Peak Drops below 7,000′

Anglers at Gull Lake, June Lake Loop (10/8/19) Jeff Simpson

Peak fall color has dropped to 7,000′ in Mono County (Eastern Sierra).

This is the last weekend to see lush color along the June Lake Loop. There, CA-268 passes through boulevards of aspen, though the trees have thinned and most groves lack luster.

I winced at reading one color spotter’s description of what happened as “one of the most underwhelming displays in recent memory. Locals with decades experience were saying it was the unseasonably hard freeze and then strong winds that severely damaged this year’s fall color.”

Some of the leaves around Twin Lakes near Bridgeport were reported as appearing as if they were “freeze dried.” At McGee Canyon, a reliable spotter reported the wonderful groves of cottonwood as “decimated” with virtually all the color on the cottonwoods affected.

Of course, it truly is anyone’s guess as to why this happened.

Too many spotters have submitted dismal reports and lackluster photos to believe otherwise. Having said that, beautiful photographs are still being taken as evidenced by Kent Gordon’s, Jeff Simpson’s, Pete Axcell’s, Greg Berndt‘s and Leor Pantilat’s photos, posted here.

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/15/19) Jeff Simpson

One of the contributors to this situation was aspen blight. Silver Lake, which is a favorite place to photograph fall color, lost leaves on many of its groves that ring the lake, due to the fungus.

When it comes to fall color, Mono County sets a high bar for itself. In the past decade, we’ve seen year after year of dazzling displays. So, one disappointing year is to be expected. This is that year.

Lundy Lake (10/13/19) Greg Berndt

If you’re heading up in the coming week, don’t be disheartened or change plans. For the best color, head to Mill Canyon near Walker and Lundy Lake. And, for the best time, head to June Lake which will host its annual fall festival this weekend.

Thereafter, peaking will be black cottonwood at Crowley Lake and in the Antelope Valley. Presently, they are Patchy (lime green and yellow).

Here’s what Mono County Tourism is reporting:

  • Rock Creek Lake (9,600’) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Lower Rock Creek Rd. (7,087′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Bursting with color along the lower sections of the road. 
  • Crowley Community (6,781’) – Patchy (10-50%) – Color up the hill behind the community, but mixed in town. Hilton Creek is gorgeous.
  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Still beautiful.
  • Convict Lake (7850′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – A wonderful hike is the Convict Lake Trail which is level and rounds the lake. You pass through aspen groves in many parts of the trail. Some sections are past peak, but you’ll also pass through Peaking and Patchy groves, all with wonderful views.
  • Mammoth Lakes (7,881′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – The June Lake Loop has struggled this year, due to aspen blight which affected a large number of stands. However, this is the weekend to visit the Loop. There is a lovely mix of thinned and lush groves, many laden with golden-orange leaves. Parker bench, Gull Lake and areas just south of Grant Lake are amazing, and Leaves In The Loop is happening this weekend. 
  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Lee Vining Canyon (6,781′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Peak aspen are throughout the canyon and in the campground.
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Photographs submitted of Lundy Canyon this past week have been stunning. The colors are now moving down the canyon, though they should be perfect around the lake and in the campground.
  • Conway Summit (8,143’) Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Conway Summit took its time to peak this year, but it’s now at peak with a mix of lush gold, buff, orange and a few lime trees, with some thinning.
  • Twin Lakes (7,000’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Nice bright orange colors in sections while others will still take another week.
  • Upper Summers Meadow (10,300’) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Lower Summers Meadow (6,834′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Lobdell Lake Road (8,600′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Great color near the Leavitt Pack Station and at the top of the pass.
  • Walker Canyon, Walker, Coleville and Topaz (5,200′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – The West Walker River is at full peak, while Antelope Valley cottonwoods are Just Starting. Brilliant yellow color is seen up Mill Canyon Road, near Walker.
  • Molybdenite Creek Trail (7,865’) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Sweetwater Mountains (5,000 to 11,654’) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Monitor Pass’ Peak is getting aged. There were lots of trees carrying orange and yellow leaves as of this report, but any wind up there will strip them.