Mapping Fall Color

California Fall Color Map (9/11/20)

There is no machine-driven method of automatically mapping fall color across California. The California Fall Color Map (at right on Navigation bar) is updated by hand each Friday, after reports have been received and verified.

The map is a visual guide to how autumn color is changing, though it may not be precise, as conditions change rapidly.

Above, you see the map as updated on Friday, Sept. 11. Those areas with Just Starting (0-10%) light green color are either in that range or an update has not been received to change a leaf’s color.

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/3/18)

The Eastern Sierra’s Bishop Creek Canyon (seen at left) is one area that gets lots of reports, so its map is precise to a few hundred feet, when updated. The accuracy of the map depends on reports from people across California.

When an area is transitioning from Peak to Past Peak, we are cautious to not declare an area as Past Peak until most of the color has fallen, as there’s still beauty to be seen. This is a subjective decision, but one that over time has proven to be prudent.

However, please note that once a brown Past Peak leaf has been placed in a given area, other peaking locations near the same elevation are likely to become Past Peak momentarily. So, haste is needed to see peak color at those locations.

Dated photographs confirm reports. So, if you’d like to contribute to the map, include a photo, mention the location where and the day when the color change was seen and email your report to editor@californiafallcolor.com

There are several fall foliage maps across the United States. Most, in our opinion, seem not to be based on what’s actually happening at those locations, but are general forecasts of what should or might be appearing.

In particular, national maps that include California are often based on hunches rather than actual reports. One example is the Great Smoky Mountains Map (above) which uses a slider to indicate where fall color might appear by date. However, for California, it’s total nonsense and has nothing to do with what really happens.

Worse, it entirely misses the San Bernardino, San Jacinto and Laguna Mountains, turning all of Southern California past peak without any sense of what really happens.

The California Fall Color Map is based on actual reports received in the week preceding the Friday on which the map is updated. We do not make things up as these other maps seem to do. We report what’s been seen.

Nevertheless, through such tools, color spotters, photographers and leaf peepers can better understand where it’s peaking locally and nationally. 

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How to Submit Photos and Reports

Bigleaf Maple, Spanish Creek (10/14/17) Michael Beatley

Over 75 volunteer “color spotters” (our term for contributors) submit photographs and reports to CaliforniaFallColor.com in a typical autumn.

To be one of them is easy. Email photos within a few days of when taken* to editor@californiafallcolor.com. Always include the photographer’s name, date the photo was taken and the location where the photo was taken.

Each Thursday, I send comprehensive reports of fall color and a collection of the Best of the Week photographs to over 500 media across California. To assure that your submissions are eligible to be included in these reports, I need your photographs and reports not later than Wednesday night.

Photos should be high resolution**, particularly if you’d like them considered as one of CaliforniaFallColor.com’s Best of the Week. Each week from the first day of autumn until the Thursday preceding Thanksgiving Day, the week’s best photos are (with photographer’s permission) sent to major broadcast and print media; they won’t accept any photo less than 300 dpi in size.

Please note: We are unable to compensate photographers for use of their images, but always credit the photographer for his/her work. Publication of photographs on CaliforniaFallColor.com has benefitted many contributors who have had their photographs republished, leading to broader recognition/exposure, enhanced resumes/reputation, paid compensation from others and/or retail sales, not to mention bragging rights.

Reports should include: % of color change for the location being reported (e.g., North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon) – not for a specific tree or shrub (expressed as: Just Starting, 0-10%; Patchy, 10-50%; Near Peak, 50-75%; Peak, 75-100%;  or Past Peak), the name of the location, roads (e.g., take Rock Creek Rd. east from US 395), date visited and any helpful information (e.g., “The trail is steep for the first 500′. but then levels out for the two mile hike to the lake. A grove of peaking aspen is found at the western side the lake trail.”).

If you know the foliage seen in the photo (particularly if it is unusual or wouldn’t be evident to us), please describe it (e.g., aspen, bigleaf maple, black oak, silver willow, etc.).

We will make every effort to publish your report, particularly if it is from an unusual or lightly reported destination. When multiple photographs are received from heavily visited locations, we are able only to publish the first received, the best or the most unusual.

Occasionally, we will post a portfolio of historic photos*, but often only on Friday or when fresh images have not been received. Photos may be cropped or adjusted for best presentation.

CaliforniaFallColor.com’s style is vivid and photojournalistic. Images that tell a story or that show human activity in relation to autumn are best.

Reports and photos can also be posted on CaliforniaFallColor’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Though, emailing photos and reports to editor@californiafallcolor.com is the best way to get them on this site, and the only way to get them considered as one of the Best of the Week.

Thank you and happy wandering!

* The sooner a photograph and report are sent to us, the more likely it will be published, because it shows what is likely to be seen now at the location. Photographs taken more than a week ago aren’t really useful and cannot be included in Best of the Week collections sent to media. Historic photos, like Michael Beatley’s shot of Spanish Creek (seen above), are published – on occasion – days or even years after they were taken, but only to illustrate an article that is not time-sensitive.

**A high resolution photo is one that is 300 dpi (dots per inch). A photograph of 1 megabyte or larger is usually large enough to be considered to be high resolution. Please don’t hesitate sending a photograph just because it isn’t 300 dpi. Pictures taken with mobile devices often get included in our reports, when the device has been set to shoot a large picture. 72 dpi images (set for websites and devices) are too small for reproduction in print media.

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Giving Thanks and Looking Back at 2019

On this Thanksgiving Day, CaliforniaFallColor.com is thankful to the many color spotters and photographers who contributed reports, photographs and videos in 2019.

They include (from first leaf): Jeff Simpson, Martha Fletcher, Robert Kermen, Bob Simms, Lori Quillen, Julie Kirby, Donna Mercer, Dakota Snider, Jeff Luke Titcomb, Michael Beatley, Jared Smith, Anirudh Natekar, Michelle Pontoni, Justin Legge, John Ehrenfeld, Aaron Thom, Philip Reedy, Suzanne Kovacs, Mike Schaper, Alena Nicholas, Trent Vierra, Kathy Jonokuchi, Leor Pantilat, Dylan Ren, Dan Rastler, Ryan Boyd, Gigi de Jong, Laura Jean, Mark Harding, Elliot McGucken, Steve Shinn, Alicia Vennos, Liz Grans, Ann Hale-Smith, Clayton Peoples, Logan Alexander, Terry Willard, Kurt Lawson, Risa Wyatt, Jeri Rangel, Chien-Chang Kyle Chen, Fares Alti, Kent Gordon, Lance Pifer, Walt Gabler, Laura Christman, Gene Miller, Dan Varvais, Ravi Ranganathan, Jun Hong, Kathleen DiGregorio, Steve Arita, Roger Zhang, Mel Fechter, Shanda Ochs, Dan Mata, Gabriel Leete, Max Forster, Benjamin Vu, Son Nguyen, Vishal Mishra, Bea Ahbeck, Niven Le, Mark Hanning-Lee, Frank McDonough, Chance Gordon, Charles Hooker, Jim Adams, Susan Hanlon, Gillian Espinosa, Melani Clark, Mike Caffey, Anson Davalos, Deepa Yvaraj, Allison Hastings, Ben Carlson, Mohammed Hossain, John Jackson and Ron Tyler, who produced the above video.

Special thanks are expressed to Inyo County Tourism, Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Mono County Tourism, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association 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.

If we missed you, please know it wasn’t intentional. We are truly indebted to every contributor.

Of course, this list is incomplete without mentioning my wife, Joan, who has driven the car and pulled it 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.

Of course, our deepest thanks go to the many tens of thousands of people who have read, followed, reacted 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 in California, this year. We produce a new video each autumn. To see them all, CLICK HERE.

The photographs selected for this year’s video represent: what happened this autumn, the extent and diversity of fall color across the state, and some of the finest photographs taken in 2019.

If you would like your photographs considered for inclusion in next autumn’s video, submit “horizontal” pictures of fall color taken in places not often photographed. As competition is stiffest among pictures taken at the most 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 begin to dial back reports and will post them less frequently. We’ve also stopped sending  weekly reports 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.

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Looking Back at Autumns Past

Tomorrow, we post our annual Thanksgiving Day message and video review of 2019.

It will be our eighth annual “California Fall Color Looks Back” video. As, although CaliforniaFallColor.com went live in 2009, it wasn’t until 2012 that we began posting video reviews.

In advance of seeing “California Fall Color Looks Back at 2019,” we thought you might like to see those from years past.

Ron Tyler created each video. Ron is head of the Tyler Marketing Group, an El Dorado Hills-based marketing communications consultancy with expertise in social media, product marketing and video.

Each of the photographs selected for these videos is representative of what happened that autumn, the extent and diversity of fall color seen across the state, and some of the finest photographs taken that year.

FallClr

New Plates (10/31/19) John Poimiroo

It’s the end of October. Time to put a new expiration sticker on the license plate and keep tabs of what color is peaking in the neighborhood (elev. 768′).

Yup, it’s all good.

Back in the Saddle, Once More

Jennifer Roeser rides her mule, Pearl, in McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

I so love this photograph. I just don’t love why I keep posting it.

For the second time in a week, CaliforniaFallColor.com collapsed. The first time – I’m told by the techs – was because of a server failure. Then, they found malware, despite efforts to protect the site from such hooligans.

36 hours later, the site collapsed again. This last time lasted 35 hours (this repetition is getting tiresome), as a previous server had hijacked the site, causing it to have to go through re-propagating onto the correct server.

I can just hear the techies out there groaning at my explanations. I’m a journalist, not an IT, so I suppose what I’m explaining here is just more “fake news,” but that’s how I understand it. Ah, well.

The good news is that CaliforniaFallColor.com is back in the saddle, once more.

Back in the Saddle Again

Jennifer Roeser rides her mule, Pearl, in McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

This is the second time in three years that CaliforniaFallColor.com has crashed due to a web attack.

Malware from another country took root on Sunday night, despite our best efforts to protect against attacks.

The last time, it put the site down for 36 frustrating hours. CaliforniaFallColor.com went down at about midnight on Sunday. We went live again at 9 p.m. on Wed. – about the same gap as in 2017.

That’s right pardners, darn frustratin’.

Now, time was lost, but not the reports. All reports received from spotters since Sunday night will be up following this post.

Time to start singing about fall color once more, buckaroos.

Fans of Fall Color

Michael Beatley (hat) and John Poimiroo (red) meet the Ghandi, Velusami and Govindasamy families, all fans of fall color at Spanish Creek.

Yesterday, Michael Beatley and I toured Plumas County. Along the way, we ran into fans of CaliforniaFallColor.com who’d followed this site’s advice to GO NOW! It was coincidental that they happened to be where we were.

At Spanish Creek, Michael and I stopped to joke about their tantalizing picnic feast that was spread out on a blanket at the trailhead.

Karthik Ghandi and his family from Rocklin was joined by the Velusami family of Roseville and the Govindasamy’s of Folsom who were enjoying the lunch before visiting Spanish Creek then hiking up the trail a half mile to see Indian rhubarb.

In Quincy, we passed Son and Ann Nugyen, contributors to the site, who were photographing a maple. They have traveled far and wide across North America to photograph fall color and refer to CaliforniaFallColor.com, regularly.

To all our readers and fans, thank you. Thank you for your loyalty to the site and the many contributions you make, sharing the beauty you’ve seen with other fans of fall color.

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Nikon Asks, “Who’s Tops?”

Pinot Noir, Durrell Vineyards, Sonoma County (10/12/19) Risa Wyatt

Nikon USA is holding its fifth “Top Spots for Fall Foliage Competition.”

The competition is a nationwide crowdsourced campaign on Nikon USA’s social media channels to determine which state has the best fall color.

Michigan has won it for the past three years. The winner is based on the number of fall color photos posted to social media with the hashtag, #NikonFallCA. That’s California’s hashtag.

In a month, Nikon will tally the photos from each state and announce the winning state, during the week of November 18.

So, where is the top spot for fall foliage? It’s California, of course … #NikonFallCA.

Powered Again

The California Fall Color Map is powered again. Lots of added red, orange, yellow and a few brown. Avoid the brown-out. GO NOW!