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Redding Reddens

Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua, Shasta View Dr., Redding (10/18/18) Laura Jean

Redding saw a lot more red in late August than its residents wanted to see. The red was from the Carr Fire which burned 229,651 acres to the west and northeast of Redding, before it was contained. The fire devastated neighborhoods in the city’s northest corner and was the sixth-most destructive in California history.

So, it’s reassuring to see that a more welcomed type of red returning to Redding … fall color.

Redding is a central location from which to explore the Shasta Cascade (the northeast corner of UpStateCA). From Redding, roads spoke out to prime fall color viewing at Lassen Volcanic National Park, Plumas County, McArthur-Burney Falls State Park and Hat Creek, Coffee Creek and Scott Valley, Mt Shasta, Chester, Lake Almanor and Susanville, Weaverville, Red Bluff and Chico. Much of these areas are either now peaking or approaching peak.

Within its city limits, Redding is bisected by the Sacramento River which has beautiful riparian forests and wetlands. Across the length of California’s northernmost metropolis, Frémont cottonwood, black oak, Oregon ash California buckeye and blue oak grow beside the Sacramento River.

One of the best places to begin a Redding Fall Color adventure is at Sundial Bridge, Santiago Calatrava’s architectural masterpiece that spans the mighty Sacramento River, connecting Turtle Bay Exploration Park and the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens.

Many of Redding’s neighborhoods are forested with colorful exotic trees and several have breathtaking views of Mt. Shasta and the Sacramento River. Redding color spotter Laura Jean sends these pictures of the welcomed color that has reddened Redding’s boulevards.

More about Redding and its nine fall color driving tours is found at VisitRedding.com 

  • Redding – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Chinese pistache, Shasta View Dr., Redding (10/18/18) Laura Jean

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Poppin’ on the LaPorte Rd.

Bigleaf maple, La Porte Rd. (10/7/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Bigleaf maple, La Porte Rd. (10/7/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Dogwood, LaPorte Rd. (10/7/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Sugar Maple, Quincy (10/7/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

The LaPorte Road in Plumas County, leading from Quincy, forms a boulevard of deciduous trees that in Mid-October compares to any in California for its beauty.

Jeff Luke Titcomb drove it on Sunday, finding native bigleaf maple Near Peak. The sugar maple are close to peaking, as well.

Though sugar maples are an exotic specie, so many specimen have been planted in Quincy’s parks and gardens, that they can be confused as being native.

Dogwood are lagging the maples in this part of the Northern Sierra, though evolving through lime, rose, pink and vermillion.

The coming two weeks will be Near Peak in this region.

To the east on the Trinity River near Strawhouse Resort, California wild grape, bigleaf maple and ornamental trees are near peak. 

  • LaPorte Rd – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Trinity River – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!






Sugar Maple, Quincy (10/7/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Bigleaf maple, La Porte Rd. (10/7/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

California wild grape, Trinity River (10/6/18) Paul Kim


Red maple, Strawhouse Resort, Trinity River (10/8/18) Julia Ellis



Indian rhubarb, Trinity River (10/6/18) Julia Ellis

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Last Call Above 9,000′

That 395 House (10/2/18) Liz Grans/Mono County Tourism

It’s last call above 9,000′ feet in Mono County, and what a way to close out fall color viewing at those elevations!

Snow dusted the mountain tops above 10,000′ today, though this didn’t damage fall color. In fact, it improved it, providing a spectacular backdrop for the color and rainbows.

Virginia Lakes (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Virginia Lakes (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Virginia Lakes (10/3/18) Liz Grans/Mono County Tourism

Virginia Lakes (10/3/18) Liz Grans/Mono County Tourism

Conway Summit (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Conway Summit (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Conway Summit (10/3/18) Liz Grans/Mono County Tourism

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

McGee Creek (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Convict Lake (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Mono County is tracking exactly as it has in past years, so check this site for peak color previously and make your plans to see favorite areas, accordingly.

This is likely the last week to enjoy peak color at the Virginia Lakes, Upper Rock Creek, Lobdell Lake Road, Sagehen Summit, Sonora Pass and Tioga Pass. Jeff Simpson of Mono County Tourism reports. “All of these areas are at full peak and looking spectacular right now but will be rapidly approaching past peak as the week goes on.”

There are too many great trails peaking right now to name one as Hike of the Week. So, we’re suggesting this package of choices for inspirational hiking. Be advised, they climb to high elevations. So, be prepared with plenty of water, hiking sticks, a backpack holding extra layered clothing, sun screen, a hat, sunglasses and your camera or mobile device, of course.

Now that you’re forewarned, be prepared for fair beauty along the Upper Rock Creek, McGee Canyon, Parker Lake, Lundy Canyon and  Molybdenite trails with quaking aspen at higher elevations that will be perfect, this weekend.

For a driving tour, start at Conway Summit (US 395) and drive up Virginia Lakes Road to Dunderberg Meadows Road, then to Green Creek and down through Summers Meadows road exiting back at US 395 on Green Creek Road. This loop has incredible color right now and you’ll be able to see five of Mono County’s premiere fall color destinations at once. AWD recommended.

East Bay color spotter, Darrell Sano was one of the photographers who headed to Mono County this past week in search of color. His route took him over Tioga Pass and through Yosemite National Park, before descending Lee Vining Canyon into Mono County, reporting “incredibly intense” rain during today’s storm and crawling at 30 mph in what appeared to be nightfall at 2 p.m.

Now you know why the National Park Service closes Tioga Pass once it snow accumulates. Fortunately it didn’t and CA-120E remains open to Mono County as peak color spreads across it. 


  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – The pass is gilded with yellow and lime on the way up/down.
  • Lobdell Lake Road (8,600′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Fantastic color is hanging on, though this is likely the last Peak week for this elevation. AWD recommended.
  • Walker Canyon (5,200′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Towns of Walker & Coleville- Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW! – Another week of strong color with Peak color over the pass and lime and yellow in Leavitt Meadow.

Bridgeport/Virginia Lakes

  • Twin Lakes (7,000′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Will be Near Peak next week.
  • Virginia Lakes (9,819’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Wow. Virginia Lakes has had two solid weeks of peak color, but this is likely its last, as some stands are Past Peak near the lake, but still strong going up the road. AWD recommended.
  • Conway Summit (8,143) – Patchy (10-50%) – We like Conway best when it’s a mix of green, lime, yellow and orange … like, right now. This broad area should hold for another two weeks of Near Peak and Peak color.  Though technically Patchy, GO NOW!
  • Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Green along the road, but with emerging color yellow, orange and red higher up. In some years, Summers Meadow is one of the most beautiful areas of the Eastern Sierra. A definite must-see.

Lee Vining

  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – There’s lovely color near Tenaya Lake and spots of it through Tuolumne Meadows and over the pass. Saddlebag Lake Road is worth a sidetrip.
  • Lee Vining Canyon (6,781′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′) – Patchy (10-50%)

Benton & 120 East

  • Sagehen Summit (8,139’) –Peak to Past Peak GO NOW as YOU ALMOST MISSED IT! – Still beautiful and worth the detour, but approaching Past Peak.

June Lake Loop

  • June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Still early.
  • Parker Lake (8,000′) – – Patchy (10-50%) – Best bet.

Mammoth Lakes

  • Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Colors in the Mammoth Lakes Basin are still bright and vibrant. Definitely worth stopping by Lake George, then making your way back through Twin Lakes. 

Crowley Lake/McGee Creek/Convict Lake

  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Patchy (10-50) – McGee is dragging its feet, but then it’s always been later than other canyons. Look for it moving to Near Peak next week and Peak the following week.
  • Around Crowley community (6,781′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Convict Lake (7850′)- Patchy (10-50) – Color is appearing around the lake, but it’s got another week before it truly gets electric.

Rock Creek Canyon

  • Rock Creek Road (8,500’+) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – With snow coating peaks above Rock Creek Lake, this is definitely the Peak of the Week above 8,500′.

Conway Summit (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Conway Summit (10/3/18) Liz Grans/Mono County Tourism

Carson Iceberg Wilderness (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Virginia Lakes (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Sonora Pass (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism










Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

McGee Creek (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Carson Iceberg Wilderness (10/2/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism










Siesta Lake, Yosemite National Park (10/3/18) Darrell Sano

Warren Fork, Lee Vining Canyon (10/3/18) Darrell Sano

Warren Fork, Lee Vining Canyon (10/3/18) Darrell Sano

Mono Lake Lookout, Lee Vining Canyon (10/3/18) Darrell Sano

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Fall Color Detectives

Poison Oak, Briones Regional Park (9/4/18) Darrell Sano

I just love “Who Done Its.” Though, in fall color’s case, it’s more “Where Is It?”

Today, I received reports from Lance Pifer and Darrell Sano who uncovered more evidence that fall is approaching.

1000 Island Lakes, Pacific Crest Trail (9/1/18) Lance Pifer

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/1/18) Lance Pifer

Lance visited the Eastern Sierra where he found spots of fall color lighting up the Pacific Crest Trail near 1000 Island Lake and at North Lake in Bishop Creek Canyon, where aspen remain  green and lake grasses are highlighted lightly with gold.

Darrell was a road warrior, exploring far and wide. On Friday (as previously reported) he drove across Sonora Pass, returning via Tioga Pass. About three to four miles after entering Yosemite National Park’s east entrance, he stopped to investigate “a scene that looks like it was planned, meaning so perfect–layered trees, leaves from pink to golden yellow, colors receding into the background, such depth. And it’s peaceful, quiet.” He continued that this area was severely damaged by fire, with at least half of it changed.

The following day, he drove north from the Bay Area to Cloverdale, then along CA 128 to the coast. As expected, there was no color to be seen other than a little in low shrubs, though reminds us that by driving the route he was reminded about how stunning Mendocino county is.

Poison Oak, Briones Regional Park (9/4/18) Darrell Sano

On Labor Day, he stayed near home, taking “a long hike in Briones Regional Park (one of the great East Bay Regional Parks – some of the best managed and most beautiful in California), hiking nine miles while criss-crossing trails. Along his route, he passed “vile poison oak” in toxic profusion, recalling the many times he’s suffered after having been covered in its sap, but noted, “When you see beds of its brilliant red in filtered light, you know 1) don’t go in there 2) enjoy the color from a distance.”

Darrell’s detective work included observing the afternoon light which due to skies, still tinted with wildfire haze, cast a yellow ochre tint that was accented by the lower angle of sunlight, dramatizing the shadows, and noted the dryness of the landscape, observing that despite their parched appearance, thistles and grasses remained beautiful remnants of summer. 

Dry thistles and grasses, Briones Regional Park (9/4/18) Darrell Sano

Briones Regional Park (9/4/18) Darrell Sano

Just Starting (0-10%) – Tioga Pass

Just Starting (0-10%) – 1000 Islands Lake
Just Starting (0-10%) – North Lake
Just Starting (0-10%) – CA 128 (Cloverdale to the Coast)
Just Starting (0-10%) – Briones Regional Park, SF Bay Area
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Inyo County Releases New Visitors Guides

11th Visitors Guide to Inyo County

11th Visitors Guide to Death Valley

If you plan to search for California’s first and finest fall color, you’ll be driving along US 395 through Inyo County.

Two guides that should be uploaded to any fall color spotter’s mobile device are the 11th Edition Visitors Guides to Inyo County and Death Valley.

These just-released travel guides are chock full of great tips, fascinating stories and all sorts of invaluable travel planning info. Follow these links to see them:

Guide to Inyo County

Guide to Death Valley

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KCET Continues Coastal Trail Series

Premiering tonight and continuing through summer, KCET airs six new video segments on its website, kcet.org/coastaltrail

The Web series explores the majestic California Coastal Trail; its past, its present and its future through historical narratives, camping and hiking guides, social media videos, and articles about important cultural points of interest along the Trail.

One new video per week will be posted on kcet.org/coastaltrail from July 6 to Aug. 3. The Web series will also be available on Roku and YouTube.

CALIFORNIA COASTAL TRAIL debuted three summers ago with the first year following the trail from San Diego to San Luis Obispo County. Then, in season two, it continued up the trail to Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Mateo.

Although there is little fall color to be enjoyed along the California Coastal Trail, we reasoned,
“What better way for fall color spotters to enjoy the outdoors and discover new areas of California in summer than exploring the California Coastal Trail?”

Partially funded by The California Coastal Commission, with support from Hilton Hotels, and presented in partnership with Rigler Creative, CALIFORNIA COASTAL TRAIL will share the state’s picturesque coastlines designed for a wide variety of audiences, including visiting tourists, casual vacationers and seasoned California outdoor enthusiasts.

This season’s segments head north passing through Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties while looking at spots along the coast like Pelican Bluffs, Noyo Headlands Park and the Humboldt Bay Trail.

The series will also travel to Crescent City, site of a deadly tsunami in 1964 and explore redwood restoration at Del Norte Redwoods State Park.

The series takes viewers to a mill site that was converted into a coastal park in Fort Bragg and MacKerricher State Park, home of the endangered Snowy Plover.

Here’s what’s planned:

Fri., July 6 – Pelican Bluffs

Fri., July 13 – Noyo Headlands Park

Fri., July 20 – Haul Road

Fri., July 27 – Humboldt Bay Trail

Fri., Aug. 3 – Del Norte Coast

Fri., Aug. 10 – Crescent City Harbor Trail

Join the conversation on social media using #myCAcoast. 


Wine and Fall Color Pairing

Helwig Winery (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Iron Hub Winery, Shenandoah Valley (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Bella Piazza Winery, Shenandoah Valley  (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Unless you’re a club member of one of California’s largest wineries, the welcome is often less than enthusiastic.

Not so in the Sierra Foothills. The wineries there are so lightly visited that the welcome is genuine and warm, and the tasting is often free.

Their hospitality, some extraordinarily exceptional wines and lovely fall color from late-October to mid-November

Counoise, Holly’s Hill (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

Maple, Holly’s Hill (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

make them a great choice.

Today, East Bay color spotter Darrell Sano and I visited the Sierra Foothill AVA, independently. He toured Shenandoah Valley vineyards in Amador County while I stopped in El Dorado County’s Pleasant Valley.

There, Holly’s Hill was holding a wine and cheese pairing, with cheese from an artisan cheese shop in nearby Placerville, which used to be called “Hangtown” for all the hangings that occurred there (the El Dorado County seat) in the late 1800s. Today, all that hangs there are sausages in the cheese shop.

Newtown Rd., Placerville (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

Bigleaf maple (11/12/17) John Poimiroo

At this time of year, Newtown Road, between Placerville and Pleasant Valley, is over hanging with bright yellow  bigleaf maple and orange black oak.

It’s the kind of scenic route that Darrell searches for among “the lofty hills and gentle curves in this somewhat hidden area” of California.


Shenandoah Vineyards (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Turley Vineyards (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Despite a late start from Oakland, he found “the morning light was still something to behold, illuminating the hills, intensifying the color.”

That’s why John Muir preferred to call the Sierra Nevada “the range of light.”

Darrell says that one thing he finds wonderful about fall is that “The quality of light at 1 p.m. is like 7 p.m. in summer… intensifying clarity and structure.”

He adds that though the Sierra foothills are peaking, its wine tasting “is never past peak.”

What Darrell enjoys most about tasting in Amador and El Dorado Counties are their  “bucolic hills, traffic-less roads, and no limos!”

You’re not likely to encounter backups as people pose for pictures beside their cars or with their girlfriends. You’ll have the road mostly to yourself, except for an occasional rancher, local or fellow oenophile.

As you motor, craggy Sierra peaks spray-painted white with fresh snow are glimpsed to the east, while the western horizon undulates with layers of purple foothills, scored by rows of vines.

It amazes me how many of California’s most famous labels grow zinfandel, syrah, mourvedre, grenache and viognier in the Sierra. It’s not something they brag about doing – “We grow our grapes in the Sierra!” – but they do.

Fiddletown (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Farnham House hidden by fall color (11/12/17) Darrell Sano

Then, you sweep past workers picking olives, apples or pears. Harvest is still coming in, even if the grapes have long-since been picked. Darrell stopped and spent a moment talking to the olive harvesters and “relished the moment.”

In places you’ll find fall color surrounding 1855 Victorian structures, like the Farnham House in Fiddletown.

Soon after gold was found nearby, it got so busy that six stage coaches would stop there, each day.

“Today, Darrell was one of the few who stopped during his trip to pair fall color with wine tasting.

Sierra Foothills – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Road Trip: CA-120, US 395

US 395 (10/15/17) Anirudh Natekar

Yosemite National Park (10/13/17) Anirudh Natekar

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/13/17) Anirudh Natekar

June Lake (10/13/15) Anirudh Natekar

It’s fun to follow someone’s road trip through the snaps they took along the way.

Today, Anirudh Natekar sent these images of his road trip from the SF Bay Area up CA-120 through Yosemite National Park and south on US 395 past the June Lake Loop to Bishop Creek Canyon.

Bishop Creek is pretty much Past Peak at higher elevations (like North Lake seen in one of his photos), though spots of lovely color can be found along this road trip.

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/14/17) Anirudh Natekar

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/14/17) Anirudh Natekar

South Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (10/14/17) Anirudh Natekar

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Weekend Drive – LaPorte Road, Quincy

LaPorte Rd., Quincy (10/9/17) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Bigleaf maple, LaPorte Rd., Quincy (10/9/17) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Dogwood, LaPorte Rd., Quincy (10/9/17) Jeff Luke Titcomb

The LaPorte Road, just out of Quincy, “is ripe for color drives, all along the road,” reports Plumas County color spotter Jeff Luke Titcomb.

Yellow bigleaf maple, rosy dogwood and black oak, their big leaves splotched with orange, yellow and lime, “are just stunning right now,” Jeff writes, “It’s a great drive, especially when the sun changes direction and just makes the yellow glow.”

LaPorte Rd., Quincy (3,432′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Greater Bishop Area

Hot rod, hot color, hot photo at Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

In the second of our new series of driving tours, here are recommended drives near Bishop. Again, these are based on historic peak.

Bishop Creek CanyonPeak Color: from the last week of Sept. to the first week of Oct., though areas of peak color can be enjoyed from mid Sept. to mid Oct. From downtown Bishop (US 395), take W. Line St. (CA 168) toward the Sierra Nevada. Bishop Creek Canyon has three main fall color areas: South Lake, North Lake and Sabrina Lake.  For your safety, please pull off to the side of the road and park at lots, campgrounds and turnouts. Foliage: Quaking aspen, willows.

  • South Lake – South Lake Road is 15 miles west of Bishop on CA 168. Turn left onto S. Lake Rd and continue 6 mi. to South Lake. Prime locations, by descending color,  include: South Lake, Weir Pond, Parchers Camp, Willow, Table Mtn. , Surveyor’s Meadow, Stiny Loop/Mt. Glen,  Mist Falls, Four Jeffries and Big Trees.
  • North Lake –  North Lake Rd. is 2.8 mi past S. Lake Rd. on CA 168. Turn right onto N. Lake Rd. and continue 2 mi to North Lake. As you approach North Lake, you will pass through a boulevard of aspen, that at peak is breathtaking. Prime locations, by descending color, include: Upper North Lake, North Lake, North Lake Rd.,
  • Lake Sabrina – Continue 4 miles past S. Lake Rd. on CA 168 to Lake Sabrina. Prime locations, by descending color, include: Upper Sabrina, Lake Sabrina, Sabrina Campground, Groves Above Cardinal Village, Aspendell and Intake II.

Round Valley to Pine Creek – Peak Color: early October. Take US 395 north from Bishop to Pine Creek Rd. at Mesa. Travel west through Round Valley, passing cadmium yellow rabbitbrush. Golden cottonwood glow along Pine Creek. Continue up Pine Creek Canyon to groves of aspen growing beside Gable and Pine creeks.

Buckley Ponds and Rawson Ponds, BishopPeak Color: Mid Oct. to early Nov. Take E. Line St./Polenta Rd. east toward Airport Rd., then south to Shober Ln, then east to the Buckley ponds. Clusters of landmark cottonwoods and colorful grasses grow along the edges of the ponds. The Rawson Ponds are near the Owens River between E. Line and Warm Springs Rd.