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Stay or Drive

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Conway Summit, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

June Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

June Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lower Yosemite Fall, Yosemite National Park (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Merced River, Yosemite National Park (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

There are two types of color spotters: one Stays at a location and works it, the other Drives to many locations, seeing fall color across a broad area.

There’s something to be said for both approaches.

The Stay approach allows time for hiking, relaxing, taking in the color and being at a select spot longer providing for better opportunities to see and photograph it at its best.

The Drive approach provides the experience of enjoying driving along boulevards of fall color, of seeing many places, of appreciating the variety of color to be seen and exploring the forests and towns where fall color is best.

This past weekend, color spotter Clayton Peoples drove a large Sierra loop to the Eastern Sierra and back to the Western Sierra, demonstrating the advantages of the Drive approach.

He reports, “Conway Summit is still just patchy. There’s lots of green among the aspen groves, but there are some stands that are turning. A good zoom lens is best at the moment, which allows one to focus in on groves that are turning and/or mixed.

“Lundy Canyon is at peak. The groves around Lundy Lake are in full color, as are the groves along the dirt road to the trailhead and beside the Lundy Canyon Trail. It is mostly brilliant yellow with a bit of light orange mixed in. Definitely worth a trip!

“The June Lake Loop has reached peak color. Aspen along the Loop and surrounding its pristine lakes have all turned and range from vivid golden yellow to orange. Good color will likely last here another week or so … I recommend that folks “GO NOW” before the best is in the past.

“Yosemite National Park is patchy. The few aspen groves at higher elevations are at full peak, but trees at lower elevations are just beginning to turn. That said, some of the black oak along the Merced River are already sporting bright yellow leaves, and brush ranges from green to yellow to red, so progress toward “near peak” status is not far away,” Clayton reported. 

  • Conway Summit, Mono County – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! (While Clayton rated Conway as Patchy, that’s the nature of the groves, which turn sequentially. The area evolves through successive Patchy, Near Peak and Peak ratings.)
  • Lundy Canyon, Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • June Lake Loop, Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Tioga Road, Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne County – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Mariposa County – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! Again, our assessment varies from Clayton’s, as Yosemite has rolling peaks. Because of this, it is easily mis-classified. After the small amount of fall color has peaked along the Tioga Road, Pacific dogwood begin to turn rose to pink and red, then bigleaf maple turn yellow, then cottonwood gold and finally black oak turn orange. Though one specie may be patchy, another may be past peak or peaking. Knowing this helps determine when to visit Yosemite. Yosemite’s famous pioneer sugar maple (planted a century ago near the Yosemite Chapel) peaked in the past two weeks. Now, bigleaf maple are peaking and cottonwood and black oak are approaching peak.