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John Poimiroo

What is CaliforniaFallColor.com?

CaliforniaFallColor.com is a seasonal blog that reports about autumn’s show throughout California. The blog is written, edited and published by John Poimiroo, a career travel writer and destination marketer. More about his work is seen at: poimiroo.com.

Reports and photographs on this site are provided by volunteer color spotters, public lands agencies and destination marketing organizations (DMOs), as a service to others.

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: [email protected], and we’ll investigate.

Over time, we have learned that one person’s Past Peak is another person’s Near Peak. When in doubt, look at the date a photograph was taken as guidance to that location’s degree of color change. 

How To Submit Photographs and Reports

Photographs and fall color reports may be emailed to: [email protected].

Photographs should be submitted as .jpg files of at least 1,000 kb in size. Photographs taken on quality cell phones are acceptable, though those taken on digital cameras are usually better.

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 usually picked up for republication on CaliforniaFallColor.com. If you want your photo considered for publication on the website, email it to [email protected].

Each Thursday, from the Thursday preceding 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 over 700 California weather, travel, outdoor and news reporters and editors.

A selection of Best of the Week photos taken from those published on the website is included in the California Fall Color Report. Media that publish or air Best of the Week photographs are asked to credit photographers by name.

If you do not want your image/s considered for inclusion in the Best of the Week selection, please say so when submitting your photograph/s. 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. When a reader questions the state of peak for a given location, we always double check to make sure the report was accurate. 

About California’s Autumn

Napa Valley (10/17/09) John Poimiroo

Napa Valley (10/17/09) John Poimiroo

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.

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

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.

Methodist Church, Quincy (10/28/14) Mike Nellor

Methodist Church, Quincy (10/28/14) Mike Nellor

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 islands off the Pacific coast and in The Deserts. Though, the lower the elevation, the less likely it is that fall color will appear, 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. 

Identifying Plants

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, photographer and passionate advocate of California’s long, varied and spectacular autumn.

In 2019, recognizing his establishment of CaliforniaFallColor.com and a distinguished career in travel and outdoor communications, John Poimiroo was inducted to the California Outdoors Hall of Fame.

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 ads that appear in rotating graphics on the Home Page Sidebar and beneath posts. Click on these ads to learn more about these great destinations.

To read our Privacy Policy, follow this link: CFC – Privacy Policy.

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.

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 [email protected]

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