An Unbelievable Autumn

Walker River (10/24/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Convict Lake (10/24/18) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

California’s 2018 Autumn will be remembered as one of the most unbelievably beautiful and long-lasting, ever. In Mono County, the show has simply been beyond exclamation.

That’s encouraged Mono County’s Alicia Vennos to declare that her destination, our previous pick as “Peak of the Week,” should get its title extended another week, “thanks to gorgeous fall weather with little to no wind.”

Alicia certainly has a point. Many of Mono County’s fall color hotspots deserve a “GO NOW!” designation.

Being that it is so close to Halloween, we don’t want a curse placed on us that would upset fall spirits. So, we urge you to GO NOW! As, this well could be the last call for Peak viewing along US 395.

At the beginning of autumn, had Alicia vowed Mono County’s aspen would be peaking right up to Hallow’s Evening, we would have accused her of brewing an “Unfallen Leaf” spell.

Instead, she’s made us believers and expect one unbelievable Peak Party in Mammoth Lakes on All Hallow’s Eve. 

US 395, Coleville (10/24/18)Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Topaz Lake (10/24/18)Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

US 395, Coleville (10/24/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

US 395, Coleville (10/24/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism


  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Lobdell Lake Road (8,600′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Walker Canyon (5,200′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – The shores of the West Walker are gleaming.
  • Towns of Walker & Coleville – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Massive cottonwood along US 395 and beside the Walker River in the Antelope Valley are beautiful.
  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!

Conway Summit (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism


Bridgeport/Virginia Lakes

  • Twin Lakes (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! –
  • Virginia Lakes (9,819’)- Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Conway Summit (8,143′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – The south side of Conway Summit is at its prettiest. The north side is almost past peak. Conway has a rolling peak with some groves still green, beside bare branches and peak color mixed between them.
  • Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – There’s great color all along the road.

Lee Vining

  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Lee Vining Canyon (6,781′)  Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′) – Peako Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT! – Lundy Lake Rd, Lundy Lake, Lundy Campground and the Beaver Ponds still have lots of peak color. The trail to the waterfalls is now Past Peak.

Mono Lake (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Lundy Lake (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Beaver Pond, Lundy Lake (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Lundy Lake (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Lundy Lake Rd (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Lundy Lake Rd. (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Benton & 120 East

  • Sagehen Summit (8,139’) -Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!

June Lake Loop, Down Canyon (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

June Lake Loop

  • June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Peak (75-100%)

Gull Lake Marina (10/24/18)Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

GO NOW! – Fall Color Viewing Tip: The most iridescent color is seen when trees are backlit. Because this is a loop, drive it in both directions to see the best light and color. June Lake at Oh! Ridge is peaking, as is Gull Lake – highly recommended, right now.  The mountainside between Grant Lake is shining with a number of gold and orange aspen groves. Silver Lake is past peak, as are some of the roadside aspens along the Loop, particularly down canyon.

Mammoth Lakes

  • Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Laurel Canyon (8,500′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! (high clearance 4WD required)

Crowley Lake/McGee Creek/Convict Lake

  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Fingers crossed that it doesn’t blow. If it doesn’t, the color will remain good for another week around the campground and along the trail.
  • Around Crowley community (6,781′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – This has been Crowley’s best year for Fall Color. It is literally aglow with color.
  • Convict Lake (7850′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Convict Lake Campground, the road between Convict Lake Resort and the Marina, and the entire shoreline are inspirational this week. The hike around the lake offers colorful views and photo ops around every bend.

Rock Creek Canyon

  • Rock Creek Road (8,500’+) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!

Remember: even though an area is listed as Past Peak, you will still be able to find spots of nice color. So, if you have the time to explore them, you won’t be disappointed, as the scenery is other worldly.

, ,

Skate Skiing to Peak

Skate Skiing, Rock Creek Rd. (10/11/18) Josh Wray

Skate Skiing, Rock Creek Rd. (10/11/18) Josh Wray

Skate Skiing, Rock Creek Rd. (10/11/18) Josh Wray

True to Mammoth Lakes’ 360-degree adventure theme, skate skiers have invented another new way to experience autumn, by skate skiing past boulevards of fall color on  Eastern Sierra canyon roads.

Mammoth Lakes is now virtually skating to Peak color, with GO NOW conditions at all canyon locations from Mammoth Lakes south to Rock Creek Rd.

A Fall Color Instameet is planned at Convict Lake on Saturday. For details, CLICK HERE

McGee Creek (10/11/18) Josh Wray

Here’s what’s happening:

  • Convict Lake (10/11/18) Josh Wray

    Crowley Lake (10/11/18) Josh Wray

    McGee Creek (10/11/18) Josh Wray

    McGee Creek (10/11/18) Josh Wray

    McGee Creek (10/11/18) Josh Wray

    McGee Creek (10/11/18) Josh Wray

    McGee Creek (10/11/18) Josh Wray

    Mammoth Lakes Basin  (8,900ft+) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT! – There’s still plenty of color around Twin Lakes. Though, the trees on the backside of Lake George are just about finished and will most likely be gone by the end of the weekend.

  • Laurel Canyon (8,500′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – 4WD high clearance vehicle required.
  • Convict Lake  (8,000’+) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – It’s finally “Go” time at Convict Lake. It’s only going to get better over the coming week.
  • McGee Creek  (8,000’+) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – McGee Creek is gorgeous. There’s lots of green, so this area will be at peak for a couple more weeks. Nevertheless, GO NOW!
  • Crowley Lake  (7,000’+) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Beautiful Colors are starting to fill the town of Crowley. Worth driving through town when traveling south from McGee to Rock Creek.
  • Rock Creek  (8,000’+)  Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!- Some groves are at peak. Others are off to a slow start. The lower half of Rock Creek Rd. is stunning while above 9,000′ it is Past Peak. Colder nighttime temps have helped speed the process. 






McGee Creek (10/11/18) Josh Wray


Fire and Ice

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

It snowed today in the Eastern Sierra, providing the spectacular image of fiery-orange aspen against snow-coated sawtooth peaks.

Mammoth Lakes color spotter Josh Wray, lucky guy, was there and could only describe it with one word, “Gorgeous!”

Well, truth be known, he needed three words, also writing, “Wow!” and “Stunning.” Not even Ernest Hemingway could have said it better. 

  • Rock Creek  (8,500’+) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Josh wrote, “Wow. Just wow!” The colors are still pretty green below 8,500′ but above that, it’s stunning and made even more dramatic when contrasted against the snow-covered Eastern Sierra.
  • Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,000’+) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – -–  Colors in the Mammoth Lakes Basin are still bright and vibrant. Definitely worth stopping by Lake George, then making your way back through Twin Lakes.
  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Patchy (10-50) –Not a whole lot happening here at the moment. Colors should change in the next couple of days as nighttime temps drop to the 20’s at night.
  • Convict Lake (7850′)- Patchy (10-50) – Similar to McGee Creek, this location is off to a slow start. Should pick up in the next few days. Colors are quite beautiful up high in the canyon.












McGee Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Convict Lake, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/3/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism



Golden Hour and Fall Photography

Silver Lake sunrise, Mono County (10/14/17) Jennifer Franklin

McGee Creek day’s end, Mono County (10/14/17) Jennifer Franklin

Photographers are both story-tellers and artists, as these photographs by Jennifer Franklin show.

There is a moodiness to each image, caused by the early or late afternoon light and by the shutter speed she chose for the latter, which accentuates both motion and emotion.

Jennifer (@msnightfall) stopped at Silver Lake (June Lake Loop) at sunrise on Saturday, and ended the day in McGee Creek Canyon in the late afternoon.

Photographers call the hour shortly after sunrise or before sunset, “the golden hour,” because then, sunlight is warmer than when the sun is high in the sky.

However, in autumn the golden hour lasts much longer because the lower angle of the sun causes light to warm each scene. That is particularly noticeable when such light touches warm colors, as in these scenes (click on photo to enlarge).

Using digital darkrooms like Adobe Lightroom, photographers have many tools today that make it possible to emphasize vibrance, highlights, shadows and contrast. Years ago, we would spend endless hours in the dark working to express what we saw, experienced or imagined. Now, it happens in the light.



Peak and Past Peak on the Eastside

Tuli, a miniature Labradoodle, enjoys the fall color at McGee Creek (10/15/17) Maggie Huang

Mono County was peaking gloriously this past weekend, while areas above 8,500′ in the eastern Sierra Nevada, including most of Bishop Creek Canyon had peaked.

Color spotters Maggie Huang and Anirudh Natekar found beauty at McGee Creek, Lundy Lake, the June Lake Loop and Convict Lake.

Maggie captured her dog, Tuli’s, joy over being able to hike off-leash on posted Eastern Sierra trails, saying she was, “enjoying the moment of her life!”

Aspendell, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/15/17) Anirudh Natekar

Anidrudh’s shot of Aspendell shows the last of the color at this elevation along the Sabrina fork of Bishop Creek. There is peak beauty still there to be seen, but it is fading quickly.

Niven Le followed our advice and traveled to the same areas, finding peak color wherever we advised going.

Here’s what they saw.

Aspendell, Bishop Creek Canyon – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

McGee Creek Canyon – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Convict Lake – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

June Lake Loop – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Lundy Canyon – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Grant Lake, June Lake Loop (10/14/17) Gene Miller

Grant Lake, June Lake Loop (10/14/17) Gene Miller

Lee Vining Canyon (10/14/17) Gene Miller

Lee Vining Canyon (10/14/17) Gene Miller

Lee Vining Canyon (10/14/17) Gene Miller

Sherwin Creek Campground (10/14/17) Gene Miller

Gull Lake (10/15/17) Niven D Le








Convict Lake, CA-395 (10/15/17) Niven D Le

June Lake Loop (10/15/17) Niven D Le

Lundy Lake (10/15/17) Niven D Le

June Lake Loop (10/15/17) Niven D Le

Sonora Pass (10/14/17) Niven D Le

Lundy Lake (10/15/17) Maggie Huang

June Lake Loop (10/15/17) Maggie Huang

June Lake Loop (10/15/17) Maggie Huang

June Lake Loop (10/15/17) Maggie Huang

Convict Lake (10/15/17) Maggie Huang

June Lake (10/15/17) Anirudh Natekar

, ,

Time to be Outside on the Eastside

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Whoa, if ever there were a weekend to get Outside on the Eastside, this is it in Mono County.

Peak color can be found anywhere you go and whichever direction you drive. We’ll be posting an update on Lake Tahoe and the Hope Valley, after returning to scout those locations (Oct. 12) and fully expect the color to be great, just as it is in Mono and Inyo Counties right now.

Part of the reason this autumn is so good is why it is so confusing. On the exact same day for the same location we’ve received conflicting reports stating, “It’s gone” or “it’s spectacular” or “not yet there.”

What’s happening is that the aspen forest, for the first time in anyone’s memory, is turning by grove. Stands of aspen are different genetically, and they’re demonstrating their individuality this autumn. In past years, the genetic differences between the groves seemed to make little difference, as the trees at least acted as if they were on the same clock. Not this year.

What that means for fall color viewing is that the show is lasting longer, but not as uniformly at any given location.

The big change this past week occurred at the highest elevations, which for the most part went Past Peak. Places like Upper Rock Creek (10,300′), Tioga Pass (9,943′) and Sagehen Meadows (8,139′ – High Desert, so it’s drier there) are now Past Peak.  Though, that’s not universally true. Some of the groves at “you’ll-get-winded walking there” heights are still green.

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Some spotters began declaring calamity after seeing stripped stands at some locations, posting on Facebook and elsewhere that high winds had stripped the color. So, I called Mono County fall color guru Jeff Simpson (Yes, you’ve now achieved guru status in your life, Jeff).

Jeff lives on the eastside and has been reporting autumn color for years. He seemed to be offended by the suggestion that fall had ended, saying, “in no way have all the leaves blown off.”

OK, Jeff, OK. I believe you, especially since you’re now a guru and after seeing your photos, taken as late as yesterday.

So, count on it.

This weekend, there’ll be lots of gorgeous color to be seen at: Twin Lakes Bridgeport, Lundy Canyon, Convict Lake, Rock Creek Road, McGee Creek Canyon, Conway Summit, Summers Meadow Road, Lobdell Lake Road, Lee Vining Canyon, Monitor Pass and the June Lake Loop, even if a few leaves have fallen, as seen at right.

Here’s a detailed report from Mono County, a go-to destination for great fall color this week:


Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Peak (75-100%) – Aspen on the summit are perfect, right now. Look for the large grove of trees on the east side of the summit to have the best display of color. GO NOW!

Lobdell Lake Road (8,600′) – Peak (75-100%) – This area has never looked as good. Lots of peaking trees with deep reds and yellows. Get here fast, as some stands are past peak or will not last much longer.  Note: Burcham Flat Road to Lobdell lake Road are dirt roads – AWD or 4WD vehicles are recommended. GO NOW!

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Walker Canyon (5,200′)- Patchy (10-50%) – Walker canyon has slowed since last reported. There are stands with great yellows and lime greens while others are just getting started. Give it a week and it’ll be rating “Go Now!”, but not just yet.

Towns of Walker & Coleville – Just Starting (0-10%) – A few cottonwoods have started to turn but this is traditionally the last place to peak in Mono County. Look to go here in the 3rd or 4th week in October. Nevertheless, there are spots where the tall cottonwood are crowned with yellow in the midday sun.

Sonora Pass (9,623′)- Peak (75-100%) – It’s a fall color inversion here, as colors are looking nice around Leavitt Meadows Pack station and the lower sections of Sonora Pass, whereas aspen near the summit never seemed to get going. You’ll find peak to past peak groves along the road and is still worth the trip this weekend. See our earlier report about Obsidian Campground – glorious! GO NOW!

Twin Lakes, Bridgeport (10/9/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism


Twin Lakes (7,000′) -Peak (75-100%) – The biggest change in Mono County this week has occurred at Twin Lakes near Bridgeport. Wonderful color has appeared along the upper and lower lakes, and up the mountainside toward Horse Creek. GO NOW!

Virginia Lakes (9,819’) –Peak (75-100%) to Past Peak – The leaves never got going at Virginia Lakes, this year. Though, there’s still some great color along Lower Virginia Lakes Road. GO NOW! as You’re About to Miss It.

Conway Summit (8,143′)- Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – There is lot’s of great color at Conway Summit right now. A few stands are a little green while most of the mountainside is at full peak. Tip: visit in the late afternoon, as shadows make this difficult to photograph in morning light. GO NOW!

Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Peak (75-100%) – – Simply spectacular. Entire groves of peaking aspens make this location a must stop.  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. GO NOW!

Conway Summit (10/11/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism


Tioga Pass & Lee Vining Canyon (9,943′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – There is great color to be found in Lee Vining Canyon, especially along Log Cabin Mine Road. Higher up, Tioga Pass and Saddlebag Lake are past peak. GO NOW!

Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′)- Peak (75-100%) – Be prepared for brilliant color up Lee Vining Canyon at the first set of waterfalls. Color along the road and campground is our peak as Peak of the Week. GO NOW!


Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – Past Peak (You Missed It.)


Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/11/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – There is lots of bright lime, yellow and orange in the aspen around the June Lake Loop. There are peak trees just about everywhere. And yet, the June Lake Loop will last another week or two. We do not recommend delaying, but if you only can visit in two weeks, you should still find spots of good color. GO NOW!

Parker Lake (8,000′) – 50-100% Go Now!  – Wow. From Parker Bench to Parker Lake be prepared to drop your jaw. You will find a mix of color from Patchy to Near Peak, to Peaking, to Past Peak, but overall it’s lovely. GO NOW!


Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – Mammoth has come into its own, with good color along Mammoth Creek Road and Sherwin Creek Road and among bright orange willows at the Mammoth Lakes Basin. GO NOW!

Summers Meadow Rd. (10/9/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism


McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – – McGee Creek Canyon is at full peak and has wonderful color right now while the road is still a bit patchy. GO NOW!

Around Crowley Community (6,781′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – Poke around the community and you’ll find bright color there and along the hillsides beside U.S. 395. Take the “old US 395” road from McGee Creek to Tom’s Place for great views of the color change that’s occurring up the mountain. GO NOW!

Convict Lake (7850′) – Peak (75-100%) – Convict Lake is a “must” stop this week. Colors are at their peak along the lake and up Convict Canyon. 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. GO NOW!


Rock Creek Road (9,600’) –Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) –  – Wonderful color along the lower section of Rock Creek Road from Tom’s Place. There are sections of great Yellows and Oranges while other areas above the lake may be past peak. GO NOW!

Lower Rock Creek Road(7,087′) – Patchy (10-50%)


Eastside Getting Hotter

Cardinal Village (10/7/17) Ryan Prawiradjaja

Convict Lake (10/7/17) Carol Novacek

Convict Lake (10/7/17) Dave Olden

It’s taken a while for fall color to develop on the Eastside, but signs are that it’s getting hotter, as seen in Ryan Prawiradjaja’s shot of aspen near Cardinal Village (Bishop Creek Canyon, Inyo County).

Carol Novacek hiked around Convict lake in Mono County on Saturday and found it not as far along as it was last year, though the difference in change in her photos indicate’s it’s getting close to peaking, since I was there on Wednesday.

At the time, only about 25% of the trees at the far end of the lake, below Mt. Morrison, had changed. In the three days since, more than half have turned yellow.

Convict Lake Trail (10/7/17) Herb Hwang

Color spotter Herb Hwang hiked beside Convict Lake to find the aspen 50/50 in lime and yellow. While, Dave Olden found the same, but noticed the lack of oranges and reds.

Convict Lake (7,850′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) – GO NOW!

Carol found Lundy Canyon, to the north in Mono County, Near Peak and “Glorious!”

Lundy Canyon (7,858′) – Near Peak (50-75%) – GO NOW!

Erick Castellon visited McGee Creek to return with these spectacular shots of peak color along the creek.  The peak color starts above the trailhead parking lot. Down canyon, Near Peak and Patchy conditions exist, meaning that the show will continue for another two weeks at McGee (conditions permitting).



McGee Creek (10/7/17) Erick Castellon

McGee Creek (10/7/17) Erick Castellon

McGee Creek (8,600′) – Near Peak – GO NOW!

Color spotter Clayton Peoples was among several who reported they traveled to the Eastside, “hitting key fall color spots in Inyo and Mono Counties. Most places–particularly those above 7,000′.”

Here’s what he found:

Upper Rock Creek (9,000′ to 10,300′) – Peak GO NOW! – Similar to what is happening elsewhere, there’s a varied mix of color in the groves, though Upper Rock Creek is a consistent Peak (75%-100%). The area around Rock Creek Lake is especially stunning right now, and a short hike on the Hilton Lakes Trail provides a great introduction to the beautiful color–with Bear Creek Spire and surrounding peaks serving as an awe-inspiring backdrop.

June Lake Loop (7,654′) – Near Peak GO NOW! – There is a lot more variation here than the aforementioned locations–some groves are still sporting lots of green, while others are brimming with yellow and orange glow. As such, Clayton rates the Loop in its entirety as “Near Peak” (50%-75%), but some groves are already Peak (75%-100%). For instance, the grove along the north shore of Silver Lake has peaked, but the aspen lining the south side of June Lake are Near Peak with probably a week to go before Peak.

Sonora Pass, CA-108 (10/8/17) Robert Cherenson

Sonora Pass (9,623′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW! – Sonora Pass (CA-108) is peaking reports Robert Cherenson. He traveled CA-108 finding peak color just west of the pass, two miles east of the pass, at the Leavitt Meadows Pack Station and the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, near US 395. Spotty salmon-colored and yellow aspen grow along the West Walker River to the town of Walker on US 395.

Aspen, June Lake (10/7/17) Clayton Peoples

June Lake (10/8/17) Michael Brandt

Bishop Creek (8,000′ to 9,768′) – Peak GO NOW! – Most of the canyon has moved dramatically toward peak color, with “the Cardinal Village area is really popping right now. There is a beautiful pond on the property that is surrounded by white granite boulders and aspens–all of which are now peaking out in a vibrant yellow.”

North Lake (9,225′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – North Lake is the problem child of Bishop Creek Canyon. Some color spotters love it, while others say it is done… put a fork in it. As Xin Wang’s sunset photograph of North Lake shows, there are still many green aspen on the hillside above where the aspen are at peak. Though also in the photograph, some stands are now Past Peak. While, along the North Lake Road, it has been peaking, as seen in Peter Robbins’ shot (thumbnail below – click on thumbnail images to enlarge).

Bear Creek Lodge, S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/7/17) Kevin Gilligan

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/7/17) Ryan Prawiradjaja

Cardinal Village, Bishop Creek (10/7/17) Ryan Prawiradjaja

Mist Falls, S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/7/17) Ryan Prawiradjaja







Pond at Cardinal Village (10/7/17) Clayton Peoples

Bear Creek Spire, Upper Rock Creek (10/7/17) Clayton Peoples

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/7/17) Xin Wang

Table Mountain Group Camp, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/7/17) Ravi Ranganathan

Conway Summit (10/7/17) Ravi Ranganathan

Sagehen Meadows (10/7/17) Ravi Ranganathan

June Lake Loop (10/7/17) Ravi Ranganathan

Silver Lake (10/7/17) Ravi Ranganathan

South Lake Rd. near Parchers, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/7/17) Ravi Ranganathan

North Lake Turnoff (10/7/17) Peter Robbins


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.



Mammoth/South All Patchy, Peak Nears

Convict Lake (9/27/17) Josh Wray

How did I miss Josh Wray’s report this past week? Somehow it got buried by a load of email. Just found it.

Rock Creek (9/27/17) Josh Wray

Fortunately, none of the areas south of Mammoth Lakes have neared peak, though all of them moved from Just Starting to Patchy. Here’s what he reported on Wednesday:

Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,500′) – Patchy (10-50-%) 

Lake George (9,000′) –Patchy (10-50-%) 

Mammoth Rock (9,100′) –Patchy (10-50-%) 

Laurel Meadow (9,000′) –Patchy (10-50-%) 

Convict Lake (8,500′) – Patchy (10-50-%) – Convict Lake is gorgeous right now. Golden willows have ringed the lake with lime-yellow color. Some of the smaller groves near the backside of the lake have turned orange. Convict Lake is on the edge of transitioning to Near Peak.





McGee Creek (9/27/17) Josh Wray

McGee Creek (9/27/17) Josh Wray

McGee Creek (9,000′) –Patchy (10-50-%) – Aspen near the pack station have begun turning. It’s best around late afternoon. Look for lots of lime and yellow.

Rock Creek (9/27/17) Josh Wray




Rock Creek  (9,000′) – Patchy (10-50%) –  Like many of the upper areas, Rock Creek is off to a late start. The color begins at level 7,500′, but is just starting there. The best color is seen above the Rock Creek Resort.


Reluctant Aspen in Mono County

Quaking Aspen, Virginia Lakes (9/19/17) Jeff Simpson

Jeff Simpson tells us that the aspen in Mono County “seem a little reluctant to let go of summer.” Like other areas of the Eastern High Sierra, peak color is delayed about a week.

“There is some lovely color beginning along the upper section of Rock Creek Road, Virginia Lakes Road, Lobdell Lake Road and Sagehen Summit. For hikers, there is some great color about 2 miles up McGee Canyon Trail above the first creek crossing. These locations will be the first to show color and will be perfect in the next 5-7 days,” Jeff reports.

And, while the trees are slow in turning color, lots of wildflowers are still blooming near 10,000′, particularly along creek beds in the Saddlebag Lake/Sawmill Campground area.

Virginia Lakes (9/19/17) Jeff Simpson

Sagehen Meadow (9/20/17) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake (9/19/17) Alicia Vennos













Virginia Lakes (9,819’) – 10-50% Patchy – The leaves are just starting to turn lime green with the exception of a few early achievers like this grove located near the parking lot of Big Virginia Lake. (And yes, that’s still snow on the mountain from last winter!) For more adventurous leaf peepers with AWD or 4WD vehicles, take the Dunderberg Meadow Road to Sinnamon Meadows and Green Creek for additional aspen groves and views of Conway Summit.

Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – 10-50% Patchy – Sagehen Summit is the closest to a “Go Now” designation in Mono County. Sagehen Meadow is showing a mixture of greens, yellows and oranges with nearby Johnny Meadow equally as close. This will be your best shot at peak colors over the next week.

Upper Rock Creek (9,600’) – 10-50% Patchy – Color is just starting to show up around Rock Creek lake but should be really getting pretty early next week. Take the Mosquito Flats trail, Hilton & Davis Lakes Trail or Tamarack Bench Trail into higher elevations for more color.

Lobdell Lake Rd. (9/19/17) Jeff Simpson

Lobdell Lake Road (8,600”) – 10-50% Patchy – Lobdell Lake Road was just getting started on Tuesday with mostly green and lime green foliage. Plan to see the colors here in about 10 days! Note: Burcham Flat Road to Lobdell lake Road are dirt roads – AWD or 4WD vehicles are recommended.

McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – 10-50% Patchy – For hikers, there is some great color about 2 miles up McGee Canyon Trail above the first creek crossing. Leaves around the campground and US 395 are still green.

Eastern Sierra Fall Color Map (2017)

CLICK HERE for a .pdf of the new California’s Eastern Sierra Fall Color Map for Inyo and Mono Counties.