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



Blonds or Redheads?

Dunderberg Rd., Mono County (9/29/18) Bruce Wendler

Sagehen Summit, Mono County (9/29/18) Bruce Wendler

Virginia Lakes, Mono County (9/29/18) Bruce Wendler

Do gentlemen prefer blonds or redheads?

When it comes to deciding between red or yellow autumn leaves, it’s a toss-up.

Bruce Wendler visited Sagehen Summit, the Virginia Lakes and Dunderberg Road, finding beautiful blonds, redheads and even  trendy orange-frosted trees.

Though, he cautions, Sagehen is now almost Past Peak, the same at Virginia Lakes.  Though still peaking, go immediately or you’ll miss it.

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/29/18) Douglas Van Kirk

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/29/18) Douglas Van Kirk

Douglas Van Kirk found the “fiery” redheads climbing the slope beyond North Lake to be “Absolutely beautiful.” While, their blond relations at lake level were “just starting.”

North Lake appears to be about what it did last year, getting hot upstairs while still warming downstairs.

On his return (Sunday), Bruce found Tioga Pass still open (it often remains open until November) with more red to be seen along the west shore of Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park. 

Dunderberg Rd (7,500′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Sagehen Summit (8,139′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Virginia Lakes (9,770′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park (8,150′) – Peak  (75-100%) GO NOW! – Shrubs and ground covers are at peak.

North Lake (9/28/18) Larry Salmi

North Lake (9/30/18) Bruce Wendler

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park (9/30/18) Bruce Wendler


Virginia Lakes – GO NOW!

Virginia Lakes Rd. at sunrise (9/21/18) Bruce Wendler

Sagehen Meadows Rd (9/21/18) Bruce Wendler

As Bruce Wendler assessed in his message, today, Virginia Lakes is a location when you’re never completely sure it’s peaking or heading toward Past Peak.

That’s because many of the aspen near the lakes are exposed, wind deformed and struggling.  It almost looks as if a wildfire came through, though one hasn’t.

He was there at sunrise this morning, to snap stands that are in the 70% range and dropping leaves as soon as they’ve peaked.

Bruce recommends visiting Virginia Lakes soon, as he believes the aspen there are vulnerable to losing leaves quickly.

Sagehen Meadow (9/21/18) Bruce Wendler

His photos of Sagehen Summit were more encouraging with lots of orange to be enjoyed and trees yet to develop. The shot at left was taken a half mile up the road from Sagehen Meadow. Also good is Wild Horse Meadow, about a mile away from the summit. 

Virginia Lakes – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Sagehen Summit – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Sagehen Summit (9/21/18) Bruce Wendler


Hike of the Week: Rock Creek Lake

Rock Creek Lake (9/13/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

For the most developed color, the loop around Rock Creek Lake in southern Mono County (Eastern Sierra) gets this week’s nod as Hike of the Week. A photograph taken earlier in the week shows some of the beauty to be seen this weekend.

Though, there are plenty of other inviting trails to explore, as depicted by Will Ridgeway who hiked several trails to Lake Sherwin, at Convict Lake and at Lake Sabrina last weekend, returning with this compact portfolio of developing color. (Click photos to enlarge)  

Sherwin Lake (9/15/18) Will Ridgeway

Sherwin Lake (9/15/18) Will Ridgeway

Convict Lake (9/15/18) Will Ridgeway

Sabrina Approach (9/16/18) Will Ridgeway

Lake Sabrina (9/16/18) Will Ridgeway



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Mono County Posts California’s First “Go Now!”

Rock Creek Lake (9/19/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Lobdell Lake Rd. (9/19/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Sagehen Summit (9/19/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Rock Creek Lake (9/19/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Rock Creek Lake (9/19/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Jeff Simpson of Mono County Tourism is exclaiming, “What a difference a week makes!”

He has the enviable job of touring his Eastern Sierra county each week during autumn to report on the state of fall color and was thrilled to declare the first Near Peak color for California forests.

While fall color has been developing gradually elsewhere and some Peak and Near Peak color has been reported for grasses and shrubs, Mono County’s Sagehen Summit and Rock Creek Lake are the first forest areas suddenly Near Peak and predicted to fully peak within a week.

Jeff attributes the emerging peak color to colder night temperatures in the Eastern Sierra.

The perimeter of Rock Creek Lake is splashed with lime, yellow, orange and red Quaking Aspen. Follow trails around the lake and toward Hilton Creek  and the Little Lakes Valley to be immersed in it.

The lower sections of Rock Creek Canyon remain Just Starting, though Jeff says a few yellow trees are found around the East Fork Campground area.

Last autumn, Sagehen Summit was a big “wow” and it appears the show has returned to Sagehen with a gradient colors to be seen, from red atop the summit, to deep orange down slope, to deep green at the base of the road.

Jeff admits that Sagehen is “still a little ripe,” but forsees  improvement over this weekend.

Simpson scores a First Report (the first report posted on this site about any given location) by recommending continuing to drive Sagehen Meadows Road to “Johnny Meadows for additional groves of aspens and fall color viewing.”

Still developing are Monitor Pass, Sonora Pass, Lobdell Lake Road, Virginia Lakes and Tioga Pass. Jeff writes that “Each of these areas have great sections of color but are still too patchy for a full endorsement.” 

Rock Creek Lake (9/19/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism













From north to south along US 395 in Mono Çounty, here’s what you’ll see.


  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) Patchy (10-50%)
  • Lobdell Lake Road (8,600′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Burcham Flat Rd. is now open to through traffic only, with no stopping in the Boot Fire burn area.
  • Walker Canyon (5,200′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Towns of Walker & Coleville- Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) – 10-50% Patchy

Bridgeport/Virginia Lakes

  • Twin Lakes (7,000′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Virginia Lakes (9,819’) – Patchy (10-50%)  – Approaching Near Peak.
  • Conway Summit (8,143)- Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Summers Meadow (7,200′)- Just Starting (0-10%)

Lee Vining

  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) Patchy (10-50%)
  • Lee Vining Canyon (6,781′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

Benton & 120 East

  • Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now! – Peak color at the top with vibrant reds with yellows and greens abundant at the lower levels around the road.

June Lake Loop

  • June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Parker Lake (8,000′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

Mammoth Lakes

  • Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

Crowley Lake/McGee Creek/Convict Lake

  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Around Crowley community (6,781′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Convict Lake (7850′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

Rock Creek Canyon

  • Rock Creek Road (9,600’) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now! – Full peak color around the lake and in the trail heads of Hilton Creek and Little Lakes Valley. Patchy below Rock Creek Lodge and green below East Fork Campground.


Get Ready to Pack Into Mono County

Little Lakes Valley (9/8/18) Liz Grans/Mono County Tourism

Fall color scouting trips by Mono County color spotters Alicia Vennos, Liz Grans and Robert Bernstein returned with promising images of gilding beside high Eastern Sierra trails.

Vennos and Grans visited Lundy Canyon, Green Creek, the Little Lakes Valley and Rock Creek Lake, while Bernstein visited Dunderberg Meadows. Each of their trips showed that color spotters should get packing to see Mono County’s Fall Color.

When these photos were taken a few days ago, the color was just starting to appear, but within the coming week that will change as fall color transition from Just Starting, to Patchy and Near Peak at the highest elevations in the Eastern Sierra. In Mono County, expect Upper Rock Creek and Virginia Creek to show the earliest color.

Click photo to enlarge.

Just Starting (0-10%) – Mono County

Dunderberg Meadows (9/10/18) Robert Bernstein

Dunderberg Meadows (9/10/18) Robert Bernstein

Dunderberg Meadows (9/10/18) Robert Bernstein

Little Lakes Valley (9/8/18) Liz Grans/Mono County Tourism

Rock Creek Lake (9/8/18) Liz Grans/Mono County Tourism

Green Creek Trail (9/9/18) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Green Creek Trail (9/9/18) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Parker Lake (9/7/18) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Parker Lake (9/7/18) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Aspen, Parker Lake (9/7/18) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Green Creek Trail (9/9/18) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Lundy Canyon Trail, Mono Lake in distance (9/8/18) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism


Peak Moves to Northern Mono County

Topaz Lake (10/21/17) Jeff Hemming

Peak has moved up US 395 to Bridgeport, the Antelope Valley, Topaz Lake and the West Carson River.

Color spotter Jeff Hemming found little pockets of it around Bridgeport on Saturday, beside Little Walker Rd., lining Topaz Lake and beside CA-4 along the West Carson River.

US 395, North Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!



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


Mono County Keeps On Giving

June Lake (10/12/17) Phillip Reedy

June Lake (10/12/17) Phillip Reedy

Oh, to be Phillip Reedy. He always seems to be at beautiful places.

This past week, Reedy and Ben Waterman visited Mono County, sending back these wonderful images.

Phillip reported that while Bishop Creek is basically Past Peak at higher elevations, it’s still nice at lower elevations, but the real trophy winner is McGee Creek in southern Mono County with lush Peak color.

June Lake (7,654′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!





June Lake (10/12/17) Phillip Reedy

June Lake (10/12/17) Phillip Reedy




June Lake (10/13/17) Ben Waterman

Rock Creek, Mono County (10/12/17) Ben Waterma

McGee Creek (10/14/17) Phillip Reedy

McGee Creek (10/14/17) Phillip Reedy

McGee Creek (10/14/17) Phillip Reedy

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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%)