Yosemite Sugar Maple Peaking

Yosemite Chapel & Black Oaks (stock photo)

Yosemite Chapel & Black Oaks (stock photo)

I just spoke with Scott Gediman, PIO at Yosemite National Park, who says the sugar maple by the Yosemite Chapel is at 75% peak and should peak sometime between now and the end of the weekend, as when it goes, it happens fast.

Here’s how it stands in Yosemite National Park at present:

15-30% — Yosemite Valley Maples. As reported earlier in the week, the Yosemite Blog reports that “Bigleaf maples on talus slopes and riparian woodlands from Cascades to Happy Isles are lighting up.”

30-50% — Yosemite  Valley Black Oaks. Scott adds that Yosemite Valley’s stately black oaks are nearing 50% of peak, with their deep orange color providing beautiful contrast to California’s blue skies and revitalized waterfalls.

75-100% — Yosemite Chapel Sugar Maple. Scott says the sugar maple near the Chapel is near peak and will probably peak over the weekend.  This gorgeous red tree is not native to the Sierra, having been planted by settlers in the Valley.  Now is the time to go see it in full color, as the color won’t last long.

75-100% — Wawona. Another maple south of Forest Drive in Wawona is also turning. Some aspens and cottonwoods in the Wawona area are starting to turn.

Photo Credit: © Howardliuphoto | Dreamstime.com

Color Emerging in Redwood Country

30-50% Humboldt County. Dave Stockton reports that Shively Bluff and Redcrest are now “bright and others are beginning to unfold.”  Hey, I don’t write ’em, I just report them.

Antelope Valley Weathers Storm

Tim Fesko of the Meadowcliff Resort & RV Park reports that despite three inches of rain falling in the Antelope Valley (Walker, Coleville, Topaz) on Tuesday, the day that followed was beautiful with most leaves surviving the blow.  Tim promises to get up to Monitor Pass this week to see what happened above 8,000′, though down in his valley cottonwoods and aspen came through it fairly intact.  Only the elms, which had already turned reddish “had their leaves taken by the wind.”  Tim projects that with warmer weather predicted for most of the coming week, colors ” should start turning from the current lime green – yellow to yellows, oranges and more reds.”

Lake County Colors a’ Poppin’

Terre Longsdon reports that fall foliage is beginning to pop in Lake County.  Terre recommends driving CA-175 from southern Lake County between Kelseyville and Middletown and up over Cobb Mountain.  You’ll pass through towns the likes of Whispering Pines, Pine Grove and the area’s hub… Cobb, which she recommends as a good place to stop and eat.  There’s not much time for golf if you’re leaf peepin’, but Terre says the course there is fun to play.

After you travel through the Big Valley, leave CA-29 at Bottle Rock Road to Cobb Mountain where you’ll see vibrant chartreuse, yellow, orange and burgundy.  When Bottle Rock Rd meets CA-175 in Cobb, turn right and continue south on CA-175 for more color.

Walnut Orchard, Kelseyville (10/12/09)

Walnut Orchard, Big Valley, Kelseyville (10/12/09)

30-50% Walnut Orchards.  Most walnut orchards are approaching 50% with very intense yellow leaves.

Vineyard, Lower Lake (10/12/09)

Vineyard, Lower Lake (10/12/09)

15-30% Vineyards.  The vineyards are beginning to show yellow, orange and red in their grape leaves.

30-50% – Coast Range (1500′).  Oaks in California’s Coast Range above 1,500′ in elevation are approaching 50% of peak with the next two weekends positioned for good color in Lake County.

Photography: © 2009, Lyle Madeson

Yosemite Blog Reports Sugar Maple Turning Red

The Yosemite Blog today reported, “Bigleaf maples on talus slopes and riparian woodlands from Cascades to Happy Isles are lighting up. The sugar maple near the Chapel and the maple south of Forest Drive in Wawona are also turning. Some aspens and cottonwoods are starting to turn. Most oaks and dogwoods are waiting a while longer.”  Photos of the waterfalls and Merced River posted on the Yosemite Blog today show big water and blue skies!

Dodged a Bullet, Perhaps

Early reports are that California Fall Color may have dodged a bullet.  Jennifer Boyd reports from South Lake Tahoe that “the storm has passed and the trees still have leaves on them, which is great considering the howling winds we had.”  Jared Smith says he’s shoveling out from a lot of snow which fell in the Eastern Sierra.  We reported last week that trees above 8,500′ had been cleared of turned leaves the week previously.  So, when yesterday’s storm blew through, there weren’t many turned leaves to clear.  Most were green to yellow-green.  Although yesterday’s storm had high winds, those leaves that had not yet turned may have had enough strength to stay held to their branches.  Photos and additional reports are expected tomorrow.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Monitor Pass (10/12/09)

Monitor Pass (10/12/09)

When Tim Fesko of the Meadowcliff Resort and RV Park in Coleville sent this report yesterday, his photographs of Monitor Pass and Meadowcliff show the aspen and cottonwood ready to blow into full color this weekend.  Now, with gale force winds predicted to blow across Northern California today, it’s anyone’s guess how many of the leaves will survive.  Still, here’s Tim’s report as of yesterday.

Tim had been encouraged that the previous week’s snow storm ” did not seem (at his elevations) to do much damage to colors” and predicted that “the next two weeks or so should show a lot of progress in colors. Still time to get over and catch the yellows turning golden turning reddish!”

0-15% — Walker River. Most of the aspen and cottonwoods along the Walker River are still green to lime green.  Same for the town of Walker.  Although, look to the banks along the river and you’ll see beautiful yellow color, as did Sarah McCahill as captured in her photo at right.

Walker River (10/12/09)

Walker River (10/12/09)

30-50% — Walker Canyon (5400′ – 6000′). Aspen, Cottonwoods and Willows are starting to turn. Aspens and Cottonwoods are showing green to lime green to light yellow. Willows are half green and half yellow.

15-30% — Antelope Valley (5000′ – 5300′). Near Walker, Coleville and Topaz, cottonwoods are still mostly green, “with some lime green and a tad of yellow. Aspens are half green and half yellow. Elms are vibrant reddish.”

Meadowcliff Resort (10/12/09)

Meadowcliff Resort (10/12/09)

15-30% — Monitor Pass (7000′ – 8300′). There’s still a lot of green with some yellow emerging.

15-30% — Monitor Pass (8314′). Mostly lime-green to yellow.

Meadowcliff Resort & RV Park

Meadowcliff Resort & RV Park

As I post this, the storm is beginning to build, though the strongest predicted winds have not yet arrived.  We’ll call Tim at the end of the week to see how things have changed, while keeping our fingers crossed for Tim and the folks at Meadowcliff that they don’t lose what promises to be a colorful coming two weeks.  If you’re motoring to the east side, you can’t find a more welcoming place than the Meadowcliff Resort.  This year, Tim added a nicely designed RV Park; the resort has guest rooms, a seasonal restaurant and shop. There’s an impressive rock cliff behind the resort, great fishing at Topaz Lake and the Walker River and lots of wild country to explore.

Photography: copyright 2009, Tim Fesko


Hang On, Children!

A big storm is predicted this week with high winds to arrive as early as tonight.  So, color spotters have been calling concerned that the storm will knock their beloved children (leaves) from the trees.  Barbara Steinberg is one of them.  She and her husband were winterizing a cabin at Tom’s Place (Eastern Sierra) this past weekend and she called to say they rode up the canyons looking for color and though the snow provided a frosting on buff brown leaves up high, she was disappointed to find the trees bare at higher elevations (which we’d reported).

30-50% — Aspendell, Cardinal Resort. Barbara reports these pockets of color and lime-green turning leaves.  Aspendell remains pretty, as does Cardinal Resort, both of which have large groves of aspen situated in somewhat protected areas.

She reminds leaf peepers everywhere that, even when the color has gone, there’s a quality to the autumn light that is worth going the distance to experience. Barbara said,”In summer, the light is so brilliant.  At this time of year, the light changes and softens.  It’s so beautiful the way it plays across the granite.”  The metamorphosis, she explained, seemed to be total, not just in the quality of light and foliage, but among the communities in remote resorts where services are closing.  She mentioned that a favorite of ours… the Walker Burger in Walker, Calif.  (best burgers in California – plus the bird viewing is fun) is closing for winter, soon, as the birds have flown south to Mexico and fewer travelers are motoring US 395.  Still, if you get up there quickly, there’s color to be seen, so hang on, children and get there before the storm.

Lake Tahoe Hints of Yellow

Agate Bay Aspen (10/11/09)

Agate Bay Aspen (10/11/09)


0-15% — I-80. The color along Interstate 80 is just beginning to turn.  A grove of alder just west of exit 166 is showing a hint of yellow.  At Kingvale (6,000′) there are alder and cottonwood with some yellow.

30-50% — CA-267 (6200′ to 6800′). Between between Truckee and Brockway Summit, groves of aspen are lime-green, yellow-green and various shades of buff.  Some look as if they’re not going to give much color.  Others have promise, if the coming week’s storm doesn’t knock the turning leaves from the trees.  As you approach Brockway Summit, a stand of aspen is golden-brown at 75-100% peak.

Agate Bay Maple (10/11/09)

Agate Bay Maple (10/11/09)

15-30% — North Lake Tahoe (6200′). Along CA-28 from Kings Beach to Agate Bay, aspen vary in color from lime-green to yellow-green and yellow.  Some dogwood are pink-red and big leaf maple are showing auburn to orange-red.

North Lake Tahoe Photography: copyright 2009, John Poimiroo


Fallen Leaf Lake Trail (10/11/09)

Fallen Leaf Lake Trail (10/11/09)

30-50% — Fallen Leaf Lake (6,377′). As seen in this moody image from the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, aspen on the trail to Fallen Leaf Lake are mostly lime-green with hints of yellow.  To get to this lovely, secluded lake, follow the signs from CA-89 along the west shore, three miles north of the “Y” at the intersection of US-50 and CA-89 in South Lake Tahoe.

30-50% — South Lake Tahoe. Aspen are turning golden-yellow, orange and red across the South Shore. Jennifer Boyd reported her hopes that this week’s storms encourage the aspen to color up and transform into more gold, red and orange.  Though, sunny days are what’s needed for color to develop.  Rain shouldn’t damage leaves, unless it’s frigid.  Then, they would get freeze spots.  Of greater concern than the moisture are predicted high winds, which tend to knock turned leaves from the trees.  Cross your fingers!

Fallen Leaf Lake Photograph: copyright 2009, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Highest Sierra Color Blown Out, Now 7,000′ to 8,500′

Above 8,500′ there’s little color to be seen in the High Sierra, after last week’s storm.  The combination of winds (clearing colored leaves from branches) and snow mixed with icy temperatures (spotting yellow aspen leaves brown like week-old bananas) has blown away the dazzling color seen at the highest elevations of Bishop Creek Canyon in the Eastern Sierra.

The Good news is that trees that hadn’t yet turned color seemed not as affected by the cold snap and storm, so there are still a lot of trees yet to turn color in the high country.  Also, as reported in the blog immediately below this one, several areas of Mono County between 7,000′ and 8,500′ in elevation were not hit as hard and are showing nice color.  Still to emerge are elevations above 6,000′.  Look for the next two weeks for fall color to extend across the Sierra and to lower elevations.


Past Peak – South Lake (9768′). There’s not much color left at South Lake as the brilliant colors have largely been replaced by bare trees or brown leaves.

Weir Pond (10/7/09)

Weir Pond (10/7/09)

Past Peak – Weir Pond (9592′). Only a few trees on the east side of the pond are holding their color with most falling victim to the cold and wind. There are a few good photo ops possible still but the classic shots now have to wait until next fall.

Past Peak –Parchers Camp (9260′). Jared Smith reports that the view from his porch at the Parchers Resort “is not what it was a week ago as most of the color on the hills has turned to brown. There are some nice pockets of color just below the resort as well as some late turning aspens, so there are some prospects for the next few weeks – especially the granite face in between here and Willow Camp that has a few aspen and some snowberry bushes (the ones that turn bright red in the fall).”

North Lake Road (10/6/09)

North Lake Road (10/6/09)

Past Peak – North Lake (9255′) –North Lake was hit hard cold and very little color remains around the lake or on the road.

Past Peak – Lake Sabrina (9,150′). Jared reports the same conditions as South Lake with the cold snap being too much for the majority of peaking aspen.  Nevertheless, a picture of the skyline above the lake is “as epic as it always is, but there just isn’t much color left.”

Past Peak – Sabrina Camp Groves (9000′) – To paraphrase Peter, Paul and Mary, “Where has all the color gone, long time passing?”

Sabrina Approach (10/6/09)

Sabrina Approach (10/6/09)

Past Peak – Lake Sabrina Approach (9100′). And, to quote Jared Smith, Lots of brown with a little bit of green – ouch.”

Past Peak – Willow Camp (9065′).  Although many of the trees got slammed by the storm and cold, Jared reports, “there are quite a few trees which managed to withstand the weather. It’s not nearly as good as it was a week ago but there are still some good opportunities for fall color shots in the area just above or below Willow Camp.”

Past Peak – Table Mountain Group Campground (8845′).  You shoulda been there a week ago.  Areas above and below Table Mountain campground that were glowing with color have only a few pockets of yellow and orange remaining.

Mist Falls (10/6/09)

Famous Mist Falls (10/6/09)

15-30% – The Famous Mist Falls on South Fork Bishop Creek. There’s still a lot of green at Mist Falls, with a few spots of yellow.  The aspen here seem not to have been affected by the cold snap. Jared predicts,If the weather holds out there will still be some epic photographic opportunities at this location in the coming weeks.”

0-15% – Cardinal Mine Area. What happened here is that almost all of the color that had peaked is now gone.  What is left is a whole bunch of green that is just now starting to lighten up. Look for this area to pop in another week or two if the weather holds,” says Jared.

0-15% – Apsendell. None of the many aspen in the neighborhood at Aspendell have started to turn.  There’s a bit of the bright lime green which is typically the color seen just before yellows start to appear,  but that’s all.

0-15% – Intake II. There’s a lot of green at the small lake called Intake II. Jared says he’s ve seen some breathtaking photos from this location, “So, I’m excited to see how it looks in another week or two when the color starts to develop around the shore. Pocket of trees near the south shore can are usually the best but they’re still a dark shade of green.”

0-15% – Big Trees Campground. A very large grouping of aspen right above Big Trees campground along Bishop Creek is mostly lime green, which means it should color up in the next two weeks.

0-15% – Four Jeffrey Camp Groves.  Jared reports that the area of the canyon around Four Jeffrey Campground which is thick with aspens, has a few trees just below the camp which turned early and were affected by the cold weather.  However, the majority of the trees, especially those above the camp, are still a bright green and look to be fine.  This is one of those areas, Jared reports, that is worth watching as “it can be awesome.”

15-30% – Mountain Glen Campground. Give the hills above Mountain Glen campground a week or so and the color should be “epic” so predicts Jared Smith. Presently, the majority of the trees are a bright green with a bit of yellow mixed in. This weekend’s warmer daytime temperatures combined with cold nighttime temps should help turn them.  If the weather predicted next week is mild, the future for this particular spot is bright.

South Fork Loop Road (10/6/09)

South Fork Loop Road (10/6/09)

15-30% – Loop on South Fork. For those who missed seeing or photographing the color on the North Lake Rd or the approach to Sabrina (see pictures below), there is a loop off South Lake Rd between Mt. Glen camp and Table Mountain Camp which should offer comparable color in a week.


0-15% – Yosemite National Park. Kenny Karst reports that very little color is showing in Yosemite Valley.  At 5,000′ in elevation, Yosemite is one of the last spectacular locations in the Sierra to show color.  The first to change color will be a non-native eastern sugar maple which was planted by early park settlers near the Yosemite Chapel.  When this tree turns, it happens quickly and lasts for only a few days.  As this is an eastern tree, its color is a bright, bright red – unusual for California.  The classic photograph of this tree shows it in its ruby glory with Half Dome above and the chapel to the right… gorgeous.  As for Yosemite’s native trees, California big leaf maple turn yellow. cottonwoods gold, dogwood pink to red, and black oaks orange.  Contrasted against the park’s giant sequoia, Merced River and granite monoliths, the show is literally breathtaking.  It could begin at any moment, though we figure there’s another week to two before it breaks, depending on weather.  So, stay tuned to California Fall Color.

15-30% – Sonora Pass. Sandy Gordon reports that color is beginning to show on CA-108, though “the best is yet to come.”  At the top of the pass (9000′) it was 40 degrees at 11 a.m. today. Warm temps like that and cold nights are ideal conditions for developing the color, which Sandy expects will develop over the next two to three weeks.

Photography copyright 2009 Jared Smith


15-30% – Lake Tahoe. Jennifer Boyd reports that when this past week’s dusting of snow melted at Lake Tahoe, it seemed as if the aspen emerged with orange, red and yellow leaves.  Still a lot of green, though the best viewing locations are: Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake, Camp Richardson Resort, Hope Valley and Borne meadow (on the Nevada side on the way to Zephyr Cove).

15-30% – Hope Valley. The Carson Pass (CA-88) is often best once you reach the Hope Valley (east of Kirkwood).  We have not gotten a report from this area since the beginning of October, though chat on other sites by spotters indicates it should be in its own this weekend.  To get a better indicator, we called Sorenson’s Resort at the lower end of the Hope Valley (near Markleville).  The desk manager said there’s a touch of yellow near the resort and guests have commented about the beauty of the color up valley.  Given that, it should be sufficient color to head that direction this weekend and will likely peak in a week to two, given predicted storms next week don’t do to the Hope Valley what happened to upper Bishop Creek.

15-30% – Monitor Pass (CA-89). Travel writer Barbara Steinberg called to say she’d just traveled through the Hope Valley (CA-88) through Markleeville and over Monitor Pass (el. 8,314 ft. / 2,534 m) and was disappointed that it just wasn’t happening anywhere along the route in a big way.  “No big bursts of color, except in spots at higher elevations.”  Lots of green still with touches of yellow.  Barbara predicts that if the coming week’s storm doesn’t damage the color too greatly, it should pop on the weekend of Oct. 17 and 18 which would be the weekend to travel 88 to 89 to 395 and south.


Sweet Gum, Plumas County Courthouse, Quincy (10/7/09)

Sweet Gum, Plumas County Courthouse, Quincy (10/7/09)

15-30% – Plumas County. Joe Willis reports that big leaf maples are beginning to turn in Quincy, but aren’t expected to peak for another two weeks.  At this stage, the trees will show occasional bright red leaves or individual branches, which contrast with the remaining green.  Undergrowth is where the action remains, as reported two weeks previously, particularly in drainages where some indian rhubarb are coloring red, dogbane and bracken fern are showing deep yellow against brown beds of pine needles at 3,000′ to 4,000′.  For the moment, the color is limited to specific trees, often exotics, in the county seat of Quincy.  Joe says there’s “the prettiest little maple” in front of Moon’s restaurant, a sweet gum in front of the courthouse and lovely detail to be found in the veins of changing leaves.    He reported that on his drive today “from Quincy to Greenville, especially on Hwy 89 from the Greenville Y to Crescent Mills, there’s lots more bigleaf maple, black oak, and service berry that turned color than last week, but peak time is still at least a week away.  I figure by the weekend of the 17th we should be seeing solid masses of yellow and orange among the aforementioned as well as the black cottonwoods along the creeks and rivers in the 3000-4000′ range.”  As if you needed another reason to see fall color, there’s a Mountain Harvest Festival in Quincy on Saturday at the Plumas Sierra Fairgrounds with music, microbrew tasting and two forms of belly dancing (Now, that has nothing to do with fall color, but heck… belly dancing!? I’ve got to report it!).

Photography copyright 2009 Joe Willis

Indian Rhubarb (10/9/09)

Indian Rhubarb (10/9/09)

15-30% – Buck’s Lake. Mike Nellor of Ada’s Place Cottages in Quincy says that west of Quincy on the way to Buck’s Lake, the Indian Rhubarb is starting to show red, and the alders are coloring up nicely.  Big Leaf Maple and Mountain Dogwoods are also turning around Deer, Slate and Rock Creek,” he said.  Watershed resource expert, Jim Wilcox, of Genesee Valley, reports that aspen on the east side of Plumas County are best seen and brightest along lakes and creeks.  He says, the aspens are starting to turn along the road 2 miles west of Antelope Lake.

Mountain Dogwood (10/9/09)

Mountain Dogwood (10/9/09)

Photography copyright 2009 Mike Nellor


0-15% – San Francisco. Cindy Hu reports that San Francisco is still basking in its “real summer”.  SF insiders know that October in San Francisco is when The City warms to the best weather of the year… clement days, clear air and little fog (although it’s emotional to experience the fog enter the Golden Gate).  Once color starts breaking (probably early November), head to Golden Gate Park with your camera for brilliant color at the Japanese Tea Garden and in secluded glades throughout the park (one of America’s great urban parks).


0-15% – Humboldt County. Richard Stenger reports that poison oak are coloring pink to red, though big leaf maple and cottonwoods have not yet begun to show yellow and gold.  The California Coastal Range doesn’t have the mass color displays seen in the Sierra, though it has lovely color which is less susceptible to cold snaps, as the weather is more temperate.  Dave Stockton says about 25% of the trees will show color and that a couple of the best places to view fall color in this region are from the Founder’s Grove and Weott Overlook in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.


15-30% – Shasta Cascade Region. Karen Whitaker says that her spotters are not reporting much change as yet, although as throughout the state, color can always be found in grasses and sedges near drainage areas.  Earlier this week we reported that the aspen groves in Lassen Volcanic National Park are beginning to transition from green to lime-green.  That color change should continue to yellow this coming week as color appears in the 7,000′ to 8,000′ elevations.