Retreat to Idyllwild

Black oak, Ernie Maxwell Trail (11/4/19) Mark Hanning-Lee

Idyllwild has long been a favorite Southern California retreat.

The San Jacinto mountain town is surrounded by scenic terrain that invites hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and awe.

Mark Hanning-Lee hiked the Ernie Maxwell Trail and explored the area last week, showing black oak, manzanita and Frémont cottonwood at peak. By now, the areas he photographed with an iPhone X are at the end of peak with lower elevations (Lake Hemet) and northwest-facing areas now peaking.

Mark parked at the Humber Peak trailhead and walked south along the Ernie Maxwell trail. He recommends an afternoon hike, as it is lit from mid afternoon to sunset.

In town, a spindly Frémont cottonwood by the Town Crier office was still full of golden leaves. He then continued north 10 miles on State Route 243 to find Near Peak color along Stone Creek and Lake Fulmor.

  • Idyllwild (5,413′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
  • Lake Hemet (4,340′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Classic Camping

Classic Shasta Trailer, Lake Hemet, (11/8/19) Chance Gordon

An Indian Summer is extending the camping and fall color seasons in the San Jacinto Mountains where, at Lake Hemet, the days have been warm, the nights cool, and classic trailers even cooler.

Jeff Brown reports from Lake Hemet Campgrounds that wildlife viewing (bald eagles), fishing (rainbow trout) and fall color spotting (cottonwood, black oak) are at their peak in mid November.

  • Lake Hemet – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Lake Arrowhead – Not? Hot!

Rabbitbrush and black oak, Lake Arrowhead (11/5/19) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead is defying expectations. By now, it was supposed to be not. Instead, it’s still hot.

Lake Arrowhead (11/5/19) Alena Nicholas

Black oak are still carrying deep orange color in the San Bernardino Mountains surrounding Lake Arrowhead and Lake Gregory, as seen in these snaps sent in by Alena Nicholas.

  • Lake Arrowhead (5,174′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
  • Lake Gregory (4,554′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
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Goin’ to Jackson

Jackson Lake, Angeles National Forest (11/5/19) Lance Pifer

Johnny Cash and June Carter would surely be “talkin’ ’bout Jackson,” ’cause the fire there’s not gone out. Black oak at Jackson Lake in the Angeles National Forest are aflame with color.

Lance Pifer visited Jackson Lake this past weekend, to find the Wrightwood/Valyermo areas displaying bright yellow and deep orange leaves.

Lance went for a run through the color along a Jackson Lake trail and enjoyed the color near Mountain High ski area near Wrightwood along CA-2. 

Indian summer weather is providing a short-sleeved extension to warm days and late autumn color in and around the lake, Wrightwood and Valyermo. And, it’s not just the weather that’s hotter’n a pepper sprout. So is the fall color. Lance figures it varies from 50 to 80% turned. Considering the late date, we’re classifying it as Peak and recommend to GO NOW!

As, snow will soon blanket the San Gabriel Mountains, and then, big-talkin’ man, you’re gonna snowball Jackson, kinda like the song says.

  • Jackson Lake, Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains (6,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Silverwood Turns Gold

Silverwood Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains is a great recreational destination, popular for water sports and for fishing rainbow trout, largemouth bass, striped bass, Channel catfish and bluegill.

Because the Silverwood Lake is lightly forested, it is not often reported for fall having much fall color. However, Silverwood’s cottonwood, oak and willows are now Near Peak to Peak.

The leading reason to head to Silverwood lake is its recreation, though for the moment, fall color will greet you warmly as it did color spotter Chien-Chang Kyle Chen, today.

  • Silverwood Lake, San Bernardino Mountains (3,356′) Chien-Chang Kyle Chen – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW!
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Right Time For Wrightwood

Rabbitbrush, Wrightwood (10/17/19) Lance Pifer

It’s a good time, you might say the right time to head to Wrightwood.

First developed as a cattle ranching area, Wrightwood became a San Gabriel Mountain winter destination in the late ’40s when a ski area was opened there within an easy drive of Los Angeles. It’s called Mountain High, today.

That seems appropriate, as you get a mountain high from the beauty of autumn in Wrightwood.

Rabbitbrush, black and Fremont oak, bigleaf maple, white alder, creek dogwood, bitter cherry, blue and black elderberry, velvet ash and choke cherry provide a beautiful mix of deciduous color and berries.

Lance Pifer visited and sent back just the right mix for Wrightwood.

  • Wrightwood (5,935′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Big Bear’s In The Den

Oak Glen (10/15/19) Alena Nicholas

Big Bear has headed to its den for the winter. Peak fall color can still be seen, but more and more leaves are dropping, Alena Nicholas reports from the San Bernardino Mountains.

While Big Bear has begun to hibernate, peak color is appearing elsewhere in the mountains as Indian Summer arrives.

Lake Gregory, Lake Arrowhead and Grass Valley are all dressed in beautiful color.

Lower down, Oak Glen, is Patchy with cottonwood, black oak, aspen, bigleaf maple and apple trees primed for its annual harvest show. Time to order an apple pie!

Grass Valley Lake (10/15/19) Alena Nicholas
  • Green Valley Lake (7,200′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Aspen Grove Trail (7,370′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Rim of the World (7,000′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Big Bear Lake (6,752′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
  • Running Springs (6,190′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
  • Lake Arrowhead (5,174′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Lake Gregory (4,554′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Grass Valley Lake (5,058′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Oak Glen (4,734′) – Patchy (10-50%)

Big Bear Begins

Frémont cottonwood, Big Bear Lake (10/6/19) Trent Vierra

Big Bear Lake is experiencing perfect fall weather with warm, sunny days and very crisp cold nights, causing its trees to shift from Just Starting to Patchy, Trent Vierra reports.

“Many of the decorative trees in town, namely aspen and maple, are brilliant shades of gold (aspen) and red (maple). The native cottonwood is starting to yellow up in some spots and the black oak and willows are taking on a nice lime-green hue. I would expect peak to happen in about two to three weeks.”

  • Big Bear Lake(6,752′) – Patchy (10-50%)

Big Bear Begins to Glow

Bracken fern, Big Bear Lake (9/25/19) Mark Hanning-Lee

On the advice of an innkeeper, color spotter Mark Hanning-Lee drove from Big Bear (San Bernardino Mountains), up Aspen Glen Rd. and continued on Mill Creek Rd. for another two miles to find the forest floor carpeted with golden bracken fern and a lone willow that was positively irridescent.

Big Bear is still in the early stages of showing Fall Color, though this photographs show that even the red maples along Pine Knot Rd in the village near Starbuck’s have decided to dress for autumn.

Hmmm, I wonder if Mark sipped a Maple-Pecan Latte while enjoying the color?

  • Big Bear (6,752′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
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Sensational Sycamore

California sycamore, Valyermo (11/22/18) Trent Vierra

Thanksgiving Day took Trent Vierra to the Antelope Valley (Palmdale/Lancaster – First Report) to celebrate with family, by way of Wrightwood and Valyermo.

As he descended on CA-2 through Wrightwood (5,935′), Valyermo (3,711′), Palmdale (2,657′) and Lancaster (2,359′), the fall color kept getting better.

Black oak were Past Peak in Wrightwood with only willow and cottonwood left showing orange and gold color.

However, the California sycamore (Platanus racemosa) that Trent saw throughout Valyermo were in a word, Sensational.

Their gnarled and bleached trunks were sculpted into Seussian shapes with their crowns carrying “great copper orange color that served as a great contrast to the crystal blue skies that rain the previous night had created,” Trent described.

He continued that in his home area of Palmdale/Lancaster, “almost all the decorative deciduous trees were at peak color, so the Antelope Valley … is definitely at peak.” 

  • Wrightwood (5,935′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
  • Valyermo (3,711′) – Peak to Past Peak, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
  • Palmdale (2,657′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Lancaster (2,359′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!