Mono County Glows!

Scarlet Gilia and aspen leaves - 10/1/2011 - © 2011 Alicia Vennos

Fall color has arrived officially in Mono County (home to Rock Creek, Convict Lake, Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, Mono Lake, Lee Vining Canyon, Lundy Canyon, Virginia Lakes, Twin Lakes and Bridgeport).

Alicia Vennos send in this report and photos taken over the weekend.  An early winter storm is just arriving, but we predict it won’t have much effect on the fall color, other than to dust high mountain peaks with snow, making for even more spectacular photographs and fall color views along the Eastern Sierra.

15-30% – Rock Creek –Half-way between Bishop and Mammoth, “Rock Creek is leading the charge  with aspen about 5 miles up Rock Creek Road deep yellows, oranges and reds.  The hiking

Aspen at Rock Creek Lake (10/1/2011) © 2011 Alicia Vennos

trail from East Fork to Rock Creek Lake is highly recommended!


Lundy Falls (10/1/2011) © 2011 Alicia Vennos

Lundy Canyon (10/1/2011) © 2011 Alicia Vennos

0-15% – Lundy Canyon – Lundy is just begun to turn, with rich gold and some orange.  Along the Lundy Canyon hiking trail, the waterfalls are still amazingly full for October, and wildflowers continue to bloom, standing out against yellow aspen leaves – a rare photo opportunity.

Mono County Near Lundy Canyon (10/1/2011) © 2011 Alicia Vennos

15-30% — June Lake Loop is beginning to shift from yellow-green to orange.

30-50% – Parker Bench – Above June Lake, Parker Bench is showing a stunning blend of orange, red and yellow.

15 – 30% – U.S. 395 (Mono County) – Many of the aspen-lined creek beds (above Crowley, Laurel Canyon, just south of Mammoth and north of Lee Vining) along U.S. 395 are streaking the mountainside orange, red and yellow.  Locals predict colder temperatures now arriving from an Alaskan storm, forecast to arrive on Wednesday, may hasten the fall color peak throughout the region, though it’s been our experience that storms only affect currently changed leaves, not those that haven’t turned.  That means there’s lots of color yet to show throughout Mono County and the storm otherwise won’t reduce the color much.

30-50% – Virginia Lakes – High winds knocked turned leaves off the aspen surrounding Little Virginia Lake on Monday, color spotter Carolyn Webb reports.  However, there’s still lots of color to be appear or be seen in the Virginia Lakes area.  Carolyn writes, “Aspen are quite beautiful up and down the Virginia Lakes road to about 1 mile from the resort.  At nearby Conway Summit, “aspen in protected areas are still yellow with some gold going into rusts.”

The Beauty Begins

Canoe on Convict Lake (9/24/2011) © 2011 Alicia Vennos

0-15% – Convict Lake – Color spotter Alicia Vennos took this photo of Convict Lake on Saturday.  She reports that yellow is beginning to color “the underbrush and willows, grasses and meadows” and the aspen are beginning to show lime green, though most along the boardwalk are still “a fairly rich green.”

Dog-friendly Fall Color – the website for advice on where to travel with your dog in Northern California – lists U.S. 395 “right up there” with Highway 1 as one of California’s most scenic highways, and in autumn, there’s no competition.  U.S. 395 is the color champion.  In recent editions, DogTrekker has reported on where to travel with Fido.  CLICK HERE for a link to those tips.

Additional tips come from color spotter Rachel Anderson of the Owens Valley who says that Bishop Creek Canyon offers many colorful dog-friendly trails.  She recommends heading first to South Lake, Sabrina Lake, the Tyee Lakes and Intake 2 up the canyon.  In a few weeks, look to the Bishop Canal System for walkable dirt roads beside canals and among colorful cottonwood in Bishop, Calif.

When taking your dog into the Inyo National Forest, be mindful to: leave disruptive dogs at home,  keep dogs leashed (not more than six feet in length) when on trails, bed dogs inside enclosed vehicles or tents at night and bring not more than two dogs camping.  Maps of hiking trails and walks in the forest are available at USFS Visitor Centers.  A dog rest area is located at Bishop City Park.

We’re Off and Running!

We’ve got lots of reports today, so with the first day of Autumn tomorrow, we’re officially off and running.

Jared Smith reports first from Inyo County that, “Things are really progressing quickly in the canyon with nearly all of the aspens and willows above 8500ft beginning to show at least some lime green or some yellow. Very little happening below that elevation.We still have a ways to go before most of the canyon is in full color but its remarkable how fast things are changing. Even if you were here today there would be some great shots availailable and it’s just going to get better from here on out.”  Here’s his report:

Wier Pond (9/21/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

15-30% – Weir Pond (9,592 ft) – Still have another week or so before the Weir really goes off but the groves above the pond are already showing some bright yellows and the grass and willows are a beautiful golden hue.

15-30% – Parchers Camp (9,260 ft) – The hills to the south, west and east are beginning to show some color, especially near the spring to the east. Not at peak but beginning to look pretty good.

0-15% – North Lake (9,255 ft) – I was surprised to see such little change between last week and this week with the big grove on the far side of the lake showing pretty much zero color. There is some bright yellow trees along the paved section of road before the lake but that is about it. The dirt road along the lake continues to lighten to a beautiful lime green but little to no yellow yet.

15-30% – Lake Sabrina (9,150 ft) – Unlike North Lake, Lake Sabrina has seen some substantial color change over the past week with groves on the east shore especially showing hints of yellow and even a few aspens turning orange. We’re still a ways away from peak here but it’s nice to see some color starting at one of the most beautiful lakes in the Sierra.

Sabrina Camp Grove (9/21/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

30-50% – Sabrina Camp Groves (9,000 ft) – As usual, the groves below Sabrina campground are way ahead of most of the trees in the canyon with lots of yellow, red and orange happening already.

15-30% – Surveyor’s Meadow – Lots of lime green and yellow developing but this area will get a whole lot better in the coming week or two if the weather holds out.

0-15% – Aspendell (8,500 ft) – No color developing here, yet.

Cardinal Mine Grove (9/21/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

15-30% – Cardinal Mine Grove (8,700 ft) –Lots of  lime green with some yellow making an appearance this week.

0 – 15% – Table Mountain Campground (8,900 ft) – Not much color but the aspens have lightened up a lot. Look for this area to light up within the next week.

15 – 30% – Mountain Glen Campground – Yellow is beginning to show in many of the aspen in this area – should be a great spot to photograph within the next week, if not sooner.

 0 – 15% – The Famous Mist Falls on South Fork Bishop Creek – Still a week or two off from much color at this location.

 0 – 15% – Four Jeffrey Camp Groves – Fall color in this area is always a late arrival – its going to be a few weeks at least before we see this area light up.

15-30% – Willow Camp (9,065 ft) – The willows are turning gold and the aspens have joined the party. It really is amazing how fast things are changing between Willow campground and the Tyee Bridge. Some of the trees that were dark green a week ago are now bright yellow.

15-30% – South Lake (9,768 ft) – Many of the trees on the back side of the lake are displaying gorgeous color and it’s getting better by the day. The rock slide area and boiler cove aren’t really showing much color but as fast as things

changed in the back of the lake I would expect that to be different in a few more days.

Convict Lake (9/22/11) © 2011 Jennifer Heintzelman

0-15% – Rock Creek – Mono County color spotter Alicia Vennos reports it’s been “bloody hot here!”  That’s great for fall color and for fall color watching, as warm days and cool nights are what’s needed for colors to intensify.  Certain species in Mono County have turned entirely… with elm trees near Walker being reported having turned.  We’ve noticed individual trees can change earlier than others, even species may change sooner, so this isn’t out of the ordinary.  Mostly, Mono County is following the normal pattern, with the higher elevations in the Eastern Sierra showing first.

Convict Lake Resort - Just the Slightest Color (9/22/11) © 2011 Jennifer Heintzelman

0-15% – Convict Lake –Jennifer Heintzelman of the Convict Lake Resort reports willows are beginning to show signs of color, though their color is barely apparent in the great photos she sent, today.  Jen promises to send news of specials they’re providing to leaf peepers and photographers, which we’ll publish here.

Convict Lake - Early Color (9/22/11) © 2011 Jennifer Heintzelman

Goose Berries, Plumas County (9/21/11) © 2011 Richard McCutcheon

0-15% – Plumas County – Color spotter Richard McCutcheon send us this gorgeous photo of goose berries and reminds us to look not only up to the branches, but down  to the brush.  Richard says the only thing that’s turned so far in Plumas County are vines and berries… non-native Virginia Creeper, he notes, are always the first to turn.  They can be found on garden fences in Quincy.  Though Richard also reports, “As you are looking for fall colors, you run into some great mushrooms.”  The one shown here was 10 inches in diameter.

One Big Mushroom, Plumas County (9/21/11) © 2011 Richard McCutcheon

0-15% – Shasta Cascade – Continue reading below for yesterday’s report from the Shasta Cascade.



“What a year!”

“What a year,” color spotter Tim Fesko of the Meadowcliff Resort in Coleville reports today.  Tim has been out and about exploring in his ATV from 5,000 ft. all the way up to 12,000 ft. in elevation and says little in the way of fall color is yet showing .  Though, “at 9500′ in the Sweetwater’s, the yellows and oranges of flowers are fantastic. It’s mid September and the wildflowers are still blooming!”

0-15% – Eastern Sierra.  Some yellow showing among the Aspen at the highest elevations, though still a week to two away.  Wildflowers are still blooming.

Two For One – Spring and Fall!

Indian Paintbrush, Rock Creek, Mono County - Alicia Vennos (9/11/2011)


California not only has the longest and most varied autumn in the USA, but it also has a six-month spring… er, should we correct that to read seventh-month spring?  As, California Fall Color spotter Alicia Vennos of Mono County called today to report that she saw the first signs of fall color… Wildflowers AND fall colors?!

“Looks like this rare overlap just might be in store this season in Mono County!” she reported, “Yesterday at Rock Creek’s popular Little Lakes Basin trail, the Indian Paintbrush was still in vibrant bloom, along with purple Fireweed, Lupine, Columbine and creek beds full of tiny yellow flowers, the name of which escapes me.  At the same time, the underbrush is starting to turn deep crimson, and some meadows are already going for gold, although the grass along the lakeshores is still spring-time green!  Aspen leaves are also a healthy summer green but temps  yesterday were chilly at times, and there was a mix of sunshine, rain — and yes, snow as low as Rock Creek Lake.  It will be interesting to see if the wildflowers are tenacious enough ,and the fall colors eager enough, that the two might co-exist together for a stretch this year!   P.S.  May I just say that the fresh blackberry/loganberry pie was unbelievable at Pie in the Sky, everyone’s favorite après-hike pit stop at Rock Creek Lake Resort…wow!”

Carolyn Webb, also from Mono County, reports that the first splashes of yellow are beginning to appear in the Virginia Lakes area.  That means the full start of color change is likely still two weeks away at the highest elevations.

The same reason you can see fall color for three full months in California is the same reason wildflowers can bloom for up to seven months, here… elevation change.  Actually, wildflowers bloom in winter in the deserts, so – what the heck – we might as well call it a twelve-month spring.

Here’s our first report of 2011!

0 – 15% – Eastern Sierra above 9,000 ft beginning to show some yellow among the Aspen.  Look to the ground, as ground covers are turning red while wildflowers continue to bloom.

Eastern Sierra — It was fun while it lasted.

Lake Sabrina (9/16/09)

Lake Sabrina (9/22/09)

Leslie Dawson, Alicia Vennos and Greg Newbry confirm that the high winds that lashed the Eastern Sierra this past week stripped most of the color from the aspen, though cottonwoods which had not yet turned are lime-green to golden and will last for a week or two more.  The aspen in Lower Rock Creek and the lower Lee Vining Canyon were spared from the strongest winds and still have yellow to orange color.  While there are occasional pockets of color in the Eastern Sierra, it is mostly past peak and this will be the last report for the Eastern Sierra.

This was one of the finest years to see fall color in the Eastern Sierra, with breathtaking displays of yellow, orange and red aspen showing in early September high up Bishop Creek (seen at left) and finishing at Halloween with pockets of aspen in sheltered canyons and cottonwoods still glowing.

75-100% – Bishop, Lower Rock Creek Canyon, Lower Lee Vining Canyon and the Antelope Valley. Still good color among the aspen in protected canyons and cottonwoods near Bishop and the Antelope Valley.

Past Peak – Everything Else. It was fun while it lasted.

Now, don’t be confused… we’re only talking about the Eastern Sierra (Mono and Inyo Counties).  Lots of color is still to be enjoyed in the Western (Yosemite Valley) and Northern Sierra (Plumas County).