Mapping Fall Color

California Fall Color Map (9/11/20)

There is no machine-driven method of automatically mapping fall color across California. The California Fall Color Map (at right on Navigation bar) is updated by hand each Friday, after reports have been received and verified.

The map is a visual guide to how autumn color is changing, though it may not be precise, as conditions change rapidly.

Above, you see the map as updated on Friday, Sept. 11. Those areas with Just Starting (0-10%) light green color are either in that range or an update has not been received to change a leaf’s color.

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/3/18)

The Eastern Sierra’s Bishop Creek Canyon (seen at left) is one area that gets lots of reports, so its map is precise to a few hundred feet, when updated. The accuracy of the map depends on reports from people across California.

When an area is transitioning from Peak to Past Peak, we are cautious to not declare an area as Past Peak until most of the color has fallen, as there’s still beauty to be seen. This is a subjective decision, but one that over time has proven to be prudent.

However, please note that once a brown Past Peak leaf has been placed in a given area, other peaking locations near the same elevation are likely to become Past Peak momentarily. So, haste is needed to see peak color at those locations.

Dated photographs confirm reports. So, if you’d like to contribute to the map, include a photo, mention the location where and the day when the color change was seen and email your report to

There are several fall foliage maps across the United States. Most, in our opinion, seem not to be based on what’s actually happening at those locations, but are general forecasts of what should or might be appearing.

In particular, national maps that include California are often based on hunches rather than actual reports. One example is the Great Smoky Mountains Map (above) which uses a slider to indicate where fall color might appear by date. However, for California, it’s total nonsense and has nothing to do with what really happens.

Worse, it entirely misses the San Bernardino, San Jacinto and Laguna Mountains, turning all of Southern California past peak without any sense of what really happens.

The California Fall Color Map is based on actual reports received in the week preceding the Friday on which the map is updated. We do not make things up as these other maps seem to do. We report what’s been seen.

Nevertheless, through such tools, color spotters, photographers and leaf peepers can better understand where it’s peaking locally and nationally. 

2 replies
  1. Ada Green says:

    I booked a trip to San Francisco for Oct. 28-Nov. 4 with the main purpose of seeing the fall foliage in the Japanese Tea Garden (and Golden Gate Park) at its peak. I picked the particular week that I did because it had a good feng shui to it. Last year the peak was the third week in November according to your foliage report . Taking a chance that it will be 3 weeks earlier this year.

    • John Poimiroo says:

      You will likely arrive a couple of weeks early for peak at the Japanese Tea Garden. It’s not an area that gets a lot of reports, though past reports show it as peaking in mid November. Ada, we’re fascinated at your use of Feng Shui to estimate peak, as we’ve never known anyone who used that approach. Would love to know how that works.

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