San Ramon Valley

San Ramon (11/22/21) Salil Bahtt

Danville is the neighbor who hangs his holiday lights early in the month. San Ramon waits until Thanksgiving Day.

Salil Bahtt took a Thanksgiving Day hike through the Sunol Regional Wilderness and found decorations still hanging from many of the wilderness’ native trees.

Most of the color is found in East Bay drainages and canyons where western sycamore, valley and blue oak, bigleaf maple, white

alder, creek dogwood and black walnut reside. Of these, Salil noted , only the sycamore, cottonwood and a few maple remain decorated.

Whereas in nearby San Ramon a riot of pink, scarlet and gold decorates the town, as exotic trees (principally red maple) and native cottonwood haven’t yet gotten the word that autumn decorations are being taken down elsewhere throughout the East Bay.
  • San Ramon Valley (486′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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Gone With The Wind

Western Sycamore, Malibu Creek SP (11/22/21) Kathy Jonokuchi

The Santa Anas are strong, downslope winds that flow out of the Great Basin toward Southern California in autumn. They’re fearsome, in that they often feed raging wildfires that incinerate dry areas of Southern California’s mountain ranges. This year, they scoured leaves from the branches of deciduous trees throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.

Southern California color spotter and naturalist Kathy Jonokuchi visited a favorite location, Malibu Creek State Park, where the forest appears Patchy with only a quarter of the trees still carrying their leaves.

The park was previously used for on-location filming of M*A*S*H the popular TV comedy about a Korean War mobile surgery unit. Once part of 20th Century Fox’s Movie Ranch, the location continues to appear in motion pictures and TV productions. However, Gone With The Wind was not filmed within the boundaries of the state park, although a scene in which Gerald walks with Scarlet was shot nearby at Malibu Lake.

Kathy did not visit Malibu Creek SP to study film history, but to study its trees and birds. She wanted to see how Western Sycamore have fared since the Woolsey Fire, four years ago, and found a grove that were spared the flames and are flourishing.

That’s good news for the Nanday Conure, naturalized parrots, which feed off sycamore seed pods during autumn. And, once the trees lose their leaves, it’s easier to see the conures. During her visit, Kathy noticed the appearance of ash on the ground, but realized it was the fluffy seeds of cattail rushes, blown to the ground by the Santa Anas. The seeds will propagate in marshy  areas, a benefit of the Santa Anas which are otherwise thought of as a Southern California inconvenience.

  • Malibu Creek State Park, Santa Monica Mountains .91 – 2,739′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)

Capital Color

State Capitol, Sacramento (11/25/21) Vishal Mishra

Vishal and Seema Mishra returned to Sacramento on Thanksgiving Day, where fall color is peak to past peak.

Areas of peak color include: Capitol Park, Southside Park and William Land Regional Park. Though, beautiful fall color is also found in the Fabulous Forties (Avenues in the 40s), Curtis Park and in mid-town (east of the State Capitol between J and Q, 15th and 25th).

Many of the tallest trees along Sacramento’s streets are London Plane Trees (Platanus occidentalis), though also look for Chinese elm, Autumn blaze maple, Liquidambar, hickory and Gingko biloba.

The first reference to Sacramento being the City of Trees dates back to 1855. Prior to that, the city was known as “The City of Plains.” Then, a gold miner planted 12 cottonwoods. Soon after, it became a community effort to plant shade trees to make life in Sacramento more tolerable during its hot summers, Capital public radio reports.

By the 1930s, residents were planting one tree for every two residents. Paris had a ratio of one for every ten residents, but also many more trees in total that did Sacramento. Nevertheless, Sacramentans couldn’t withhold claiming more trees per capita than Paris, in a feat of civic boosterism. 

A 2018 study found 87,234 trees growing in Sacramento, with the Land Park neighborhood having the densest canopy. However, that figure only includes trees that grow along streets and in parks. An authority estimates that about one million trees grow in Sacramento, two for every resident.

With good reason, it has earned the sobriquet, “City of Trees.”

Gingko biloba, Sacramento (11/25/21) Vishal Mishra
  • Sacramento (30′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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Giving Thanks and Looking Back at 2021


On this Thanksgiving Day, CaliforniaFallColor.com is thankful to the 95 color spotters who contributed reports, photographs and videos in 2021.

They include (from first leaf): Philip Reedy, Jeff Simpson, Jeff Luke Titcomb, Clayton Peoples, Gary Young, Michael Beatley, Michelle Pontoni, Julie Kirby, Steve Arita, Vishal Mishra, Bruce Wendler, Kathy Jonokuchi, Jen Miyara, Mark Harding, Gabriel Leete, Sarah Wollock, Jim Van Matre, Soyoung Kim, Robert Kermen, John Ehrenfeld, Woody Elliott, Angie Plaisted, Don Vilfer, Mark Hanning-Lee, Alicia Vennos, Lucas Yan, Liz Grans, Jeff Hemming, Michael Tolchard, Elliot McGucken, Mike Caffey, Ryan Boyd, Emo Gyetvai, Austin Grove, James Haase, Walt Gabler, Jan Arendtsz, Jeremy Johnson, Morgan Terrell, Anusha Ravioo, Pierre Redmond, Frank McDonough, Bill McFall, David Sharp, Bob Simms, Gabby Tobar Balcunas, Gary Skipper II, Anson Davalos, Jason Branz, Max Forster, Liliana Beatley, Shanda Ochs, Parrish Todd, Jeri Rangel, Peter Robbins, Bin Lin, Adarsh Dattani, Lyle Gordon, Anish Sidhan, Gene Miller, Jason Francisco, Travel Crazy Katie, Mariana Dillingham, Wilderness Amani, Sweet Me Life, M&J, Golden Island Walks, Jobille Tuts, Bella’s Grandma, Nao Tharp (Sky Rock Media), Julia Jia Rao, Life of Fernandos, Farmer Omni, Natural Priyanka Vlogs, Bob Bong Travels, Sonoma Shorts, Jon Lenvik, Our & My Memories, SmithsGold, The Mads of San Diego, Biprajt Dutt, NBCLA, Strangers Abroad, Eastern Sierra Now, Kiran Kumar, Pete A, Robert Olsson, Hieu Nguyen, Modern Mangai, Happenin, Omni Nova, Rahi’s Wall, Wilderness Wanderers, Peter Mikuljan, Life after Halftime and Ron Tyler, who produced the above video. If, somehow, we missed you, please know it wasn’t intentional. We are truly indebted to every contributor.

Special thanks are expressed to Inyo County Tourism, Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Mono County Tourism and Mammoth Lakes Tourism for underwriting California Fall Color, and to the many reporters and media who carried our reports and gave attention to what we have shown about California’s fall color.

Of course, this list is not complete without mentioning Joan, my bride of 51 years. She has pulled the car to the shoulder so that I could jump out to photograph particularly beautiful locations; humored my recording of color percentages, species and elevations; pointed out spectacular color; and tolerated my exuberance in showing her countless stunning photographs taken by our contributors.

Our deepest thanks go to our readers who on over one hundred thousand occasions opened, read, followed, reacted to and commented here and on our social media pages. You are, after all, the reason we do this.

Above is our video impression of autumn across California in 2021. Fall began hesitantly, with the Dixie and Caldor fires burning huge areas of fall color in the Northern and Western Sierra. The fires eventually receded and after skies were clear of haze luster returned to the forests. A drought delayed the salmon run, then a bomb cyclone deluged the mountains reinvigorating streams and waterfalls. The dusting of snow from that event provided dramatic contrast just as leaves were at peak. Not as many locations were photographed this year – perhaps because of forest closures and lingering smoke. Though those that were submitted were beautiful.

The photographs selected for this year’s video represent: what happened (including a couple that show the impact of fires), the diversity of fall color across the state, and some of the finest photography of 2021. This was a notable year for Yosemite Valley, as evidenced by the many exceptional photographs taken there this autumn. Gorgeous color was also seen in the Eastern Sierra.

If you would like your photographs considered for inclusion in next autumn’s video, we recommend that you submit “horizontal,” high resolution (300dpi), not-watermarked photographs, within a week of having captured them. Pictures taken in places not often photographed have an advantage in getting selected, as competition is stiffest among pictures taken at popularly photographed destinations.

Autumn doesn’t end today. It continues for nearly a month longer. We’ll continue to post photos and reports, as received. Though today, we dial back reports and will post them less frequently. We’ve also stopped sending  weekly updates to meteorologists, travel and outdoor writers.

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving Day and plan an Orange Friday of fall color spotting, tomorrow.

See you next autumn, dude.

California – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – In our hearts, California is always peaking.


Apple Hill

Apple Hill, El Dorado County (11-20-21) Vishal Mishra

Apple Hill, like so many other Sierra foothill areas, has long gone past peak. 

Vishal and Seema Mishra visited on Saturday to pick up a pie. The only thing at peak in Camino when they visited were the  bakeries out of whose ovens a steady stream of Thanksgiving Day pies emerged. As, there was little color on orchard branches. Most of it was on the ground or baked into the pies.

  • Apple Hill, Camino (3,133′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.

Red Red Wine

Pagani Ranch, Kenwood (11/19/21) David Sharp

When Neil Diamond first sang Red Red Wine about a lover whose painful absence could only be forgotten by drinking wine, his soulful lyrics brimmed with emotion and loss. You could feel his “blue, blue heart” being torn apart by her absence as he sang.

In these last weeks of autumn, the same feeling arises as photographs record departing color. As David Sharp and Lucas Yan’s images taken in the Napa and Sonoma wine country were opened, Diamond’s  melody, then his mournful lyrics, were recalled.

I'd have sworn, that with time
Thoughts of you would leave my head.
I was wrong, now I find
Just one thing makes me forget ...
Red red wine

  • Napa Valley (253′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • Sonoma Valley (85′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed it.

The Urban Forest

Southside Park, Sacramento (11/19/21) Steve Arita

Northern California’s urban forests often peak, approaching Thanksgiving Day. That’s certainly true at Southside Park in Sacramento. Steve Arita had been tracking how fall color was developing at Southside Park, visited today, and found it to be as good as it gets.

Southside Park, Sacramento (11/20/21) Steve Arita

Southside Park, Sacramento (11/20/21) Steve Arita

Southside Park, Sacramento (11/20/21) Steve Arita








Southside Park, Sacramento (11/20/21) Steve Arita

  • Sacramento (30′) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!

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Ready for Turkey Day

Turkey Tail fungi, tropical forest, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough

These turkeys won’t be consumed on Thanksgiving Day, even though the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens will be open.

Frank McDonough shares these plates of autumn color in preparation for our national day of thanks and fellowship.

Horse chestnuts, Meadowbrook, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough

Garden of Quiet Reflection, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough

Pecan, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough











Pomegranate and Japanese Maple, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough

Meyberg Falls, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough

Late turning Gingko biloba, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough











Pomegranate, Queen Anne Cottage, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough

Horse chestnut, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough











This tree … rocks, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/18/21) Frank McDonough

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (482′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)


Queen of the Southern Mines

City Hotel, Main Street, Columbia (11/17/21) John Poimiroo

This week, the Outdoor Writers Association of California fall conference brought me to Tuolumne County in California’s Gold Country.  The conference included craft improvement sessions and business meetings, though I also had time to tour an area I hadn’t explored in years. I found Tuolumne County to be charming, personal and untouched.

While California’s population grows steadily, Tuolumne County’s has hovered – for years – at 54,000 folk. Areas of the County appear as they did in the 1850s when Sonora was called Queen of the Southern Mines and Columbia – to its immediate north – was known as the Gem of the Southern Mines.

Today, Sonora has modern accommodations like the newly renovated Lumberjack Hotel, authentic shops that feature locally made goods, like the Local Collective and Columbia, a state historic park that is California’s equivalent to Williamsburg or Jamestown, Virginia, a wholly preserved gold rush town true to how it looked in the 1850s.

Gold Rush themed activities are common there and across the county. Sip a sarsaparilla or watch a blacksmith work in Columbia; pan for gold or ride a steam train in Jamestown. In winter, Tuolumne County has California’s best sledding hill, the privately operated Leland High Sierra Snowplay Area near Strawberry and one of California’s best family mountain resorts, Dodge Ridge.

Though, the true find for a color spotter was to discover Lost Cannon Creek where by mid October a lush stand of quaking aspen provides what is likely the best display in Tuolumne County, and a grove just waiting for a “First Report.”

At 7,800′, the grove lies beside the creek a half mile after the trailhead near the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, east of Sonora Pass. It’s a short, though moderately difficult hike and one to plan to do next October.

I left Tuolumne County at dawn this morning, stopping first at Columbia before returning along Hwy 49 to El Dorado County. A light fog embraced Columbia’s historic Main Street and lanterns lit its leaf-strewn path.

City Hotel, Columbia (11/17/21) John Poimiroo

Peak has past in the Gold Country, though a red maple complemented St. James Episcopal Church, beside it. Orange persimmons and liquidambar dressed a Victorian home and orange black oak and cornhusk-yellow locust and red bud decorate the hills.

St. James Episcopal Church, Sonora (11/15/21) John Poimiroo

Persimmons and Liquidambar, Sonora (11/15/21) John Poimiroo














  • Tuolumne County (2,139′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.


Last Cast

Box Canyon, Upper Sacramento River (11/16/21) Philip Reedy

Color spotter Philip Reedy drove north to the Upper Sacramento River to make his last cast of autumn there, reporting that, “as expected most of the color has gone, but a few patches are hanging on.” He found brightness at the Box Canyon and below Sims Bridge.

Sims Bridge, Upper Sacramento River (11/16/21) Philip Reedy

  • Upper Sacramento River (2,300′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.