Today is the Autumnal Equinox, which means fall has arrived officially.
In the Eastern Sierra, autumn color has been appearing for a while, but it remains, at best, Patchy (10 – 50%). It is not yet near peak, though experience teaches that change happens quickly.
All forests in Mono County are now open and welcoming fall color watchers. In the Inyo National Forest, Lee Vining, June Lake, Sagehen Summit, Mammoth Lakes, Convict Lake, McGee Creek and Rock Creek are fully open. The Humboldt-Toiyabe NF is also fully open throughout Northern Mono County with no forest restrictions around Walker, Coleville, Topaz, Bridgeport, Twin Lakes (Bridgeport), Virginia Lakes, Conway Summit, or Summers Meadow.
The biggest cause for any delay in color change has been warm overnight temperatures. However, in the past week, temperatures have begun to dip into the mid-30s up high with the most significant and widespread color now being seen near Virginia Lakes (9,819′). Nearby, drive the Dunderberg Meadows dirt road (AWD or 4WD recommended) to Green Creek, then back out to US 395 for more groves of turning aspen.
Sagehen Summit (AWD/4WD recommended) off 120 East had sections of orange leaves near the summit with mostly green leaves along the road. Jeff Simpson of Mono County Tourism reports Sagehen should be great this weekend and should be a “GO NOW!” momentarily.
Rock Creek Road is just starting to turn at the highest elevations near Rock Creek Lake including trails leading to the Little Lakes Valley.
The AWD/4WD road to Lobdell Lake has a few nice groves along the road after the first creek crossing but it’s still mostly green close to Lobdell Lake.
Tioga Pass (Hwy 120 W), Sonora Pass (HWY 108) and Monitor Pass (HWY 89) are still Just Starting with a few yellow groves at the highest elevations.
A GO NOW! alert is forecast for all Mono County locations now rated Patchy, next week.
Monitor Pass (8,314′) – 0-10% Just Starting – Just starting near the summit sign at the top of Monitor Pass.
Sonora Pass (9,623′) – 0-10% Just Starting – Mostly lime green colors at the top of the pass with some yellow groves near Leavitt Meadows Campground.
Virginia Lakes (9,819’) – 10-50% Patchy – The best colors this weekend will be at Virginia Lakes and along Dunderberg Meadows Road to Green Creek. (AWD & 4WD recommended for Dunderberg Meadows Road).
Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – 10-50% Patchy – Lots of orange near the summit with colors cascading to green near the road. This area looks to be primed for great color next week.
Rock Creek Road (9,600’) – 0-10% Just Starting – Small changes happening right now around Rock Creek Lake and all hiking trails that lead to higher elevations.