What is CaliforniaFallColor.com?
CaliforniaFallColor.com is a seasonal blog (September – Thanksgiving Day) that reports about the change of season (autumn) throughout California.
Reports and photographs are provided by volunteer color spotters, public lands agencies and destination marketing organizations (DMOs).
We are unable to confirm the accuracy of any report and are dependent upon our color spotters for their veracity. If you find a report to be erroneous, please comment or email: editor(at)californiafallcolor.com, and we’ll investigate.
How To Submit Photographs and Reports
Photographs and fall color reports may be emailed to: editor(at)californiafallcolor.com.
Please note, the (at) in the previous email address really means “@,” but we cannot insert a direct link to our email address, as internet spiders search for email addresses online. Our address has been besieged with spam because of this.
Fall color reports should identify:
- the location,
- species of foliage (when known),
- date and
- degree of fall color change:
- Just Starting (0 – 10%),
- Patchy (10 – 50%),
- Near Peak (50 – 75%),
- Peak (75 – 100%) or
- Past Peak.
Degree of Change is measured for the entire area reported, not for a specific specimen (tree, bush, grass).
Reports of seasonal wildlife migrations and activities may also be reported (e.g., Monarch butterflies, whales, waterfowl, elk rut).
To be published, photographs must have been taken within the previous week and identify:
- date taken,
- location and
- name of photographer.
By submitting photographs and reports to us, photographers are providing us their permission to publish their photographs, reports and name on this site.
Historic photos (taken more than a week earlier) are published rarely, then only to illustrate an important story. Date taken must be included, so as not to mislead readers.
Photographs posted on our companion Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram sites are not necessarily picked up for republication on CaliforniaFallColor.com.
Each Thursday, from the first day of autumn (autumnal equinox) to Thanksgiving Day we send the California Fall Color Report (a summary of the previous week’s reports) as a news service to 800 California weather, travel, outdoor and news reporters and editors.
A selection of the best photos of the week is also included in the California Fall Color Report. Photographs selected for this honor receive photo credit. Please state if you do not want your image included among the best photos of the week. Regrettably, payment is not available to photographers, as no payment for use of the photos is received from media.
How to Comment
Comments are welcomed and posted when relevant to the subject of this blog. Click on the headline and a comment window will open, then submit. All comments are moderated. Criticisms of photography are not published.
About California’s Autumn
Because 80% of Californians live along the Pacific coast – where there is very little fall color – most Californians don’t think of their state as having much fall color.
Whereas, California has the longest and most varied seasonal change of fall color in North America.
That is so because of California’s extreme range of elevations (from sea level to over 14,000′) and because of California’s Mediterranean climate which permits propagation of an extraordinary variety of deciduous trees and plants.
Fall color first appears in the Eastern Sierra along the state’s eastern border (US 395) at high elevations near 10,000′ in September. It often peaks at the highest elevations before the autumnal equinox.
In California, fall color descends by elevation at a rate of 500 to 1,000′ a week, continuing to December. Whereas, in most of the rest of North America, fall color descends by latitude, starting in Canada and descending through the northeast and midwest.
We report GO NOW! when fall color is reported to be Near Peak (50 – 75%) or Peaking (75 – 100%). From the date we report GO NOW! at any given elevation/location, peak color will be gone from a day to – at most – two weeks later. When we report the color is Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
No matter where it appears in North America, peak color takes about two weeks to evolve from Near Peak to Past Peak, unless weather cuts it short. However in California, because of our extreme range of elevations, peak color can be seen in September, October, November and December. In California, if you miss peak at one elevation, just go to a lower elevation elsewhere and see it there.
California’s fall color is often set in contrast to grand landscapes. Whereas, in New England, it is set in contrast to architectural charm. Though, even in California, white steepled churches, old cabins and Victorian structures can be seen surrounded by bright autumn color.
Prime areas to see fall color (listed generally first to last to peak) are:
- the Eastern Sierra (Inyo and Mono Counties, US-395),
- the Northern Sierra (Hope Valley/Carson Pass, Lake Tahoe, CA-89),
- Southern California’s mountains (San Bernardino, San Gorgonio, San Jacinto and Laguna mountains, Angeles National Forest),
- the Shasta Cascade (Plumas County, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Trinity Alps, CA-299, Redding, Chico),
- Western & Southern Sierra (Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks),
- the North Coast (Redwood National & State Parks,
- California’s vineyards (they peak by grape variety, Oct. – Nov.),
- Central Coast (wineries and Salinas Valley),
- Gold Country (Calaveras Big Trees SP, Apple Hill, wineries, Nevada City),
- the Central Valley (walnut and pistachio orchards, pumpkin patches, corn mazes) and
- California’s urban forests (Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Stockton, Modesto and arboreta and botanic gardens).
Fall color has even been reported on Santa Catalina Island and in The Deserts (Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley). Though, the lower the elevation, the less likely to find fall color, and the less spectacular it will be.
How to Use the Site
To choose where to see fall color at peak, refer to Reports by Month/Year (for when you plan to travel) or Reports by Location (for where you plan to travel). These search functions are found on the Home Page Sidebar. Look back in time to see when it was peaking and where. California fall color peaks very consistently from year to year (within a few days of past recorded average peak).
Click on the California Fall Color Map to find the location of reported color. We update the leaves on the page when we receive fresh reports. The map is an imprecise guide. Whereas, written posts are accurate to when they were posted.
A number of excellent resources are available to help you identify California plants. We recommend:
- Sierra Nevada Tree Identifier by Jim Paruk, Yosemite Conservancy
- Trees by Todd Telander, a Falcon Pocket Guide
- Sierra Nevada Wildflowers by Karen Wiese, a Falcon Guide
- Plants of Northern California by Eva Begley, Ph.D., a Falcon Guide
- Foraging California by Christopher Nyerges, a Falcon Guide
- Edible Wild Plants and Useful Herbs by Jim Meuninck, A Falcon Guide
- Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws, California Academy of Sciences
- Field Guide to California, Audubon Society
- Trees and Shrubs of California by John D. Stewart and John O. Sawyer, California Natural History Guides
- Sierra Nevada Natural History by Tracy I. Storer,Robert L. Usinger and David Lukas, California Natural History Guides
- Calscape.org, the California Native Plant Society’s plant identification website
About the editor
California Fall Color is compiled and edited by John Poimiroo, a travel writer and photographer and advocate of California’s long, varied and spectacular autumn. CLICK HERE to read more.
About the site
CaliforniaFallColor.com has been recognized as California’s Best Outdoor Medium and Best Outdoor Internet Site by the Outdoor Writers Association of California.
This is an advertising-supported website, made possible by support from those locations that appear in rotating graphics seen in the upper left corner of the home page. Click on their ad to see their page.
Special thanks are expressed to Elliot McGucken, Curtis Kautzer, Alena Nicholas, Gabriel Leete and Josh Wray whose photographs are included in the slider on the home page.
For many years a photo of June Lake by Greg Newbry, an IT specialist with the County of Mono, appeared on our home page, but could not be used in the slider.
Because so many readers asked where Greg’s photograph of June Lake was taken, he responded, “There is a campground just to my left across the street. Silver Lake is about 150 yards past the trees. I’m on a small knoll about 20 feet higher than the street. There is a meadow between me and the trees. I’m standing in sage brush just above the meadow.”
We’re unsure Greg’s description will get you to the spot, though we know from Greg’s description that he stood on a small knoll facing Silver Lake, which is 150 yards past the trees. Perhaps he’ll take you there, if you offer to buy Greg a beer.
We are additionally grateful to those color spotters who contribute reports and photographs. To become a color spotter or contribute to this blog, please comment or email photos and reports to editor(at)californiafallcolor.com.