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.

Color Touched by Snow – “Spectacular”

The Town of Mammoth Lakes’ visitors bureau reports that the light dusting of snow at higher elevations provided a spectacular show this past weekend.  Here’s the latest…


0-15% — Bishop.  Light green to yellow is visible among the aspen and gold among the cottonwood near Bishop, CA.

Colorful aspen leaves in Rock Creek

Colorful aspen leaves in Rock Creek (10/5/09)

Past Peak – Rock Creek.  Yellow, orange and red are coloring about 60% of the trees along the road leading to Rock Creek Lake.  Only 20% of the trees around the lake are still showing yellow, orange and some red.  Lower Rock Creek has not yet changed, with 0-15% and mostly lime green.

15-30% — Crowley Lake.  This popular fishing lake and nearby vicinity are showing light green to yellow.

30-50% — Convict Lake.  Yellow aspen are seen around the Convict Lake Resort and in the campgrounds.  There’s a grove at the back of the lake that is glowing orange, yellow and green, reflected in the lake’s dark waters.  Still lots of green.

Rock Creek Lake

Rock Creek Lake (10/5/09)

0-15% — Mammoth Lakes.  The Lakes basin is coming into its own with lime-green to yellow aspen around the lakes, though the best action this weekend is predicted to be Sherwin Creek.

50-75% — McGee Canyon.  The upper canyon is nearing peak with lots of yellow, red and orange.  The lower canyon is still 30-50% turned with green and yellow.

30-50% — June Lake. Carson Peak is flickering with yellow.  The June Lake Loop is 15-30% yellow, while the Parker Bench above June Lake is flaming with yellow, some red and orange at 50-75% change.

Rock Creek Boat Dock

Rock Creek Boat Dock (10/5/09)

75-100% — Virginia Lakes.  At peak, the Virginia Lakes are showing yellow, orange and with some red.

75-100% — Lundy Canyon.  Yellow aspen are everywhere, with 20% orange and red in the upper canyon.

15-30% — Conway Summit.  This pass along US 395 south of Bridgeport is still dragging its feet, showing mostly green with yellow.

50-60% — Twin Lakes.  Look for lots of yellow southwest of Bridgeport at Twin Lakes.

0-15% — Walker Canyon.  Most of the aspen and cottonwoods along the Walker River are still green to lime green.  Same for the town of Walker.

Photographs: copyright 2009, Nick Souza

Early Storm Knocks Color Down the Canyons


75% -Past Peak — Bishop Creek. Snow fell at higher elevations in the Sierra past Friday evening, dusting the peaks and continuing through Saturday into the Buttermilks and White Mountains.  Color in the upper Bishop Creek drainage is now past peak.  At North Lake, most aspen at higher elevations are now bare of leaves and much of the yellow has become spotted with brown and black from freezing temperatures.  Those photographers and leaf peepers who ventured out into the storm still got a beautiful show of brightly yellow leaves covered with fresh snow, though winds were knocking off the turned leaves.

A lot of the aspen up the Bishop Creek drainage remain green, “particularly along the road to South Lake” reports Kahlee Brighton on, “Some are getting lighter, possibly preparing to change, however, it appears a number of these green trees are losing leaves and may not ever turn color before falling off. Everything looks very dry, so it will largely depend on the weather, especially winds. At mid-level in the canyon, there are a few groves with a rainbow of colorful leaves (green, yellow, orange and red), but also a lot of brown and black-spotted foliage.

15-30% — Aspendell and Intake II. Color is beginning to appear at Aspendell.  Kahlee reports that aspen below the village are “much lighter green and a few are tinged with yellow and orange. Same thing with Intake II.”

Kahlee said she spent Sunday afternoon at Rock Creek, “where it was snowing steadily, with light flurries just above Tom’s Place. It’s still primarily green up to the Sno-Park. After that, it’s a mixed color situation. There are some aspen groves with a combo of green, yellow and orange, but also a LOT of bare trees.

“I drove all the way up to the Mosquito Flat trailhead parking area. It was snowing heavily (thankfully, no wind or ice on the roads). Looked like white-out conditions in the distance. Color at the top was 95% gone. Lots of bare trees. What was left was brown, black and a touch of copper here and there. Looked like winter more than Fall!

“Around Rock Creek Lake, it was virtually deserted, snowing frequently and quite cold. The usually colorful aspens around the perimeter of the lake were losing color and leaves rapidly. Definitely past peak.”

Kahlee predicts that Rock Creek for the rest of autumn probably won’t deliver “the same kind of brilliant color seen in past years. The snow and harsher weather have painted a different kind of Fall landscape, rendering the beauty of this season’s offerings in much more subtle ways.

“This has been an interesting Fall season. Areas that were prime a week ago are done; lower elevations are still predominantly green. Anyone’s guess as to how the color will unfold in the days to come.”  To see Kahlee’s recent images visit


75-100% — CA-190. “krazkim” reports on CalPhoto that a lot of the aspen trees along California highway 190 in the Sequoia National Forest, east of Porterville have brown spots.  At the end of the meadow by Quaking Aspen campground (Sequoia National Forest) many of the trees have lost most of their leaves. Krazkim reported some color in ferns and aspen at Upper Peppermint campground, but a small amount of snow and ice pellets were falling yesterday, which could reduce color.


San Gabriel Mountains – Raphael reports on Modern Hiker that he found beautiful displays of big leaf maple along riparian areas of Cooper Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains.  Some of these areas remain closed to fight lingering wildfires.

A Cold Snap Could Trigger Fall Color in the Northern Sierra and Shasta Cascade


15-30% — Plumas County.  The native foliage in Plumas county is presently two weeks from peak.  Often, exotic, ornamental trees lead the show and that’s true near the Beckwourth Ranger Station in Graeagle where the exotics are attracting interest with their bright colors.

Could the leaves be confused in Plumas County?  That’s Annette’s contention.  She works at Gray Eagle Lodge in the Lakes Basin area and has seen other areas of her county changing while her area has seen little change.  More likely, the color has been late to arrive because of the weather.

Until today, the weather has been temperate, but colder weather is arriving including a dusting of snow in the high country.  If the cold snap is limited to nighttime with days remaining warm, ideal conditions would exist to “get the color process going.  The best conditions for fall color are warm days and cold nights.


15-30% — Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Shanda from the National Park visitor center reports that willow, serviceberry and currant are beginning to show at Hat Lake.  Shrubs and grasses have also turned.  The national park’s many groves of quaking aspen are still a couple of weeks from peak.


15-30% — CA-88.  Still a lot of green and lime-green showing, though groves of aspen are beginning to flicker in the Hope Valley (Carson Pass).

Mono County: Upper Rock Creek, June Mountain, Virginia Lakes Peaking

Eastern Sierra Fall Color Guide

FREE online at

CLICK HERE for the Eastern Sierra Fall Color Guide (seen at left).

Sarah McCahill recommends a hike into the high country to see the best fall color.  There’s lots of it to be seen if you’re willing to take a beautiful hike.  She reports the latest from Mono County:

30-50% — Crowley Lake.  Lots of bright yellow.  Should be close to peaking in a week to two.  Plenty of color to see and photograph.

0-15% — Lower Rock Creek Canyon.  Still green, though showing some signs of yellow.  Exit US 395 at Tom’s Place.

75-100% — Upper Rock Creek Canyon.  Upper Rock Creek Canyon is speckled with yellow, orange and red leading up to and around Rock Creek Lake.  Some stands are better than others.

50-75% — McGee Creek Upper Canyon.  Bring your hiking boots and a camera to see lots of yellow, orange and some red.  10 miles south of Mammoth Lakes off US 395.

30-50% — McGee Creek Lower Canyon.  Still mostly green with yellow and orange starting to show.  Wind hit some of the trees, but still good.

30-50% — Convict Lake.  This inkwell of a lake is lined with trees whose color reflects beautifully in the lake.

50 – 75% — Sherwin Mountains.  Lots of orange and yellow at higher elevations, descending to yellow-green at 7,000′.

10-15% — Mammoth Lakes Basin.  The jewel-like lakes in the town of Mammoth Lakes are just starting to turn yellow.

75-100% — June Mountain Ski Area.  Patches of orange decorate the upper slopes of June Mountain Ski Area.

50-75% — Parker Bench.  Full of bright orange color.

15-30% — Carson Peak.  Light green to yellow.

0-15% — June Lake Loop.  This drive offers one of the best places to see fall color from your car in the Eastern Sierra.  You pass a necklace of lakes that reflect the trees beautifully.  Right now, it’s still lime-green, with a little yellow starting to show.

15-30% — Lundy Canyon.  Light green to yellow aspens flickering.

75-100% — Virginia Lakes.  Lots of yellow, orange and red aspen and gold cottonwood are coloring the canyon.  Wind has knocked leaves from some trees.  Bring along your fishing rod.

15-30% — Conway Summit (Bridgeport) — Some yellow and hints of orange, though still mostly limey green.  Give it a week.

0-15% — Walker River Valley — Mostly green with hints of yellow.

Full Peak Above 9,000′

Fall color at higher elevations in the Eastern Sierra is peaking right now, with the overall display being exceptional.

Jared Smith of The Parchers Resort at South Lake in Inyo County reports that the majority of aspen below 8500’ still have a lot of green going on, but those above that elevation are glowing yellow, orange, red and auburn.

A big wind came through this past Tuesday night, but did not knock many of the leaves from the trees. Jared opined that “if the leaves can withstand Tuesday night’s wind and cold snap (17 degrees at Parchers – brrrrr!) there’s still a lot of great color.” So far, this has been an awesome year for fall color viewing. Here are the most recent reports:


75-100% – South Lake (9,768’). Jared continues that the aspen at South Lake are ablaze, especially the groves at Boiler Cove, the Rock Slide on the west shore, and the patch in the back of the lake near the Long Lake inlet. The area did not experience the 80mph winds that had been forecast so a lot of the aspens were spared.

75-100% – Weir Pond (9,592’). This lovely pond is absolute at its best right now, according to Jared who reports the aspen surrounding the pond are showing brilliant color. We have lost a good number of aspen in the grove climbing up the hill to the west but the view at Weir is still breathtaking!

North Lake (9/29/09)

North Lake (9/29/09)

75-100% – Parchers Camp (9,260’). Who better to report about Parcher’s than Jared Smith who says the view from his porch at Parchers “is nothing short of spectacular right now. There is still a mix of green to go along with the yellows, oranges and reds, but it really doesn’t get much better than it is right now. We had some seriously cold weather at the camp last night but only time will tell if it was cold enough to kill off the color. As I write this report it is 18 degrees but the color is hanging tough at present.”

North Lake Road (9/29/09)

North Lake Road (9/29/09)

75-100% – North Lake (9,255’). Again, Jared reports (what are we going to do when his elevation is past peak?!) “The hillside above North Lake is brilliant right now. In some places the aspens have turned to a bright orange/red and it almost looks like the mountain is on fire, awesome stuff! I was also excited to find that arguably my favorite place in the canyon to take pictures, the North Lake Road, went from mostly green to bright yellow and orange in just a week. This is one of those places where even novice photographers can capture an image worth hanging on the wall. I would rate both the lake and road at nearly 100% if its fall scenic glory.”

North Lake Road (9/16/09)

North Lake Road (9/16/09)

Check out the before and after comparison shots of the North Lake poplar road to see how the color has changed from in the past two weeks.

75-100% – Lake Sabrina (9,150’). Typical of Lake Sabrina, it is delivering some of the best views in the canyon. Just like with South Lake, according to Jared, the forecasted winds could have stripped the glowing aspens bare and ended the photographic party here in no time. Thankfully Rick Apted, operator of the cafe and marina at the lake, only saw gusts to 41 mph and the majority of the aspens were spared. We are starting to see some of the trees past their peak but there are plenty that are still increasing in color.

Sabrina Camp (9/29/09)

Sabrina Camp (9/29/09)

75-100% – Sabrina Camp Groves (9,000). Jared comments that the aspens below Sabrina Camp that had offered such brilliant colors over the last few weeks are “now past peak and rapidly losing their leaves. Thankfully, the majority of trees at the campground and just above it are making up for that loss in a big way.”

75 – 100% – Lake Sabrina Approach (9,100’). Jared says the approach to Lake Sabrina just before the dam is another of his favorite shots in the canyon. It is now peaking later than occurred last year but with some exquisite color. There is still quite a bit of green mixed in with the red, yellow and orange so Jared says he’s hopeful the Lake Sabrina Approach will “stay good for a bit longer – mother nature is the boss, though, so who knows. I rated this in the 75-100% range but it is probably on the lower end of that scale with all the green that is left.”

75 – 100% – Willow Camp (9,065’). Jared writes, “Willow Camp is lit up presently, with most of the trees displaying brilliant color. There is still some green mixed in so if the weather cooperates we’ve got another week of good viewing here. The row of trees that lines the creek from the camp down to the Tyee bridge is looking fantastic right now, as is the approach coming up canyon towards Willow. Gorgeous!” Check out the comparison shots to see how it has changed in the past three weeks.

75 – 100% – Table Mountain Group Campground (8,845’). Aspen above and below Table Mountain Campground are as beautiful as Jared has ever seen them. He writes, “It seems to me that there is a bit more red and orange this year, a very good thing in my opinion. I would consider these areas to be very close to 100% of their peak. Surprisingly these groves are moving a bit slower than some of the other areas so hopefully the best of the color will stick around for another week or so.”

15-30% – Famous Mist Falls on South Fork Bishop Creek. Mist Falls remains very green, though Jared remarks, “a bit of yellow, and even a little orange, are starting to join the party. We’re still a ways off from the best of this areas color but it could start coming on fast in the next week, at least I hope so.”

Cardinal Mine South (9/29/09)

Cardinal Mine South (9/29/09)

50-75% – Cardinal Mine Area. Aspen by Cardinal Lodge are still “green as green can be but above the lodge and all the way up the hillside to the east of the Cardinal Mine towards Cardinal Pinnacle the aspens are looking fantastic. There are some really great shots available both looking up and down the canyon,” Jared reports.

Cardinal Pinnacle (9/29/09)

Cardinal Pinnacle (9/29/09)

0-15% Miscellaneous. Jared Smith reports that these areas have “tremendous concentrations of aspen which have almost no color yet: Aspendell, Big Trees Camgpround, the grove above Four Jeffrey, Intake 2, Intake 4 and the groves above Forks Camgpround are all in the 0-15% range present. Look for these areas to start to pop in the next few weeks if the weather holds up.”

30-50% — McGee Creek Canyon. Sarah McCahill in Mono County reports that she hiked up McGee Creek near Mammoth Lakes this week and “Wow, was it beautiful!” Photos she took show the transitional character of mixed aspen and cottonwoods in the canyon with lots of green evolving to yellow and gold. She says that at this elevation there’s still a lot of green. Some aspen groves are colored from 75 – 100% gold while others seem not to changing at all (0-25%).


0-15% — CA-49 (El Dorado and Amador Counties). Just like panning for gold, it takes a bit of effort to find gold leaves in the Gold Country, right now. At 800′, sumac trees along CA-49, between El Dorado and Plymouth (El Dorado and Amador Counties), are beginning to flare bright yellow. A few black oak are flickering yellow-orange and flashes of red can be seen among the poison oak near the Cosumnes River. Although individual examples of fall splendor can be seen in the Gold Country, the Mother Lode region will not be fully colored until mid to late October.


Sacramento Bee columnist Rick Kushman describing Bishop Creek in the Eastern Sierra as, “a thousand-foot, Day-Glo waterfall of orange, yellow, gold and bright green.”

Photography copyright 2009 Jared Smith

A Thousand-foot Day-Glow Waterfall

Columnist Rick Kushman wrote today in The Sacramento Bee, “Then you see it. Boom. An explosion of color. Vivid, almost radiant, a thousand-foot, Day-Glo waterfall of orange, yellow, gold and bright green. A creek flows between cliffs, and aspens grow along the water. Surely, someone spilled enormous paint cans on those trees, dyeing the mountainside in kinetic, luminescent color.”   What was he writing about?  Bishop Creek in the Eastern Sierra.  To read the entire story, CLICK HERE.