet but we’ll keep an eye on it.
Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – North Lake (9,255′)
North Lake is another must-see location even though it isn’t quite as amazing as it was last week. Especially impressive is the color along the north shore of the lake and along the dirt road. There is also quite a bit of color to the left of the road near the campground gate (which is now closed).
Patchy (10 – 50%) – Stiny Loop above Mt. Glen Camp (8,600′)
While there is one short stretch of stream where the aspens have dropped their leaves, the majority of the color between Mt. Glen Campground and the end of the Stiny Loop is simply gorgeous with lots of yellow and orange. This old dirt road is especially beautiful in the afternoon as the backlit aspen shimmer brilliantly.
GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350′)
It doesn’t get any better than what we’re seeing this week down near Mist Falls. The groves from Bishop Creek Lodge all the way up to Mt. Glen Campground are incredibly bright. There is a bit of lime green still yet to turn but for me this contrast of colors makes for an even better view. This week is the week if you want your own photo of this iconic waterfall.
GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Aspendell (8,400′)
While there is still some green hanging tough within the small community, there is near peak color both just above and below the homes making for some gorgeous views. This area is absolutely worth a stop when visiting the canyon.
GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550′)
The scrub aspen on the canyon wall just below Cardinal Pinnacle are mostly gone now but the most brilliant color and the densest groves of aspen are all along the middle fork Bishop Creek from just below Sabrina Campground all the way down past Cardinal Village Resort. This is one of Jared’s all-time favorite views in the Eastern Sierra and it just doesn’t look much better than it does right now.
Patchy (10 – 50%) – Four Jeffries (8,000′)
Some really nice color is developing along the So. Fork Bishop Creek in this area, especially between the campground and Bishop Creek Lodge. One stand of aspen is especially impressive showing some really bright red hues. Jared expects this area to peak in the next 7 days if the weather stays favorable.
GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Intake II (8,000′)
This is probably the best color Jared reports seeing at this small lake, especially between the upper campground and the lake. Some pretty impressive red is showing, along with bright yellow and some nice orange hues too. There is a sprinkling of green among the turning aspen making for some really cool reflection shots early in the morning.