Aspen Return to Lassen NF

Aspen, Bogard Campground, Lassen NF (9/6/18) Chico Hiking Association

In 2003, Lassen National Forest began an aspen restoration project near the Bogard Campground and Susan River off Hwy 44 on the way to the Black Lake Loop trail in the Caribou Wilderness. (More about what the US Forest Service accomplished will be posted here, soon. However, in the photos above and to the left, note the mature aspen surrounded by young aspen. This shows what the forest will look like, once this grove ages.)

Aspen, Black Lake Loop, Lassen NF (9/6/18) Chico Hiking Association

Today, the aspen are growing and spreading. Arlaine Arslan of the Chico Hiking Association (CHA) reports, “There’s also very small grove along the Posey Lake Loop trail and road side along the Susan River on the way to the Black Lake Loop trailhead.”  In recognition of Lassen National Forest’s accomplishment, Black Lake Loop is honored as this week’s Hike of the Week.

The Chico Hiking Association promotes hiking trails within about two hours of Chico, providing maps, directions and the links needed to get to the Chico area’s best hiking trails, many of which have lovely fall color. In spring and summer, CHA focuses on wildflowers, while in autumn and early winter they are fall color spotters.

Aspen, Black Lake Loop, Lassen NF (9/6/18) Chico Hiking Association

Eastern Sierra aspen are legendary for their profuse color, though many smaller, though still inspirational, groves can be discovered in the Northern Sierra near Chico. Hikers often find these trails lightly tread with few worn spots where others planted their tripods or stood.

CHA hopes to change perceptions that only bigleaf maple, black oak and Indian rhubarb are to be found in this lightly visited part of Upper California, and that their trails are a mind-clearing alternative to more congested fall color destinations.


Dwarf Billberry, Black Lake Loop, Lassen NF (9/6/18) Chico Hiking Association

Maps leading hikers from the highest point in the Coastal Range ( Mt Linn) to the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail in the Cascade Range (Butt Mountain), as well as to Lassen Peak, are produced by CHA, many along routes forested with fall color. Learn more at chicohiking.org

Just Starting (0-10%) – Lassen National Forest (5,600′) – Aspen groves at Bogard Campground and along the Black Lake Loop are exhibiting some of the earliest fall color yet reported in California.


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Color Begins in the Meadows

California Corn Lillies, Spencer Meadow, Lassen National Forest (8/30/18) Chico Hiking Association

In their enthusiasm to appreciate trees, color spotters often overlook meadows. However, that’s where early, delicate color is often first seen.

Willows, Spencer Meadow, Lassen National Forest (8/30/18) Chico Hiking Association

On a hike through Spencer Meadow in Lassen National Forest, members of the Chico Hiking Association scored a First Report (the first report for a specific location on CaliforniaFallColor.com) and found such beauty among willows and California Corn Lillies in the meadow.

Chico Hiking Association reports they plan a series of fall color hikes and will be submitting photos to document what they’re seeing on their hikes. That’s such a great idea for hiking clubs that we have designated the Spencer Meadow trail as our first Hike of the Week of Autumn. 

Just Starting (0-10%) – Spencer Meadow, Lassen National Forest

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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. 

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Earth Day Wildflowers

Winter Mustard (file photo) Bob McClenahan, Visit Napa Valley

It was a beautiful Earth Day weekend to be out enjoying California’s spring wildflowers.

California poppies and California lilac (file photo) Bob McClenahan, Visit Napa Valley

In the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma counties, the last of late winter’s yellow mustard blossoms have given way to populations of poppies, lupine and all varieties of colorful wildflowers, between the vines, along their edges, beside roadways and on open land.

The colorful springtime display, particularly showy in areas where last fall’s wildfires opened overgrown woodlands to wildflowers, has been nourished by the nutrients left behind by the fires. This will be one of the best years to see big displays of wildflowers because of last fall’s wildfires.

Western Wildflower  lists 17 trails in Napa County to hike for dazzling displays of flora. One of California’s best areas is the Missimer Wildflower Preserve, a protected native grassland. Across its acres of open meadows grow several species listed by the California Native Plant Society as endangered, including the narrow-leaved daisy, Napa western flax, Colusa lavia and yellow Mariposa lily, Calochortus luteus.

Sonoma County Tourism lists 10 Great Wildflower Walks with a colorful array of orange poppies, deep blue iris (now in bloom), purple lupine, white woodland stars, yellow columbine, pink shooting stars, golden fairy lanterns, red larkspur and lavendar clarkia (June) splashed throughout Sonoma County.

California poppies, Gwinllan Vineyards (5/22/18) John Poimiroo

In Sierra Nevada foothills, orange, red and golden California poppies are at their most glorious anywhere grassy slopes face the southern sky. The South Fork of the Merced River, from Mariposa to Yosemite National Park along CA-140 is considered to have one of the best shows, though the upper areas of the Merced River Canyon peaked in mid March.

HIKE OF THE WEEK – The 6.5-mile Hite Cove Trail, leading from Savage’s Trading Post (midway between Mariposa and Yosemite) is spectacular right now with profuse displays of wildflowers growing beside the trail.

If you plan to hike this famed wildflower trail, start early and carry a large bottle of water – you’ll need all of it. The trail is moderate to strenuous, though it has a bonus if you make it to the end… an abandoned mine.

Sierra foothills are carpeted with wildflowers (5/22/18) John Poimiroo

When you capture great images of California’s wildflowers, send them to us and we’ll post them here.


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Beauty Returns to the Ventana Wilderness


Pine Valley, Ventana Wilderness (11/19/17) Leor Pantilat

Pine Valley, Ventana Wilderness (11/19/17) Leor Pantilat

Tassajara Rd., Ventana Wilderness (11/19/17) Leor Pantilat

Until this year, the Soberanes Fire in the Pine Valley area of the Ventana Wilderness was the most expensive wildfire in U.S. history.

The Tubbs Fire which scorched Santa Rosa in October erased that dubious record.

Color spotter Leor Pantilat revisited Pine Valley and the Ventana Wilderness in Monterey County this past Sunday to find that most of the ponderosa pines, several of the larger landmark black oaks and cottonwoods there survived the Soberanes Fire. The latter are carrying bright orange and golden color.

He found the Tassajara Road, a dirt road that leads to the trailhead at China Camp, also full of beautiful orange black oaks.

That is reassuring news to areas hit by wildfire this year. As, nature is forgiving and beauty returns quickly.

Leor classifies the Ventana Wilderness at Peak and advises that the area is prime for fall color hikes over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, making Pine Valley in the Ventana Wilderness Hike of the Week.

Ventana Wilderness, Monterey County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Whitney Portal Aflame With Color

Whitney Portal (10/13/17) Blair Lockhart



































The Whitney Portal trail in southern Inyo County often gets overlooked by color spotters because it takes some effort to get to it, but as these images from Blair Lockhart attest, it shouldn’t be missed when it’s peaking.

This is definitely the Hike of the Week, though strenuous.

Whitney Portal (8,374′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Whitney Portal (10/13/17) Blair Lockhart



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Mammoth Is Massive – GO NOW!

Willows, Mammoth Lakes Basin (10/10/17) Josh Wray

The Mammoth Lakes Basin has few aspen. Nevertheless, it should be on any color spotter’s must-see list because of its willows.

Near Lake Mary, Lake George and along the west shore of the basin, they are putting on a show of orange splendor, right now. The lakes basin is impressive any time of year. A dramatic bowl of sawtooth peaks cups a necklace of lakes that are favorites of anglers, hikers, cyclists and people out to be inspired by this planet’s glory.

Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,500′) – Peak (75-100%) – GO NOW!

Laurel Creek (10/10/17) Josh Wray

Laurel Creek (8,000′) – Peak (75-100%) – A golden vein of aspen winds along Laurel Creek down from the High Sierra to near US 395, south of Mammoth Lakes. It is absolutely breathtaking.

As you drive north on US 395, the aspen look like a gigantic golden chain that has been laid upon the land. Brilliant yellow and orange foliage flows down the mountain like a twisted flume ride.

To see it up close a high-clearance SUV is required. As, you’re on a dirt road that is littered with stones and boulders in places. However, with a capable off-road vehicle, it’s soft adventure with a beautiful view and just minutes south of Mammoth Lakes.


Snowcreek Golf Course, Mammoth Lakes (10/10/17) Josh Wray

Snowcreek Meadow – Peak (75-100%) – This is the go-to spot for fall color in Mammoth Lakes. Its meadow, ponds, and golf course are full of color and vistas. Hike of the Week is the Mammoth Lakes Town Loop… very easy and inspiring.

Mammoth Rock (9,100′) – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Autumn’s Carpet, Mammoth Lakes (10/10/17) Josh Wray


Glorious Color Emerges in Mono County

Sagehen Meadows (10/4/17) John Poimiroo

(Mono County – 10/4/17) – Peak is approaching at several viewing locations in Mono County, Jeff Simpson reports. We visited prime areas throughout Mono County today to find great color in the higher canyons.

Sagehen Meadows (10/4/17) Daniel Danzig

To the east of US 395, on a mountain area area that gets less water than the Sierra Nevada, Sagehen Meadows is at Peak and glorious. If you’ve not visited this remote place, take CA-120 (south of Mono Lake) 14 miles east to Sagehen Summit. Turn onto Sagehen Meadows Rd. and continue three miles south along a dirt road to Sagehen Meadows.

A dirt parking area at Sagehen can hold four cars and there’s a fairly steady stream of dusty cars pulling in for the view of venerable hot-red, flame orange and yellow-flecked aspen. They’re so old, they look as if they were there when the Sierra were made.

To the west, snowy peaks within Yosemite National Park are seen.  It’s a great place for contemplation, inspiration and a picnic.

Elsewhere in Mono County, Rock Creek Road, McGee Creek Rd., Convict Lake, Laurel Canyon Rd. (OHV), Conway Summit, Summers Meadow Road and Lobdell Lake Road are all transitioning from Patchy to Near Peak. They should all be increasingly brilliant each of the coming 7-10 days.

Many areas like the West Walker River, Lee Vining Canyon, Lundy Canyon and the June Lake Loop are just getting started but still have sections of great foliage and are worth visiting this weekend.

Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – Peak (75-100%) Sagehen Summit has been at peak color for the last 5 days and is rapidly nearing past peak. You’ll still find sections of good color with dark crimson, reds and oranges, while other areas are going Past Peak. Sagehen Summit will still be great for the next few days but it will likely be gone after the coming weekend. GO NOW!

Lower Rock Creek Rd. (7,087′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Towering black cottonwood along Lower Rock Creek Rd – leading to and beyond the Mono/Inyo County line and into Round Valley – are crowned in gold and should continue to glow for the next three weeks.

Rock Creek Road (9,000′ to 10,300’) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) – There’s wonderful color to be found along the lower section of Rock Creek Rd., with sections of great yellows and oranges, though the tale of all Sierra color areas is that large stands of Just Starting and Patchy aspen are there, too. The areas along Rock Creek Lake are best in midday light. Aspen in the Little Lakes Valley are peaking. GO NOW!

McGee Creek Campground (10/4/17) John Poimiroo

McGee Creek Canyon (10/4/17) Terry Rightmire

McGee Creek Canyon (8,600′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) – The aspen and cottonwood along McGee Creek Rd are crowned with golden color, providing for a stunning show. Hike Of The Week: walk a mile beyond road’s end toward the peaks beyond to pass through golden aspen groves and a mountain hillside that is painted with chartreuse majesty (as seen in Terry Rightmire’s image). GO NOW!

Convict Lake (7850′) Patchy (10-50%) – Willows and aspen ringing the lake are patchy with large areas of emerging golden color. The aspen at the end of the lake are about 25% turned, so the show will continue to improve at Convict Lake for another two weeks. Take the 2.5 mile “Convict Lake Loop Trail” around the lake for a close up view of the leaves and different angles of Mt. Morrison.


Conway Summit (10/4/17) John Poimiroo

Conway Summit, north slope (10/4/17) John Poimiroo

Conway Summit (8,143′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) – Some color spotters say Conway Summit is peaking, but with the amount of green still in the aspen groves, it’s a truly more of a mix of High Patchy to Full Peak. Nevertheless the overall impression takes one’s breath away. There are bold stands of yellow and orange while others are patches of lime and green. When you cross the summit, note that the aspen on the south slope have further along than those on the north slope. GO NOW!

Gull Lake (10/4/17) John Poimiroo

June Lake Loop – Patchy (10-50%) – Bright yellow aspen mixed with lime and dark green are seen along the edges of June, Gull, Silver and Grant Lakes, as well as beside the June Lake Loop.

Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Much of Summers Meadow is patchy, though some individual stands have brilliant color. The massive elevation change on the mountain means these trees will be peaking at different times over the next two weeks.  NOTE: The Summers Meadow bridge sustained significant damage during the spring runoff. The bridge has been reduced to one lane traffic but is currently open to visitors traveling to Summers Meadow.

Summers Meadow (10/4/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Lobdell Lake Road (8,600′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Lots has changed here from last week but Lobdell Lake is still well short of Peak. You’ll find sections of peak color while other areas are still fully green. This is a perfect spot for portrait photography or anyone wanting to do close ups of isolated sections of trees. Note: Burcham Flat Road to Lobdell lake Road are dirt roads – AWD or 4WD vehicles are recommended.


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First Report: Sanborn County Park, Santa Cruz Mts.

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/7/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/7/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/7/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/7/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/7/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/7/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/9/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/7/16) Leor Pantilat

Bigleaf maple, Sanborn County Park, Saratoga (11/9/16) Leor Pantilat

The Santa Cruz Mountains have lovely pockets of fall color: at Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge RR in Felton, at Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Boulder Creek and along Skyline Drive.

Sanborn County Park (Santa Clara County Parks District) is an oft-overlooked location to spot bucolic color.  It’s found by taking Skyline Blvd./Hwy 35 from Patchen Pass to Saratoga Gap.

Color spotter Leor Pantilat scores a first report for this location and reports that along the way, “You’ll drive through some fantastic sections of yellow and orange bigleaf maples. The bigleafs are the best they have been in years after slightly above normal precipitation last winter (bigleafs like water).”

He opines, “In the preceding drought years a good deal of the leaves fell prematurely before turning. Black oak is also peaking with California hazelnut providing some extra color in the understory. At this location the peak should continue for another week or so… until the next winds blow through.

The park has over 22 miles of trails. Hike of the Week is the Lake Ranch Trail, a shaded, easy hike between Lake Ranch and Black Road.

Sanborn County Park, Santa Cruz Mountains – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

High 81°/Low 56°
High 88°/Low 57°
High 83°/Low 57°
High 81°/Low 55°

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Peak of the Week: Redding

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Sacramento River Trail (11/1/16) Shanda Ochs

Redding is unusual for a city, in that a major natural area passes through its center. That natural area is the Sacramento River.

Preserved green space flanks each side of the river to provide some flood protection to the city, preserve the riparian environment and provide a corridor of recreation.

The Sacramento River Trail is this week’s Hike of the Week.

It is a National Recreation Trail with miles of biking, walking and running path, Turtle Bay Exploration Park with its children’s discovery museum, museum of art, history and nature, wildlife discovery museum, a riparian forest tree walk, the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens (that focuses on California native plants) and lots of natural fall color.

The trail travels from scenic Shasta Dam at Shasta Lake, 17.4 miles to Sundial Bridge in Redding.

Sundial Bridge is one of three scenic and historic bridges that cross the river. Designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, Sundial Bridge is an actual working sundial, casting its towering shadow across an arc from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is not accurate in winter, however, as its shadow is too far into the adjacent arboretum to be seen.

When the bridge’s shadow is visible, it moves at a rate of one foot per minute. The remarkable, steel, glass and granite structure evokes a sense of weightlessness, and its translucent glass deck glows blue green at night.

The bridge’s cable-stayed, 217-foot pylon supports the bridge, allowing spawning grounds for salmon beneath the bridge to remain untouched.

Other bridges along the trail include the 1915 Diestelhorst Bridge – first to cross the Sacramento River – and a 418-foot stress ribbon bridge, the first of its kind in America.

Snow has curtailed color spotter Shanda Ochs’ reporting from Lassen Volcanic National Park, but encouraged her to explore the Sacramento River Trail and return with this report.

Shanda notes that some remaining fall color can be seen at Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic, though the park is mostly past peak.  Nevertheless, she found lots to enjoy along the Sacramento River Trail in Redding’s Caldwell Park.

Most of the trees there are non-native, though there are Frémont cottonwood, bigleaf maple, Oregon ash and willow among them. The color ranges from bold red-orange to splashes of yellow and gold. The river bank is inhabited mostly by native oak woodland and though we rate Redding as peaking, the color should continue develop for a week or two more.

Redding – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!