Jennifer Roeser rides her mule, Pearl, in McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Editor’s note: This report is based on observations made this week. However, in the past day, light rain and wind has stripped some leaves from aspen (See Kahlee Brighton’s comment under “Baffling Brilliance”). As always, these reports can be affected by changing conditions.
One of the most enjoyable ways to see California’s Fall Color is to ride to it by horseback, as seen above. Jennifer Roeser, owner of the McGee Creek Pack Station, is one of several wranglers who operate fall color rides from Eastern Sierra stables.
Above 9,000′, Mono County is approaching peak, reports color spotter Alicia Vennos. Below 9,000′, a beautiful mix of yellow and gold blended with lime-green and pops of bright orange are emerging.
Mono County’s hot spots this weekend (conditions permitting) will be: Rock Creek Road, McGee Creek Canyon (about 1.5 miles up the trail), Parker Lake (north of the June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158), Bloody Canyon out of Walker Lake (hike up about 2 miles), Virginia Lakes Road, Dunderberg Meadow Road, Twin Lakes near Bridgeport and Sage Hen Meadow Road, off Hwy. 120 East. Here’s Alicia’s report by area:
Near Peak (50-75% –GO NOW!) –Upper Rock Creek Road/Rock Creek Lake – This 11-mile drive diverts from 395 at Tom’s Place. Along the route, there are lots of hiking options. Colors are in full swing a few miles up the road, around the lake, and up Hilton Creek trail. If you’re going for the pie at Pie in the Sky Café, get there early, as they sell out often by noon.
Patchy (10-50%) – Upper Rock Creek Road – Around East Fork, you’ll see a blend of green, lime-green, gold and orange. A favorite hike starts at the East Fork campground and meanders along the aspen-lined creek all the way to Rock Creek Lake.
McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Patchy (10-50%) – McGee Creek – There are still so many green aspen around the McGee Creek Campground, Pack Station, and trailhead at the end of the road, that we continue to rate this area as patchy. Though, hike up the trail and you will soon see aspen that range from gold to orangey-red.
Patchy (5-35%) – Convict Lake Canyon – Color spotter Charles Porter says Convict Lake is starting to show pockets of yellow from top to bottom. The color change has increased modestly over the last week. Foliage along the lower creek, around the resort and in the campground is now about 30%. These areas are still showing a generous amount of green but the hues of orange and yellow are starting to establish themselves. The back of the lake and up the canyon is showing an increase of yellow but will need a few weeks to reach peak.
This week, a road crew was laying down asphalt. By the time the aspen peak here, there will be new road access to the lake. Until then, for day-use parking use the marina lot or the parking lot at the entrance of the campground.
The Convict Lake Resort is offering Fall Lodging Specials starting at $379+tax (Sunday thru Thursday – 2 Nights for 2 Persons). They include a $100 restaurant credit & full-day motor boat rental. Ambush at the Lake, the resort’s fall fishing derby, continues through Nov. 15 with $6,000 in resort prizes and a $2,000 cash bonus weekend on Oct. 30 – Nov. 1.
Beaver Pond, McGee Creek Trail (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Patchy (10-50%) – June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158 – Color is escalating on the mountainside at the north end of the June Lake Loop, while down canyon and on the south end of the Loop, the change is still in its beginning stages.
Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Parker Lake – As reported earlier this week, the hike to Parker Lake is beautiful right now. To get there, take the Parker Lake Road at the north end of Hwy. 158. It’s a good dirt road with some washboard and rough spots.
Bloody Canyon Trail (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Bloody Canyon Trail and Walker Lake (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Walker Lake – Another excellent but steep hike is Bloody Canyon out of Walker Lake. The aspen at lake level are still mostly green, but if you trek two miles up the trail at the west end of the lake, the aspen are abundant and peaking. June Lake Brewing hosts the June Lake Autumn Beer Festival on Oct. 10 at Gull Lake Park.
Sage Hen Meadow Rd. (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Sage Hen View (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Sage Hen Summit Rd. (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Peak (75-100% –GO NOW!) – Sage Hen Meadow Road – Off CA-120 East at Sage Hen Summit, turn south on Sage Hen Meadow Road for a few miles where you will find thick aspen groves of brilliant yellow and orange alongside the road. It is a short but sweet stretch. If you continue driving, take the first left-hand turn which will bring you to an overlook of the Sage Hen aspen groves. They seemed to have peaked early this year so there is only some red-orange color left, but the views of Mono Lake are pretty.
Patchy (10-50%) – Lee Vining Canyon – Aspen at the lower end of the Tioga Pass Road look like they are still a couple of weeks from peaking. Log Cabin Road, which is a good dirt road with some relatively steep switchbacks to an historic cabin is aspen-lined and is starting to show some rich golden color.
Patchy (10-50%) – Lundy Canyon – A beautiful paved drive to Lundy Lake takes you past aspen along the road that are just beginning to change. Beyond the lake, the road turns to dirt and takes you to some photogenic beaver ponds and one of the prettiest hiking trails in the area. Lundy Canyon still has a way to go before it nears peak, though it’s definitely starting.
Virginia Lakes (9/26/15) Misti Sullivan/Twin Lakes Resort
Peak (75-100% –GO NOW!) – Virginia Lakes/Dunderberg/Green Creek Road/Bridgeport/Twin Lakes – Summer’s Meadow off Green Creek Road will be gorgeous this weekend. Same with Virginia Lakes Road and Dunderberg Meadow Road which are peaking now. Conway Summit is also brightening substantially, making for really pretty photos right from the pullouts on US 395.
The Bridgeport Valley’s Hunewill Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for over 100 years and offers horseback rides to see the fall colors and the opportunity to participate in an authentic cattle drive. Check out their programs at HunewillRanch.com.
Patchy (10-50%) – Walker/Coleville/Sonora Pass/Leavitt Meadows) – At the higher elevations above the West Walker River, the aspen stands are glowing golden and light orange, as is the top of Sonora Pass/Hwy. 108 and on the crest of Monitor Pass/Hwy. 89. Some aspens have lost leaves due to black leaf spot fungus. Leavitt Meadows is just starting to show off. Another area to ride to see the fall colors is the Leavitt Meadows Pack Station, which remains open until mid-October. Coming up on Oct. 3 is the Antelope Valley’s annual Deer Hunter Barbecue in Walker featuring a homemade dinner with the community’s “secret barbecue sauce.” Call (530) 208-6078 for more info.