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Crowley Lake Homecoming

Crowley (10/18/21) Sarah Wallock

Crowley Lake is home to Mono County’s working class. Well used and worn vehicles are parked on its streets … streets that are home to folk who work for land agencies, the county, in local tourism services or who retired there.

There’s not much ornamental about Crowley. It has a lived-in, down-to-business vibe that working towns often have. Its streets are built for getting there and getting it done. They’re wide, quiet and strong, just like Crowley Lake.

Golden black cottonwood and yellow quaking aspen forest Crowley Lake with Near Peak to Peak color. Conditions permitting, the show will continue for as much as two more weeks.

  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW! – Brilliantly colorful.
  • Around Crowley community (6,949′) – Near Peak to Peak (50 – 100%), GO NOW! 
  • Convict Lake (7,850′) – Near Peak to Peak (50 – 100%), GO NOW! 
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June Has Arrived

It’s mid October, yet June has arrived.

Mammoth Lake’s Angie Plaisted drove the June Lake Loop yesterday, and sends evidence of Near Peak to Peak color. Forecasters are predicting partly cloudy skies through Saturday.

That means, color should continue to develop making this the week to see the June Lake Loop at Peak!

  • June Lake Loop (7,654′) – Near Peak to Peak (10 – 75%), Go Now.
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Influencer Season

Romance, wine and appetizers at June Lake (10/16/21) Sarah Wallock

When an Instagram influencer (@anu_eternalsunshine) called Mammoth Lakes color spotter Sarah Wallock and asked to see the best local fall color, Sarah was all in.

She didn’t have to go far to find it. Sarah drove north from Mammoth Lakes to the June Lake Loop where they toured CA-158 and toasted romance and autumn with California wine and appetizers.

June Lake Loop (10/16/21) Anusha Ravioo
  • June Lakes Loop (7,654′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10 – 75%), Go Now.
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McGee Creek As Advertised

McGee Creek (10/16/21) Angie Plaisted

McGee Creek Canyon delivered as advertised here. Declared California Fall Color Hike of the Week, it was at peak this weekend, though Angie Plaisted worries that with snow falling Sunday night and Monday, as well as several days this week, will it last?

Certainly, it will be gorgeous when the clouds break, immediately after it snows. So, GO NOW!

  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600′) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!
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Owens River Gold

Bishop (10/16/21) Gary Young

The best gold to find in California, these autumn days, is to head toward the trees.

Gary Young and his lady found it on a Saturday walk, east of Bishop along Warm Springs Rd near the Owens River where oak and cottonwood are laden with gold.

  • Bishop (4,150′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
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A Tapestry of Textures & Tones

June Lake Loop (10/13/21) Mark Harding

Technically, the June Lake Loop was Patchy when Mark Harding first photographed it, this past week. However, his images establish why visiting a location before it peaks is still a good idea. As, they present a tapestry of varied textures and tones.

The image chosen to lead this report is the earliest of those he took (Wednesday), yet the mix of bare white, red, orange, yellow, lime, forest green and purple mountains majesty made it one of the best in his set.

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/14/21) Mark Harding

Morning mist settled on Silver Lake Thursday morning, as morning light and shaded aspen were reflected upon its still water. The mist separated two worlds, that of light and shadow and that of reflection. (click to enlarge image)

Lee Vining Canyon (10/15/21) Mark Harding

The tapestry continued in Lee Vining Canyon where Patchy, Near Peak and Peak trees filled it with varied color.

The above shots were taken up the Little Walker Rd near US 395/Sonora Pass Junction. Again, Mark found a mix of Patchy, Near Peak, Peak and Past Peak trees.

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Snowliage

McGee Creek Canyon, Mono County (10/10/21) Clayton Peoples

“Snowliage.” It’s a term coined by Jeff Simpson meaning, “the convergence of snow and fall foliage.”

Only in the Eastern Sierra is snowliage happening, right now. It is at its best when early snow dusts a forest full of peak fall color, creating scenery that is at one both colorful and dramatic.

Virginia Lakes (10/8/21) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

However, snowliage is rarely a lasting condition. Storms come and go.

Predictions of brilliant color posted on this site, over the previous few days, were stated without knowledge of what would transpire since they were made.

Vibrant fall color develops when nights are cold and clear and days are sunny.

A forest’s vibrance is relative to how sunny a day may be, but it’s also affected by weather that can change leaf luster. Such has been happening over the past couple of days, in some locations.

Mono County observers are attributing the unexpected combination of a sustained cold snap (day and night lows), snowfall and local wind for lessening the luster of leaves at a few locations that were on their way toward epic displays (e.g., Lundy Canyon).

Some groves, in locations that were well established or whose fall color had stalled, somehow avoided those environmental effects (Summers Meadow, McGee Canyon) and appear to be progressing normally.

(Click photo to enlarge)

In the past week, overcast and snowfall occurred on some (not all) days and in not all Mono County locations. As a result, Lundy Canyon – which was on its way to a beautiful display – is now lackluster. Further, Summer’s Meadow and the June Lake Loop have survived. They should be beautiful this weekend.

What this means is that this report (compiled by knowledgeable Eastern Sierra color spotters with our input) is your best guide to currently the finest fall color viewing experiences, not necessarily to places that a few days ago looked like they would be the best.

WALKER / COLEVILLE / TOPAZ

  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – 100% – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, You Almost Missed It. – This should be good for only a few more days.
  • West Walker River, Walker, Coleville and Topaz (5,200′) – Patchy (10 – 50%) – Just getting going. The Antelope Valley should be best during the last week of October. 
  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.
  • Lobdell Lake Road (9,274′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.

BRIDGEPORT / VIRGINIA LAKES

  • Twin Lakes (7,000′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now! – Twin Lakes is closer to 50% and should get better as the week progresses, and beyond.
  • Conway Summit (8,143) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW! – The brilliance in the leaves have dulled slightly, but it’s worth stopping when driving along US-395. Go Now, as it won’t last another week.
  • Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW! – This road has been good for two weeks and remarkably, it’s still at full peak and brilliant. Colors cascade down hillsides along three to four miles of dirt road. AWD/4WD vehicle is recommended.

LEE VINING 

  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.
  • Lee Vining Canyon (6,781′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now. – Much of the canyon is still green, although several groves of peaking aspen are found along the road. This area will be perfect in the middle of the coming week.
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now. – This is a tough one to recommend. Reports of beautiful color have been submitted this past week, though some groves have suddenly turned past peak, others are still green, and still others have lost their luster. The best color is now found around the campground and closer to US 395. A report was received today of a color spotter who, upon arriving at Lundy, noticed that cars were leaving soon after arriving, because their passengers were disappointed by the fall color. A few days ago Lundy was glorious and primed for an epic weekend.

BENTON & 120 EAST 

  • Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – Past Peak, You Missed It.

JUNE LAKE LOOP

  • DRIVE OF THE WEEK – June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now. – The Loop is still green to lime-green in many locations, but nice color is found down canyon and around Silver Lake. A few good groves are peaking around Grant Lake. This should be best in 10-14, conditions permitting.
Mammoth Lakes, Mono County (10-13-21) Liz Grans

MAMMOTH LAKES

  • Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now. – Having trouble getting going here this year, but still plenty of color to see.

CROWLEY LAKE/McGEE CREEK/CONVICT LAKE

  • HIKE OF THE WEEK – McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW! – McGee has increased in its brilliance, down canyon, over the last few days.
  • Around Crowley community (6,781′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now. – Great color can be found around the community and along old US 395.
  • Convict Lake (7850′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now. – It’s closer to 50% but should be great this weekend.

ROCK CREEK CANYON

  • Rock Creek Road (9,600’) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It. – Upper rock Creek Road is past peak at the lake and beyond, has good color in the upper-middle half of the road and Just Starting in the Lower Rock Creek Road section.
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Lundy Sunday

Sunburst over Lundy Canyon (10/10/21) Steve Arita

Sunday was sunny and time for a marathon. Not the running kind. The color-spotting kind.

Steve Arita looked to the skies and didn’t see a cloud in them. Normal people would be happy. Photographers aren’t. They want clouds. Not overcast, clouds. The kind that add texture and interest to the sky, that allow colors to get reflected from their misty forms.

On Sunday, Steve would drive from his home near Sacramento to the east side and back, including a rigorous hike up an alpine canyon. I’d call that a marathon. For his effort, he returned with gold. Not a medal, but lots of gold fall color.

Lundy Canyon, Mono County (10/10/21) Steve Arita
Lundy Falls, Lundy Canyon (10/10/21) Steve Arita

At Lundy Canyon, Steve found the falls running at a good clip, given the recent storm, and leaves throughout the canyon were still pretty intact, other than over the first quarter mile or so up from the trailhead whose aspen had lost their heads.

Beaver Pond, Lundy Canyon (10/10/21) Steve Arita

As he began his climb up into the canyon, he passed a lot of lime green trees that kept company with others dressed in bright yellow and orange. Steve conjectures that over the coming week those limeys will turn and it should all be dazzling by the weekend.

Hiking early on a Sunday morning meant that Steve was the only person in the parking lot and canyon, and it wasn’t until 7:45 a.m. or so before he saw another hiker overtaking him. “Kinda weird,” he wrote, “no one else along the road or in the parking lot.” Though by the time he returned to his car at half past noon, the area was packed.

June Lake Loop (10/10/21) Steve Arita

Steve drove the June lake loop from the back side next and is the first to report that, “the colors are coming out fast with lots of trees close to peaking, although many others are still lime green.”

He hiked about a mile along Rush Creek, where some of the colors are close to peak, figuring them to be “about 75% or a little more with areas that were already in full fall color mode.”  

Steve hiked along the creek to Silver Lake before turning around and heading home. Many of the trees he photographed are mostly green intermixed with bright yellow. He estimates the June Lake loop will be fully peaking this weekend. 

What he saw was beautiful, “especially given the clear, sunny day. While not as intense as seen in past years, it was still great to drive through and walk among these groves.”  

June Lake Loop, Looking Toward Mono Lake (10/10/21) Steve Arita

A day later, the scenes Steve captured were blanketed with a wet snow.

To the south in Mammoth Lakes that day, Angie Plaisted hiked along the Multiuse path at Snowcreek Meadow where she captured these images. The snow has melted since, though the vibrance of the color contrasting with the snow was intense.

  • Lundy Lake (7,858′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10 – 75%) Go Now.
  • June Lake Loop (7,654′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10 – 75%) Go Now.
  • Rush Creek (7,654′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%) Go Now.
  • Mammoth Lakes (7,881′) – Near Peak (50 – 785%) Go Now.
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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like … Winter

East Fork Campground, Rock Creek Rd, Mono County (10/12/21) Sarah Wallock

As Sarah Wallock traveled south of Mammoth Lakes to Rock Creek, McGee Creek and Convict Lake this morning, she began humming “It’s beginning to look a lot like … winter.”

A dusting of snow had provided beautiful contrast to the fall color seen on quaking aspen and black cottonwood, and she was in a good mood.

For someone from Mammoth Lakes, a little snow on the pavement isn’t an inconvenience. It’s a morale booster. Combine winter’s white with autumn’s orange and the Mammoth Lakes area, right now, is pinch-yourself beautiful.

Nevertheless, Sarah cautioned that the road to Rock Creek Lake needed an AWD/4WD vehicle this morning, though by the afternoon the dusting had been sunburned away. There are some wind-swept sections in the canyon, but nothing that would prevent getting to enticing vantage points.

At McGee Creek Canyon, the color was vibrant with still Patchy to Near Peak trees down at the campground. The higher you go, the better it is.

Clayton Peoples was there on Sunday and thought it to be the best area north of Bishop Creek Canyon, for the moment. He wrote, “McGee Creek was stunningly beautiful. The peaks in the area were coated in snow, but areas around the creek were glowing in bright yellow and orange (with a bit of green mixed in). The creek has both aspens and cottonwood, which results in an extra burst of color. Really a beautiful place–and, again, the snow just added to the beauty.” 

Convict Lake is beginning to attract photographers and fall color hikers. The lake trail varies from Patchy to Near Peak and should continue to improve through the following week.

In Mammoth Lakes, the Lakes Basin is Near Peak and will be full Peak within hours, minutes, seconds. Gorgeous, lush orange fills its trees with just a hint of green.

Mammoth Lakes (10/12/21) Sarah Wallock

Last week, CaliforniaFallColor.com took a good-natured jab at Sarah’s bosses at Mammoth Lakes Tourism for having winter/ski images on its car and overlooking autumn. They never replied. Then we saw this different view of the car (above). CaliforniaFallColor.com stands corrected and apologizes. MLT, your car’s graphics couldn’t be better designed. We’d follow you anywhere.

  • Crowley Lake Community (6,781′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Lower Rock Creek Rd (7,087′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Upper Rock Creek Rd (9,705′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • McGee Creek Campground (7,600′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Upper McGee Creek (8,600′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Convict Lake (7,850′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10 – 75%), Go Now!
  • Mammoth Lakes (7,881′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%) Go Now!

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Insanity

North Lake Rd, N Fork Bishop Creek (10/9/21) Gary Young

At North Lake this past weekend, “The amount of photographers were insane. Counted 48 cars on the road and that is not counting the parking lot,” reports Bishop color spotter Gary Young.

North Lake Rd, N Fork Bishop Creek (10/9/21) Gary Young

Overnight lows are in the teens and twenties, intensifying what color is developing up Bishop Creek Canyon. This is definitely a GO NOW! situation for the canyon where 10 mph winds prevail.

  • Bishop Creek Canyon (all areas above 8,000′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • Bishop Creek Canyon (below 8,000′) – Patchy to Peak (10 – 100%), GO NOW!