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Always on Time

Dixiana, 1912 Shay Locomotive, Roaring Camp RR, Felton (11/9/19) Melani Clark

A good railroad always arrives and departs on time.

The same can be said of fall color at the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad in Felton (Santa Cruz Mountains), where bigleaf maple, western sycamore and black oak dress its historical train depot with yellow, chartreuse, lime and orange each November.

This past Saturday, Melani Clark, superintendent of the railroad, took this image of steam rising and autumn color falling as the Dixiana stood ready for its run through the redwoods to Bear Mountain.

Autumn weather has been kind to the Santa Cruz mountains where warm, clear days have created ideal conditions to enjoy a walk through a redwood forest and train rides to the summit of Bear Mountain and down to Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay.

  • Roaring Camp Railroads (285′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Ventana Wilderness

Ventana Wilderness (11/11/19) Leor Pantilat

The Ventana Wilderness along the Central Coast is peaking with warm orange and yellow flashes.

Color spotter Leor Pantilat found valley oak, black cottonwood, bigleaf maple and grasses to be providing the color, with Western sycamore estimated to peak later this month.

The Ventana Wilderness is known for its steep, sharply crested ridges and deep v-shaped canyons. This wild area east of the California highway 1 near Big Sur also has red and white alder and creek dogwood which are now past peak.

  • Ventana Wilderness – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Paso Robles – Pass of the Oaks

Poison oak enveloped by coastal fog (10/10/19) Mark Harding

Paso Robles, on the Central Coast, is named for its oaks, which are mostly Live Oaks (evergreen). Of its many oaks, only Valley Oak is deciduous.

There is color to be found on the Central Coast, when you look for Fremont cottonwood, bigleaf maple, box elder, California sycamore, creek dogwood, California ash, vineyards, willows and poison oak.

Though, CaliforniaFallColor.com receives few reports from the Central Coast, because the region’s mild climate doesn’t encourage the development of deciduous plants. Those that are native there, also grow in colder areas of California.

Central Coast color spotter Mark Harding sends back these images taken in Templeton and Paso, proving that fall color does appear along the coast.

  • Paso Robles (732’) – Patchy (10-50%)
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Orchard Pickings

Apple tree, Los Rios Orchard, Oak Glen Rd. (11/11/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Visiting orchards has become a late-autumn tradition, with Californians heading to Julian for apple dumplings, to Oak Glen for cider-infused mini donuts, to San Luis Obispo for hard cider, to Sebastopol for U-pick apples, to Kelseyville in Lake County for a Pear Belle Helene (pear ice cream sundae), and to Apple Hill in Camino for apple pies.

With so many calories ahead, Southern California color spotter Ravi Ranganathan recommends walking the Oak Glen Preserve Botanical Garden in Yucaipa, soon after the trail opens at 8 a.m. It’s  got kid-friendly sections, as well as others that get your heart pumping and “beautiful fall colors along the trail.”

Of course, if that hike works up your appetite, head over to Snow Line Orchard for their delicious apple-cider-infused mini donuts and a glass of freshly pressed cider. Ravi recommends picnicking under an ancient chestnut tree beside an apple orchard. 

  • Julian – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Oak Glen – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • San Luis Obispo – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sebastopol – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Kelseyville – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Camino – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
Chestnut and apple orchard, Snow Line Orchard, Oak Glen Rd (11/11/18) Ravi Ranganathan
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Beauty Returns to the Ventana Wilderness

 

Pine Valley, Ventana Wilderness (11/19/17) Leor Pantilat

Pine Valley, Ventana Wilderness (11/19/17) Leor Pantilat

Tassajara Rd., Ventana Wilderness (11/19/17) Leor Pantilat

Until this year, the Soberanes Fire in the Pine Valley area of the Ventana Wilderness was the most expensive wildfire in U.S. history.

The Tubbs Fire which scorched Santa Rosa in October erased that dubious record.

Color spotter Leor Pantilat revisited Pine Valley and the Ventana Wilderness in Monterey County this past Sunday to find that most of the ponderosa pines, several of the larger landmark black oaks and cottonwoods there survived the Soberanes Fire. The latter are carrying bright orange and golden color.

He found the Tassajara Road, a dirt road that leads to the trailhead at China Camp, also full of beautiful orange black oaks.

That is reassuring news to areas hit by wildfire this year. As, nature is forgiving and beauty returns quickly.

Leor classifies the Ventana Wilderness at Peak and advises that the area is prime for fall color hikes over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, making Pine Valley in the Ventana Wilderness Hike of the Week.

Ventana Wilderness, Monterey County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Ventana Wilderness / Big Sur

Bigleaf Maple, Ventana Wilderness (10/1/17) Leor Pantilat

(Big Sur – 10/3/17) California’s Central Coast is not known for its fall color, though “the coast-facing canyons of Big Sur contain a nice concentration of bigleaf maples,” reports Leor Pantilat who scores a prized First Report.

Ventana Wilderness (10/1/17) Leor Pantilat

Poison Oak, Ventana Wilderness (10/1/17) Leor Pantilat

Ventana Wilderness (10/1/17) Leor Pantilat

In these mountains, the fall color progression is a rolling peak depending on the slope aspect and elevation. For now the best color is at the highest elevations of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Pantilat states that “the endemic Santa Lucia Fir forest provides a unique setting. Bountiful poison oak is also bright red at the higher elevations.

Leor took these images near Cone Peak on Sunday. He estimates that color will persist in this area for at least a couple more weeks and then progressively move down the canyon where it will mix with redwoods below ~2000 ft into November.

Expect spots of bright color in an otherwise evergreen forest of fir, redwood and live oak.

Ventana Wilderness – Big Sur Hills (3,000 to 5,000 feet) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

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First Report: Uvas Canyon

Uvas Canyon County Park, Morgan Hill (11/5/16) Tracy Zhou

Uvas Canyon County Park, Morgan Hill (11/5/16) Tracy Zhou

Uvas Canyon, near Morgan Hill in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains, is a cool, refreshing forested getaway for residents of Silicon Valley (Santa Clara Valley).

It is a Santa Clara County Park with 7.2 miles of hiking trails including a one-mile waterfall loop that travels along Swanson Creek past several waterfalls and cascades.

At peak, bigleaf maple provide bright yellow contrast to emerald mosses that grow upon boulders in the creek.

Color spotter Tracy Zhou visited on Saturday, to find the maples nearly past peak, though still colorful.

The forest trail is carpeted with buff-colored spent leaves.

Uvas Canyon County Park, Morgan Hill – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Uvas Canyon County Park, Morgan Hill (11/5/16) Tracy Zhou

Uvas Canyon County Park, Morgan Hill (11/5/16) Tracy Zhou

Uvas Canyon County Park, Morgan Hill (11/5/16) Tracy Zhou

Uvas Canyon County Park, Morgan Hill (11/5/16) Tracy Zhou

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Gallimauphry: Weekend Update

Hope Valley (10/8/16) Andrew Zheng

Hope Valley (10/8/16) Andrew Zheng

This is one of the longest reports California Fall Color has ever published. It is so, because of many detailed reports received.

Unbeknownst to us, our inbox crashed along with the server, causing reports sent to us last week to arrive today. So, please bear with this long post, as it’s full of great photos and important guidance for the week ahead.

NORTHERN SIERRA

The upper areas of the Hope Valley are past peak, though as seen in Andrew Zheng’s photo (above) of the cabin near the junction of CA-88 and CA-89, a mix of developing lime to fully peaked trees can be seen side-by-side with stripped trees.

Hope Valley – Peak to Past Peak YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!

EASTERN SIERRA

Glacier Lodge (10/5/16) Clayton Peoples

Glacier Lodge (10/5/16) Clayton Peoples

First Report: Longtime contributor, Clayton Peoples sent news of “an oft-overlooked gem,” Glacier Lodge which is west of Big Pine in the southern Eastern Sierra, off US 395. He visited the previous weekend and found some nice patchy color in the lower elevations and near peak higher up, with more color appearing this week.  He promises to return.

Tip of the Day: a number of canyons lead up into the Eastern Sierra from US 395. These are often lightly visited and full of color.  No, they don’t have the big stands of aspen found in Bishop Creek or at June Lake, but they’re beautiful, nonetheless. And, for So. Calif. color spotters they’re a lot closer to reach.

Glacier Lodge, Big Pine – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Surveyor's Meadow (10/6/16) Robert Provin

Surveyor’s Meadow (10/6/16) Robert Provin

Sabrina Approach (10/9/16) Abhi Bhaskaran

Sabrina Approach (10/9/16) Abhi Bhaskaran

Sabrina Approach (10/9/16) Julie Kirby

Sabrina Approach (10/9/16) Julie Kirby

Sabrina Approach (10/6/16) Robert Provin

Sabrina Approach (10/6/16) Robert Provin

Mist Falls, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/16) Michael Caffey

Mist Falls, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/16) Michael Caffey

Mist Falls, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/16) Michael Caffey

Convict Lake, Mono County (10/6/16) Michael Caffey

Bishop Creek is past peak at its upper reaches, though peak color can still be found (conditions permitting) at mid and lower elevations.

Then, there are exceptions like the Sabrina Approach, photographed by Abhi Bhaskaran, Robert Provin and Julie Kirby.

 

Following is a video from Bishop showing what the canyon looked like this past weekend.

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Bishop Creek Canyon – Upper Elevations – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!

Bishop Creek Canyon – Mid Elevations – Near Peak and Peak  GO NOW!

Bishop Creek Canyon – Low Elevations – Patchy (10-50%)

Pine Creek Road (10/8/16) Gigi deJong

Pine Creek Road (10/8/16) Gigi deJong

Pine Creek (10/8/16) Gigi deJong

Pine Creek (10/8/16) Gigi deJong

Millpond County Park, Inyo County (10/8/16) Gigi deJong

Millpond County Park, Inyo County (10/8/16) Gigi deJong

Gigi deJong toured Round Valley, northwest of Bishop in the Eastern Sierra on Friday and found the cottonwood just turning yellow.

Though, there are “some lovely stand in picturesque spots,” with rabbitbrush in full irridescent yellow bloom, complementing the trees perfectly.

Counterpoints include bull rushes along the creeks, an occasional apple tree and “old structures that have lovely patina.”

Farm animals and the Sierra Nevada provide ornamentation that complements the scene and makes it classically a California Fall Color diorama.

She recommends exploring Pine Creek Rd., Round Valley Rd., Horton Creek Campground and Millpond County Park (Inyo County).

Round Valley, Inyo County (northwest of Bishop) – Patchy (10-50%), though well worth a trip.

Color spotter Anthony DeChiaro hiked to the Hilton Lakes on Oct. 6 to find the area denuded of leaves. He admitted he didn’t spend a lot of time searching for color around the lake, but that’s about what we would have expected, considering that the lakes are from 9,800′ to 11,000′ in elevation, and everything abover 9,000′ was reported as past peak the day Anthony headed up to the Hilton Lakes.

Hilton Lakes – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!

Barney Lake (10/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Robinson Creek Trail to Barney Lake (10/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Barney Lake (10/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Robinson Creek Trail(10/9/16) Leor Pantilat

 

Barney Lake (10/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Robinson Creek Trail (10/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Barney Lake (10/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Robinson Creek Trail (10/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Leor Pantilat traveled to Mono County yesterday to capture these images on an iPhone.

He reports that the “Robinson Creek Trail to Barney Lake is at peak and dazzling with mountainsides full of yellow, orange and red contrasting with the rugged peaks surrounding the scene.

“After the short stretch in the pine forest near Twin Lakes, the trail emerges into meadows and the aspen at peak color is virtually unabated for 4 miles all the way to Barney Lake and beyond.

“I was at the same spot at the same time last year and the aspen show is substantially better this year with much less brown rot.

“Leaves were flying off the trees with every breeze so this is definitely a GO NOW! situation.”

He continues, “Strong winds are forecast as early as Thursday will likely end the show.”

Robinson Creek Trail to Barney Lake, Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! 

June Lake Loop (10/9/16) Julie Kirby

June Lake Loop (10/9/16) Julie Kirby

June Lake should peak this weekend, with color lasting another week.  So, even if the winds strip some trees, enough color should remain along the June Lake Loop to keep it beautiful.

June Lake Loop – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Sonora Pass (10/7/16) Dave Olden

Sonora Pass (10/7/16) Dave Olden

Sonora Pass and Leavitt Meadow are now wearing orange as if they were rooting for the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs.  When Dave Olden crossed the pass on Oct. 7, it was just beginning its peak.

Sonora Pass (10/10/16) Leor Pantilat

Sonora Pass (10/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Then, Leor Pantilat happened by on Sunday and found it had donned Giant colors. That’s how fast it peaks. Again, this color might not last out the week.

Sonora Pass – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! 

CENTRAL COAST

Fremont cottonwood, Rose Valley Road, Ojai (10/6/16) Kevin Rose

Fremont cottonwood, Rose Valley Road, Ojai (10/6/16) Kevin Rose

First Report: Traveling north from Ojai along SR33, color spotter Kevin Rose found a stand of Fremont cottonwood, brushed by refreshing mountain breezes off Rose Valley Road.

The trees were showing patchy color at coordinates 34.5595382 – 119.1654414 along Sespe Creek.

Nearby, several backpackers were gearing up to hike Lion Canyon. Kevin did some of the same hike and declares it hike-worthy!  Turn right off CA-33 on Rose Valley Rd. and follow the parking lot to its bitter end.

This is a nice walk for Central Coast color spotters and earns title as HIKE OF THE WEEK. “Totally worth it!” wrote Rose who followed Rose Valley Road.

Rose Valley Road, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai – Patchy (10-50%)

Poison Oak, Humboldt Redwoods State Park (10/10/16) Max Forster

Poison Oak, Humboldt Redwoods State Park (10/10/16) Max Forster

NORTH COAST

Prairie Creek RSP (10/10/16) Max Forster

Prairie Creek RSP (10/10/16) Max Forster

Lost Man Creek, Redwood National Park (10/10/16) Max Forster

Lost Man Creek, Redwood National Park (10/10/16) Max Forster

Jedediah Smith RSP (10/10/16) Max Forster

Jedediah Smith RSP (10/10/16) Max Forster

North Coast color spotter Max Forster happened upon the historically significant Luna tree while looking for color in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

This is the tree that Julia “Butterfly” Hill sat in for two years in protest of logging within the area.  

Humboldt Redwoods State Park – Patchy (10-50%).  Bigleaf maple and poison oak along the Avenue of the Giants have another week until peak yellow and crimson, though examples can be seen when rays of sun light the redwood forest. Look for the poison oak creeping up the trunks of the skyscraper redwoods along Mattole Road.

Redwood National & State Parks – (75%-100%) GO NOW!.  Most of the bigleaf maple are putting on their best show of the season.  Trees along Mill Creek (Jedediah Smith State Park) and Little Lost Man Creek (Redwood National Park) have turned particularly impressive over the last few days.

 

 

 

 

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First Report: Thorn Point Trail, Ventura County

Black oak, Thorn Pt Trail (10/1/16) Naresh Satyan

Black oak, Thorn Pt Trail (10/1/16) Naresh Satyan

Thorn Point Trail, (10/1/16) Naresh Satyan

Thorn Point Trail, (10/1/16) Naresh Satyan

Black oak, Thorn Pt Trail (10/1/16) Naresh Satyan

Black oak, Thorn Pt Trail (10/1/16) Naresh Satyan

Thorn Pt Trail (10/1/16) Naresh Satyan

Thorn Pt Trail (10/1/16) Naresh Satyan

Black oak were at all stages of change in Ventura County’s Los Padres National Forest this past weekend, where Naresh Satyan captured these images.

He found a stand of black oaks along the Thorn Point trail at 5000′-5500′ in the Sespe Wilderness on Saturday.  The stand is patchy and Naresh was unsure whether they’d change at once or in waves.

He recommends the 3.46 mi. hike to the Thorn Point fire lookout when it is not hot, as it gains 2,632 ft in elevation. There’s a good dirt road to drive to the trailhead, though it has a couple of spots where high clearance helps (one in his party made it in a Prius). They found lots of bear scat and, of course, it’s rattlesnake country.

The Thorn Point trail is 20 mi. southwest of Frazier Park, 90 mi north of Los Angeles.

The U.S. Forest Service describes Los Padres National Forest as “one of the most botanically diverse National Forests in the United States.” The Sespe Wilderness includes the Sespe Condor Sanctuary within its boundary.

CLICK HERE for more about the trail.

Thorn Point Trail, Ventura County – Patchy (10-50%)

[wunderground location=”Frazier, CA” numdays=”4″ showdata=”daynames,icon,date,conditions,highlow” layout=”simple”]

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Lakes San Antonio and Nacimiento

California Sycamore (historic) Mathias J Alten, University Art Center

California Sycamore (historic) Mathias J Alten, University Art Center

Color spotters Debi Wages and Denae Gomez report that sycamore and maple at southern Monterey County and northern San Luis Obispo County Lakes San Antonio and Nacimiento are beginning to show color and the ground is littered with oak acorns.  These Central Coast destinations are not expected to near peak until late October.

In late October, oaks and willows along the banks of the Salinas River (US101) show lovely yellow and orange up to King City.  If driving north or south, US101 (El Camino Real) is a better bet for fall color than I-5 or CA-99, though the vineyards, orchards and fields in the Central Valley can be beautiful.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Lakes San Antonio and Nacimiento – Now at the lower end of this scale, the oaks at Lakes San Antonio and Nacimiento will develop slowly, nearing peak in mid to late October.