Coloring Up in the Shasta Cascade, Yosemite Valley 50%

30 – 50% – Butte County

Butte County’s trees are changing fast now.  The vibrant reds are out and the luscious golds are starting to pop.  The leaves are still on the trees and the color change is at 30%, more in the higher elevations of the Paradise/Magalia area.  Colors will intensify with the cold weather.

15 – 30% – Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Based on reports from park rangers, the area around Whiskeytown Lake NRA isn’t showing significant color change; it is still about 15%.  The Chinese pistachios are showing a little color in the visitor center parking lot but others, like the liquid amber, are not showing any color.  With consistent cold weather, colors should start to change more quickly.

75 – 100% – Burney Falls State Park

There have been lots of changes in the trees up at Burney Falls in the last couple of weeks.  A California State Park ranger there reported the forest to be peaking with colors just beginning to fade.

75 – 100% – Lassen Volcanic National Park

Colors are at peak in the national park.  Cottonwoods & willows are in full color at Manzanita Lake with buff to yellow, but this past week’s storm did eliminate some of the color at Hat Creek.

Past Peak – Lassen National Forest

There is noticeable change throughout the forest.  Colors have peaked with many trees past peak, though there is still beautiful and dramatic color in protected areas such as Bogard Campground.

75 – 100% Modoc National Forest

The Warner Mountains are in 60-80% color change.  The aspens are a beautiful yellow.

Past Peak – Siskiyou County

The colors are past peak, although there is still some beautiful color in the town of Mt. Shasta.

75 – 100% – Trinity County

Many aspen, apple, pear & mulberry are showing their red and yellow fall colors.  To see the best color take the loop from Highway 3 to Trinity Dam Blvd, past Trinity & Lewiston Lakes & south to Highway 299.

75-100% – Plumas County

Abundant fall colors are at 100% in Plumas County with lots of variety!  Plumas County at the northern Sierra Nevada is always a good choice for varied color.

Dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/28/10) - Rob Bohning

50 – 75% – Yosemite Valley

Rob Bohning provides this lovely photograph of dogwood glowing rose in Yosemite Valley.  Rob says the dogwood are at about 50% of color.  Yosemite Valley often shows the best fall color in late October to early November, although the sugar maple by the chapel turns first.  This year’s display was a bit muted, Rob suggested, again hinting that the show is running late this year… a phenomenon seen across California in 2010.

15-30% – Sacramento

Travel writer Barbara Steinberg says the cooling hint of fall has taken hold of her city with beautfiful color now beginning to appear in its urban forest.

15 – 30% – Sierra Foothills (West Slope)

Latrobe Road (El Dorado County) has the first flecks of yellow.  As you head along CA-49, CA-16 and CA-124, the color is just beginning to appear

Getting Philosophical

Yosemite Falls, Autumn (file photograph) - John Poimiroo

After a big storm (and we had one yesterday), color spotters get a bit philosophical.  Plumas County’s black oak naturalist, Joe Willis blogged yesterday that the storm had discouraged taking pictures until he noticed the leaves knocked down by the rain and found beauty in them.  He continued, “we might not have a real peak this year. The unusual sequence of rain and temperature patterns seem to have made for a very uneven and unpredictable [although I did predict this in an early September post!] season for viewing fall colors. Some species of maple have turned bright red and are already losing leaves while just a few blocks away the same species of trees is still green. Some maples are turning yellow then falling, skipping the red period altogether.”

What I’ve seen over the years is that while rain, snow and wind do reduce the number of or damage leaves that have already turned color, they seem not to have much effect on leaves that haven’t yet turned from green to lime.  What’s interesting about this year is that the color change has been late this fall and until late Saturday and Sunday, we’d had very little rain throughout California this autumn, providing for ideal color.  The photos taken by Rob Bohning a week earlier in the Eastern Sierra attest to that.  Of course, much of that color has been blown off branches by yesterday’s strong winds, but below 7,000′ there’s still lots of color yet to develop.

Photographer Michael Frye was reporting in his blog three days ago that in Yosemite Valley (5,000 ft) 50% of the bigleaf maple have turned and only 20% of the dogwood and cottonwood, which means there’s still lots of color yet to show.  One of my favorite colors of autumn are the bright orange leaves and dark branches of the black oaks of Yosemite National Park, as they’re so reminiscent of Halloween.  These trees are particularly beautiful when framing a waterfall and with yesterday’s storms, Yosemite’s waterfalls should be flowing again for that kind of photo.  Another popular photograph is of Fern Spring, the smallest waterfall in Yosemite Valley.  In its dark reflective waters, colorful maple leaves gather for a classic shot.

Fern Spring (file photograph) - John Poimiroo

Past Peak – Above 8,000 ft.

75-100% – High Sierra below 7,000 ft.  There’s still lots of color in the canyons among aspen that had not yet turned color.  If you base your trips of the East Side in Bishop, be sure to visit Mountain Light, Galen and Barbara Rowell’s visually motivating photographic gallery.

30-50% – This week through Wednesday and coming weekend should be good times to head to Yosemite, though it is predicted to rain on Thursday and Friday.

30-50% – Another good choice for weekend adventures would be a tour of the Shasta Cascade, including a loop from Redding to Weaverville on CA-299, or to Lassen Volcanic National Park on CA-44, then north on CA 89 toward Mt. Shasta, past McCloud before returning to your base in Redding.  For those planing to drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park, the Lassen Park Road closes intermittently when storms pass through.  Closures can exist from the Devastated Area at the north to the Sulphur Works to the south, meaning that you can no longer drive entirely through the park when it’s snowing on Lassen Peak, but in areas you can drive there remain nice stands of aspen showing yellow.  Though, there’s no telling how long that will last.

30-50% – Vineyards are glowing yellow with flares of red and orange.  Head to the Napa Valley, Sonoma County and the Sierra Foothills for a bit of wine tasting mixed with leaf peeping.

15-30% – Color is also beginning to show in our urban forests.  Sacramento, San Francisco and Chico have beautiful displays of color, particularly in their great parks (Land Park, Golden Gate and Bidwell).  So, don’t get to philosophical about one storm.  Grab your camera, your sweetheart and the wheel and see the color in places where it’s at its best… after all, California is a big state!

Thanks for the Memories

June Lake Loop (10/17/10) - Rob Bohning

Weekend reports have not yet been received from our color spotters, so it’s too early to state with authority how this past weekend’s storms affected fall color.  In past years when winds in excess of 45 mph swept the state, leaves that had turned color were knocked from the trees.  That probably occurred this past weekend, as in some places winds as high as 100 mph were predicted to have blown across the High Sierra.

In advance of receiving our reports, let’s give thanks for one of California’s best fall color seasons so far… with a full month of great color, as evidenced by these great shots taken by Rob Bohning in the Eastern Sierra last weekend.  Rob followed our advice and got to the East Side when the going was good.  Here’s what he found:

Photo Credit: © 2010, Rob Bohning

June Lake Loop (10/17/10) - Rob Bohning

Convict Lake (10/16/10) - Rob Bohning

Convict Lake (10/16/10) - Rob Bohning

Convict Lake (10/16/10) - Rob Bohning

Mono Lake Sunrise (10/16/10) - Rob Bohning

June Lake Loop, Silver Lakes (10/17/10) - Rob Bohning

Eastern Sierra Spectacle

This past week, I’ve been in South Florida.  With the time zone difference, work obligations here and difficulty picking up photos on my laptop, I’ve been remiss in not forwarding the great reports received from color spotters, though I did spot a burgundy Swamp Maple seen while canoeing the Turner River through the Big Cypress National Preserve.  Yes, the maples turn color in South Florida in October.

While I was exploring South Florida and the Keys, photographer Rob Bohning sent some of his truly spectacular shots taken last weekend in the Eastern Sierra.  I plan to post more of them after returning to my office, this weekend.  And, just posted (see below) is a report from Ben Carlson of Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco on the appearance of yellow among the gingkos of SF.

Unfortunately, the weather outlook is stormy for the weekend and early next week.  That could damage color.  I say “could” because many times in past years, a storm has passed through with only moderate effect.  It really depends on how many of the leaves are green when the storm occurs.

I suspect, however, that the beautiful color above 8,000 ft (reported by Parchers Resort below and to be shown in Rob’s great photos – to come, I promise) will be gone by Wednesday of the coming week.  Meaning that between 7,000 and 8,000 fall color will be reduced greatly.  Of course, that’s just a prediction and much can change.  We’ll just have to wait until next week to hear what California’s Fall Color spotters report.

Here’s what Jared Smith and the folks at Parchers Resort reported this past week: The fall color above the 9000ft level is waning but there are still plenty of spots that are amazing at that elevation. The highlight of the canyon right now though is the foliage between the 8000ft and 9000ft level which is simply spectacular. There is a lot of yellow, orange and some red showing, especially along South Lake Road. This will be our last fall color report of the season now that Parchers Resort is closed for the winter but weather permitting, there will be a few weeks more of gorgeous fall color in the Bishop Creek area.

All Photographs Copyright 2010 by Jared Smith, or courtesy of Parchers Resort staffer Krisdina Karady.

Aspen - Table Mountain (10/19/10) - Jared Smith

Table Mountain Campground – Elevation 8900ft

Past Peak – But still awesome!  Even though there are some trees shedding their leaves, there are a lot of trees just now coming into full color. There are some amazing views here still.

Mountain Glen (10/19/10) - Jared Smith

Mountain Glen Campground

75-100% – This spot is simply breathtaking right now with a great mix of yellow, orange, red and green. Huge trees add to the grandeur of these groves.

The Famous Mist Falls on South Fork Bishop Creek

75-100% – It’s go time for photographers wanting to capture one of the most spectacular landmarks in the Bishop Creek Canyon. Vibrant yellow surrounds the waterfall on all sides – quite a sight to behold.

Four Jeffrey Camp Groves

75-100% – This is a pretty large area along the So. Fork Bishop creek so while some of the aspen is in full color, including some spectacular patches of red above the campground, other sections have green still showing. Great opportunity for color sighting and photographing here right now.

Willow Camp – Elevation 9065 ft

Past Peak – But still awesome! The best has come and gone near Willow but there are still plenty of trees in full color right now, especially right above the campground and along the old road between Parchers & Willow camp. This area is really hanging tough as far as color goes.

South Lake – Elevation 9768 ft

Past Peak

Weir Pond – Elevation 9592 ft

Past Peak – Beautiful aspens can still be found along the pond but the best views are over. Still worth a stop if you’re in the canyon though.

Parchers Camp – Elevation 9260 ft

Past Peak – The hills to the south, west and east are past peak but the aspens down stream towards Willow Camp are spectacular, as is the color on the hill due north of the resort.

North Lake – Elevation 9255ft

No Report

Lake Sabrina – Elevation 9150 ft

No Report

Sabrina Camp Groves – Elevation 9000 ft

Past Peak – The Sabrina camp grove is a goner for this season.

Surveyor’s Meadow

Past Peak –  A few great spots of color, but it’s fading about as fast as the color is popping lower in the canyon.

Aspendell – 8500ft

75-100% – The higher elevation aspens are gone now but the lower groves near the creek are beginning to look amazing. Still some time yet before it peaks but it’s a great view right now.

Our sincere thanks to Jared and his staff for doing such a great job looking for and reporting fall color in Inyo County.  They always do a superb job at it and there’s still lots of color to be seen.  One suggestion is to head there today to see and photograph snow as it begins to land on the hot colors still showing in Inyo County above 7,000 ft.

Gingko Gold in SF Urban Forest

Ben Carlson of San Francisco’s Friends of the Urban Forest reports that, “Even though fall is often warmer than summer in San Francisco, the light green fan-shaped leaves of the Gingko biloba (also known as the Maindenhair tree) are starting to turn gold. The leaves will start to drop in November, so make sure you see their beautiful golden color before then. There is a fine row of Gingkos on 25th Avenue in the Richmond District between Lincoln and Fulton.”

To receive the Friends of the Urban Forest free newsletter, email brian(at)

Late Harvest, Late Color

A couple of weeks ago, travel broadcaster John Hamilton of  KGO-AM810 mentioned that the grape harvest was running late this year and he questioned whether the autumnal change was also running later than usual, as well.  We responded that yes, our color spotters were reporting that color was showing a week to two weeks late this fall.  And, our reports have consistently noted color appearing about a week later than last year.

Yesterday I toured the Napa Valley from Chardonnay Golf Course to St. Helena and found very little color showing.  Sections of vineyards are coloring yellow, but the change is still very slight.  The aromas of fermentation are evident near the wineries, so the harvest is underway, yet color is still a week to two weeks late.

0 – 15% – Napa Valley – Yellow is coloring individual vineyards or sections of them, but there’s still a lot of green.

Peaking at Convict Lake

The highest elevations of Bishop Creek Canyon in Inyo County are now past peak, though there’s still color down the canyon at lower elevations and pockets of beautiful color and specific trees near the lakes.   So, if you’re driving US 395 north, diversions to the canyons will still pay off.  Look for the color between 7,000 and 8,000 ft.

Photographer Rob Bohning reports from Convict Lake in Mono County that 90% of the leaves have colored and the show is “spectacular.”  Rob says the color is glorious at June Lake as well.  So this should be a prime weekend to photograph or enjoy color in all of the Eastern Sierra Canyons.  Rob has promised to email photos, and the invite is out to any of our readers… see a great image of fall color in California, email it to us and we’ll post it with credit to you.

It took a bit longer for the color to drop this year, but it’s finally showing above 7,000 ft throughout the Eastern Sierra.  The June Lake Loop is beautiful near Silver Lake.  There’s still a lot of green, and that means the color will last a couple of weeks longer, as long as winds or storms don’t reduce their number and quality.  The June Lake Loop should peak next week, but it’s looking good now.

With fall color in California, it’s better to go when the color is beginning to show at a given elevation, than to wait too long.

Past Peak at Highest Elevations, Coloring up Below

The weather across California has been ideal for fall color displays, with very few storms coming through since Autum began.  That means that other than those trees which are past peak, most of the trees have yet to turn color, and those trees that are changing have lots of leaves on their branches with lots of color.

From Parcher’s Resort, we get this report:

South Lake – Elevation 9768 ft

Past Peak – The color at the back of the lake is nearly gone but the groves near the rock slide are hanging pretty tough and showing some really vibrant orange hues still.

Weir Pond – Elevation 9592 ft

Past Peak – Despite snow last week, the view at Weir Pond has held up.  Bright yellow, gold and orange colors are still prevalent around the shoreline of the pond. Jared Smith of Parcher’s Resort considers this to be one of the best stops on the canyon right now.

 Parchers Camp – Elevation 9260 ft

Past Peak – It was more vibrant a week ago but there is still a lot of color in every direction here at the resort. Also, the aspen along the creek near the resort are looking fantastic and offering the opportunity for epic fall color stream shots.

North Lake – Elevation 9255ft

Past Peak – The North Lake area aspens are still gorgeous, even though slightly past peak color.  North Lake Rd is also showing off some great color still. If you’re a photographer visiting the area, don’t miss North Lake!

North Lake Road 10-12-10

North Lake 10-12-10

Lake Sabrina – Elevation 9150 ft

Past Peak – Some beautiful color is still showing, especially near the back of the lake. Orange and reds showing here and there – best view is probably from the dam or from a boat.

Sabrina Camp Groves – Elevation 9000 ft

Past Peak – The Sabrina camp grove is a goner for this season.

Table Mountain Camp Grove – Elevation 8845 ft

Past Peak – The groves at Mountain Camp are a shadow of what they were a week or so ago but the view of this grove is still breathtaking. Some really nice red is developing on the far side of the creek.

Groves below Table Mountain Camp 10-12-10

 The Famous Mist Falls on South Fork Bishop Creek

50-75% – Famous Mist Falls is getting close. A lot of yellow is developing there.  This is expected to peak within a week, though it’s a gorgeous view even now.

Four Jeffrey Camp Groves

30-50% – Some of the green is turning to gold here but this area still has a ways to go before it peaks, good news for color chasers in the coming weeks.

Mountain Glen Campground

50-75% – Still behind hanging behind the rest of the higher elevation aspens – more green than yellow.

Willow Camp – Elevation 9065 ft

Past Peak – The best has come and gone near Willow but there are still plenty of trees in full color right now. I’m not sure how long it will last but the views are very good right now.

Surveyor’s Meadow

Past Peak – Even with the peak gone, there is a lot of yellow and orange left hanging around. Jared writes, “Judging by how many photographers are still stopping at this location, I have to believe that its worth it.”

 Aspendell – 8500ft

75-100% – The higher elevation aspens are gone now but the lower groves near the creek are beginning to look amazing. Still some time yet before it peaks but it’s a great view right now.

Other reports — Most of the areas below 8,000 ft are reporting green leaves.  This happened last year in which there was a week’s difference between the trees at 7,000 and those above 8,000′.  The aspen in Lee Vining Canyon (east side of Yosemite’s Tioga Pass) and the Hope Valley (CA-88), for example, are reported as being mostly green, though aspen along Hwy 89 on the way to Markleeville and at Monitor Pass are peaking (a good bet for a colorful drive would be Hwy 89 from the Hope Valley to Coleville. 

Expect the color to spread to lower elevations this weekend and through next week.   The best big bold color areas still remain in the canyons of the Eastern Sierra (Bishop Creek, Rock Creek, Convict Lake, Mammoth Lakes, Lundy Lake, Virginia Lakes, Twin Lakes, Sonora Pass).  All other areas of California are reporting spatters of color.  Color spotters in Plumas County, for example, are showing lots of bright red, but limited to specific trees or shrubs.

Photo Credit: © 2010, Jared Smith and Kristina Karaday

US 395 Among Nation’s Best Fall Color Drives

The national travel magazine Travel + Leisure, has rated the Eastern Sierra’s US 395 among the top dozen best fall color drives in the nation.  To read what the magazine reported, CLICK HERE.

Fall Colors of the Eastern Sierra


For those of you unable to visit the Eastern Sierra in autumn, click on the play button to see what you’re missing (the video was shot some months ago, but the scenes are similar to what’s happening now).