Redwood Nat’l & State Parks – Final Weekend of Peak

Red alder, Redwood National Park (11/7/13) Grant Roden

Red alder, Redwood National Park (11/7/13) Grant Roden

GO NOW! 75 – 100%  – Redwood National & State Parks – Color spotter Grant Roden says that if you don’t get to Redwood National & State Parks in Humboldt County this weekend, you’ll miss the last of its fall display.  And, with rain predicted next week, it’ will surely be gone by next weekend.  A few bigleaf maple and red alders are still carrying color, but losing leaves each day, as seen above.  Though, he notes that once the leaves have fallen, the forest views open up, making it easier to see the coastal redwoods and wildlife within the forest.  He recommends Miners Ridge and James Irvine Loop at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park as having the best remaining display of fall color.

GO NOW! 75 – 100% – Oregon Oaks – The Oregon Oak is most spectacular when, according to Oaks of California (Pavlik, Muick, Johnson and Popper, Cachuma Press), “days become shorter and cold northern air masses return to the Pacific Coast.” The book continues, “rust-colored canopies of Oregon oak appear dappled against evergreen hillsides of the inner North Coast and Klamath Ranges.”

The Oregon Oak is one of five deciduous species of oak trees in California.  It, along with the low-growing, spreading Engelmann Oak (found near Santa Barbara in a few remnant groves of ancient trees that grew prolifically across the southwest, millennia ago) is viewed only if you make the effort to travel out of the way to see it.

The three most common deciduous oaks in California are the massive Valley Oak which populates the central valley,  magnificent Black Oak in the mountains (Yosemite) and prolific Blue Oak which populate the foothills and lower elevations.

California’s evergreen species are the Coast Live Oak, Interior Live Oak, Canyon Oak and Island Oak (found only at Channel Islands National Park).



Freeway Foliage

While driving along US 101, the Redwood Highway, the green forest beside the road will often light up suddenly in yellow or crimson.  Color spotter Sandy Steinman reports he took the route this past weekend, from Arcata to the Bay Area and experienced just that.  He writes, “The trees in northern California have turned quite a bit in the last several days. The Maples and other deciduous trees around the Avenue of the Giants to Willits are mostly showing their fall yellows. I would guess they are now about 80 percent turned.  There is also still lots of red from poison oak growing on the redwoods.  There are also planted trees in towns and private property showing other fall colors as well. Just remember this area is mostly conifers and patches of fall color are usually not large or widespread.”

As Sandy drove south of  Willits, he found “the best fall color was the vineyards. Some are in full color  showing a lot of yellow and red while others are still mostly green.”  That’s the thing about the vineyards.  One will be deep red, another unturned and the next a mix of yellow, orange, red and lime.

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – U.S. 101, The Redwood Highway – Spots of yellow bigleaf maple and crimson poison oak decorate the otherwise evergreen redwood forest from Willits north to Arcata.

GO NOW! – 50 – 75% – Mendocino and Sonoma County Vineyards – A mix of fully peaked vines of various bright colors (deep red, orange, yellow, lime) can be near one that hasn’t even considered turning color.  That’s October in the vineyards.  Still, we issue a Go Now alert for wine country as spots will be good throughout the remainder of October and early November.


Redwoods Reviewed

Bigleaf maple and moss, Prairie Creek State Park, Humboldt County (10/13/13) Adam Nilsson-Weiskott

Bigleaf maple and moss, Prairie Creek State Park, Humboldt County (10/13/13) Adam Nilsson-Weiskott

Nature observer Sandy Steinman (see blog at left)  took a trip north to Redwood National and State Parks this past week and provides a good guide to the parks.  CLICK HERE to read Sandy’s remarks. The national park is closed, due to the shutdown, though most of the parks along the Redwood Coast are state parks and all of them remain open.  Fall color is an added reason to visit the redwoods, though it’s not a prime reason to make the trip.  Spots of color are seen among the redwoods and in non-redwood forests along The Redwood Highway.  Still, this is California’s greatest boulevard and must be driven.  We can think of no finer season than autumn in which to see it.

Color spotter  Adam Nilsson-Weiskotts sends photos of changing bigleaf maple, alder and bay laurel among the redwood forests of the North Coast, reminding us that “time does not stand still in the Redwoods.” He reports, “The contrast of green moss and fog-shrouded bigleaf maple with their brilliant shades of orange, yellow and brown is truly a sight to behold and at peak, right now.  The best colors can be seen along Prairie Creek Trail which is populated with bigleaf maples.

Bigleaf maple, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (10/13/13) Adam Nilsson-Weiskott

Bigleaf maple, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (10/13/13) Adam Nilsson-Weiskott

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (10/13/13) Adam Nilsson-Weiskott

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (10/13/13) Adam Nilsson-Weiskott

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Redwood National and State Parks – Bigleaf maple, alder and bay laurel are in full color along the drainages within the parks.  The state parks remain open, though gated areas of the national parks are closed during the federal shutdown.  No worries, as there are far more state park areas to view.


Fall Glows and Elks Rut at Redwood Nat’l Park


Elk Meadow, Redwood National Park, Orick, Calif. (10/2/09) Rick E Martin

There may be a federal shutdown, but no one told the Roosevelt Elk at Redwood National Park to stop rutting or the fall colors to stop changing.  Color spotter Grant Roden reports from the Elk Meadow Cabins that the “‘federal shut down’ really has had minimal impact at Redwood National and State Parks for visitors that want to see the old growth redwood and habitat. Some of the best areas to visit are in the state parks, where visitor centers and public services are still available, as normally provided.”

30 – 50% – Redwood National and State Parks – These parks are known for their yellow and golden displays of Big Leaf Maple and Alder set in contrast to the redwood forest.  Look for spots of crimson poison oak in open brushy areas and along the edges of meadows (it is found infrequently beneath the redwood canopy, as it needs light to survive), but be careful not to touch it!  Grant writes, “The red and yellow hues are stunning in contrast to the towering evergreen redwood giants.”

Fall Wildlife Viewing Grant reports that several wildlife shows are now in progress in Humboldt County.

  • Elk Rut – The annual rut of the Roosevelt Elk is at peak, presently, with large bull elk bugling and battling to take charge of harems of elk cows.  This is ranks up there with coastal whale, central valley waterfowl and bat migrations as being one of California’s most dramatic wildlife spectacles.
  • Shore Birds – A fall migration of shore birds is to be seen at beaches all along the North Coast.  Beaches at Freshwater Lagoon, Stone Lagoon and Big Lagoon, near US 101, are good locations to see the migratory birds.
  • Chinook Salmon Run – the fall run of Chinook salmon is at peak on the Klamath River.
  • Whale Watching – Grey and Blue whales are now migrating along the North Coast.  Several charter boat companies offer trips from Eureka and Trinidad

Redwood NP Lights Up With Yellow

Elk Meadow, Redwood NP (11/1/12) Grant Roden

75 – 100% – Redwood National Park – Grant Roden reports from Elk Meadow that bigleaf maple are at full peak with yellow peaking through the redwoods.  He describes early November as one of the best times of the year to see the redwoods.

Glory Continues along 299, 101 and 99

Here’s a followup report on CA-299, on visiting Redwood National and State Parks and a drive along CA-99 from Red Bluff south to Sacramento.

75 – 100% — CA-299

This route, between Redding and Arcata, is now peaking.  The colors to be seen along the route are the best I’ve ever seen along this route and should remain good until at least Sunday, when rain is predicted.

CA-299 Roadside Bigleaf Maple (11/3/10) - John Poimiroo

Bigleaf maple are absolutely iridescent, glowing phosphorescent yellow to yellow-orange.  There’s lots of chartreuse in the mixed oak, maple, fir, pine and hardwood forests along the Trinity River. Wild cucumber (poisonous) drape oaks in muted shades of yellow-orange to chartreuse, though have lovely heart-shaped leaves that provide a dappled beauty.

CA-299 Berry Summit (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

The best viewing areas are from Whiskeytown Lake NRA west to Weaverville, then again from the Salyer Rest Area west to Berry Summit.  If you stop at the Salyer rest area, enjoy taking a short walk in the hardwood forest on a hillside behind the rest area.  Levels of colorful lime to yellow leaves provide a zen atmosphere to the naturally landscaped scene.

CA-299 Near Hoopa (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

At points along the route, clusters of bold yellow maple provide stunning contast to the subtle oranges of the oaks that climb high up to mountain crests.  The subtlety of color here is special… quite different from the bold colors of the Eastern Sierra, but still lovely.  At times, it’s hard to keep the car on the road, the colors are so beautiful.  These photos, sadly, do not do it justice, though click on any of them to get a better rendering of what I saw.  They’ll blow up and show the color more clearly.  And, to learn more about visiting the area, CLICK HERE.

15-30% – Redwood National and State Parks

I drove 299, then US 101 to Redwood National and State Parks.  The color change in the national park is disappointing, though occasional maple are colorful.

Roosevelt Elk Play Fighting at Elk Meadow (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

Roosevelt Elk, Redwood National and State Parks (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

What didn’t disappoint were the Roosevelt Elk.  Locals report that the annual elk rut was especially violent this year with several cars rammed by the aroused elk.

The rut has mostly ended, though I caught these boys play fighting beneath a beautiful tree at Elk Meadow Cabins, one of the best places to see the elk, dependably.

Morning at Elk Meadow Cabins (11/4/10) - John Poimiroo

The past two mornings, I awoke at Elk Meadow Cabins to find the local herd of some 30 Roosevelt Elk, including cows and bulls grazing around the cabins.

An elk cow considers crossing (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

I used an 18 – 200mm lens and these shots varied in focal length from 60 to 200mm.  It is advised to approach the elk only so close that they do not react to you, any further and you place stress upon them.

CLICK HERE to learn more about seeing the elk.

15-30% – CA-99 Red Bluff to Marysville

Sacred Stones in a Walnut Orchard (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

On my return from Redding, I decided to drive down CA-99 to see if walnut and prune orchards were changing.  In keeping with what we’re seeing throughout California this year, the color change is late in the orchards, just as it was in the Eastern Sierra.  That means orchards in the northern Central Valley of California should be turning through mid November… a wonderful visual treat for anyone in search of late fall color.

A stop at Vina (north of Chico) included a visit to the Abbey of New Clairvaux, where the sacred stones of an 800-year-old Cistercian monestary are being erected.  This project is considered to be the most important contemporary reconstruction of a historic stone building, anywhere on Earth.  When completed, the Gothic interior of the Abbey’s ancient Chapter House will be the most complete and significant example of Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere.

Ancient gothic arches are rising inside a building at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

Visitors to the Abbey of New Clairvaux have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a true Gothic structure being rebuilt.  So, I urge anyone who appreciates architecture to make a trip to Vina now to see the abbey’s chapter house being rebuilt, before it’s finished.  CLICK HERE to read more about the sacred stones.

We received these other reports from Leilani one of our color spotters from the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Association:

Butte County

Butte County’s trees are continuing to give quite a show.   The leaves are still on the trees and the color change is now at 70%, more in the higher elevations of the Paradise/Magalia area.  Pentz and Bille Road areas are spectacular as well. Colors will continue to intensify over the next few weeks and then should peak.

Shasta County

North Valley towns

Fall colors are vibrant now.  Brilliant reds, oranges and yellows are splashed across the valley floor pallet.  The ornamentals are showing at about 80%, while the willows, liquid amber and birch that turn such a beautiful yellow are past peak and in the process of losing their leaves.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area:

The colors around Whiskeytown have increased to about 50%.  The Chinese pistachios and liquid amber are beautifully framing the lake.  With consistent cold weather and rain coming the colors will intensify and peak quickly now.

Burney Falls State Park:

Colors are great up at Burney Falls.  It’s a good time for a drive, since the California State Park ranger says the colors are at peak but with a good wind, they will be gone.  Don’t miss this spectacular area.

Tehama County

Lassen Park:

Colors are in full swing in the park.  Aspen, cottonwood & willows still have good color but are peaking now.

Lassen County

Lassen National Forest:

There is noticeable change throughout the forest.  Colors are in post-peak but still beautiful and dramatic.  Time for a day trip!

Modoc County

Modoc National Forest

There is snow in the higher elevations so the fall colors in past peak now.

Siskiyou County

More vibrant colors have appeared this past week around the Mt. Shasta area, peaking in the higher elevations.

Trinity County

There is still some color to be seen around the Hwy.3 loop but most of the trees in the county are past peak.

Plumas County

Trees in Plumas County are at peak.  The oaks have turned an incredible orange.  The aspen and dogwood are also spectacular.  The areas around the Feather River Canyon, Cromburg, Indian Valley and Antelope Lake are worth a trip.

CLICK HERE for more about visiting the Shasta Cascade.

Glorious CA-299

The drive from Redding to Arcata on CA-299 is glorious.  I traveled it yesterday on my way to Redwood National and State Parks and was struck by its colorful show.  Oak, maple, sumac and other changing foliage provide a blend of bright yellow to irridescent orange, to incredible chartreuse tones amidst contrasting buff, brown, black and green.  Right now, the Redding/Arcata drive is as good as it gets.

Begin with an overnight stay in Redding, in order to walk Sundial Bridge after dark (the bridge’s aqua blue glass deck is illuminated at night and a must see).  The following morning, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, perhaps including a visit to Turtle Bay Exploration Park and its excellent museum, then take your time enjoying the drive to Arcata with stops at Whiskeytown Lake NRA and lunch in Weaverville with its quirky exterior spiral staircases and colorful Joss House.  Between Whiskeytown and Weaverville, the forest literally was afire with shades of orange and yellow.  Beyond Weaverville to Arcata, the color is as impressive, particularly along rivers and in drainages.

75 – 100% – CA-299, Redding to Arcata.


A gallimaufry is a collection of unrelated writings.  Such is this post.

I was asked this morning by John Hamilton whether this would be a long fall color season, considering that the grape harvest was late this year.  Well, it seems all foliage are showing a bit later than last year, as we’re about a week to a half week behind what was occurring last year at this time, though it’s impossible to predict with confidence whether the season will be longer or better than in the past.  That’s because fall color is so affected by weather.

Great fall color occurs when the days are warm and the nights cold.  Rain or storms ruin the color by cooling the days and warming the nights and by blowing leaves from the trees.  So, the only way to predict whether the fall season will be longer is to watch long-range weather forecasts.  KGO’s John Hamilton said this a.m. that an average weather pattern is predicted for this autumn.  If so, the fall color should be as good as it ever is… and California has the longest, most varied and I’d say the most spectacular fall color anywhere in the USA… you just have to know where to look to see it.

Spot reports:

Sabrina Camp – 50-75’% – Jared Smith says Sabrina Camp (in the Eastern Sierra (US395) east of Bishop)  is nearing peak and should be spectacular  in the coming week.  Look back at previous entries on this blog to see when it was showing last year… right now, it appears the color is showing  a half week to a week later than it did last year at this time (of course, continue to check back here or other links on this site to see if things remain so delayed).

Antelope Valley – 0-15% – Tim Fesko at Meadowcliff Resort says the cottonwoods are just beginning to show yellow near Coleville (US 395).  That means it’s still green to lime-green among the aspen on nearby Monitor Pass (CA-89).

Drainages – Low lying drainages are showing color, as they always do at the beginning of autumn.  Look for color among the brush and grasses anywhere small streams run out.

Redwood National and State Parks – The Elk Rut is happening now through early October in Orick at Elk Meadow.  Visit to see a video of the rut.  Elk Rut rates are available at the Elk Meadow Cabins. 

U.S. 101 – 0-15% – As you drive north on US 101, there are spots of color (mostly yellow to orange tinged bigleaf maple and pink to red poison oak in the forests north of Willits (Mendocino County) and south of Scotia (Humboldt County).  That’s not a reason to head north along the route, unless you’re traveling to see the elk rut.

Yosemite National Park – 0-30% – The range of change on this report varies by elevation.  Along tjhe Tioga Road, some aspen are coloring lime-green to yellow, while no significant change is occurring in Yosemite Valley.  It could be said, because of the range of elevations in the national park, that Yosemite has a two month fall color season.  Plan on being in Yosemite Valley in the second week of Oct. to see the sugar maple turn red near the Yosemite Chapel.  Look for bigleaf maple and dogwood to color from late Oct through November in Yosemite Valley.

Shasta Cascade – 0-15% – Lassen Volcanic National Park will be among the first places in the Shasta Cascade  to show color, but give it two weeks before heading there.  A great drive is the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.  Base your trip in Redding (nice fall color- mostly oaks and riparian brush/grasses – surrounds Sundial Bridge).

Bigleaf Maple and Poison Oak in the Redwoods

Bigleaf Maple are beginning to tinge yellow to auburn south of Scotia along US 101 in southern Humboldt County.  Head into the woods and you’ll see bright orange-pink to red poison oak leaves.  They’re pretty, but don’t touch!

0-15% – Along US 101 in Southern Humboldt County – Bigleaf Maple

The Higher You Go, The Better it Gets

Sundial Bridge (11/4/09)

Sundial Bridge (11/4/09)

While the headline to this blog is no longer true of the Sierra Nevada, when it comes to driving north along I-5, the higher you go, the better the fall color gets.  Yesterday, I drove north from Sacramento to Redding.  The orchards of the northern Central Valley still have a ways to go, though riparian areas are near to past peak with lovely color to be found among the cattails.  The City of Redding is aglow with beautiful fall color (much of it exotic).

0-15% — I-5 (100′).  Walnut and almond orchards north of Sacramento along I-5 indicate they are turning with some light green to hints of warmer colors to come, yet still not showing much color.  Cattails north of Willow at Walker Creek are brightly colored with shades of gold, orange, bronze and lime green.  Purple to burgundy stems and branches are found among leafless brush along creeks.  The most color to be found in the Sacramento River Valley are in the cottonwoods and prune orchards which have tgurned 50% yellow-orange with some bronze to auburn edging.  A stand of Valley Oaks (among the largest of California oaks) at Road 27 are yellow-orange and near Road 16 in Orland a prune orchard is nearing peak.

50-75% — Redding.  The capital of “Upstate California” is nearing peak for its seasonal color, particularly in neighborhoods and city parks.  At Santiago Calatrava’s magnificent Sundial Bridge, native oaks and riparian trees provide some changing colors by which to frame the bridge’s impressive gnomon.  Even though the color here is not of the dramatic nature of that to be found in the Sierra, there’s still lots of color if you look for it and Sundial Bridge is worth the drive north.

Last week, I described a loop trip up I-5 to Redding, an overnight in Redding, then over CA-299 to Redwood National Park, then down US 101.  Another loop is north to Redding, then east to MacArthur-Burney Memorial Falls SP, continuing south on CA-89 through Lassen Volcanic National Park (if snows don’t close the road) into Plumas County, then back down to the Central Valley by way of CA-32 (by way of Chico) or CA-70 (Feather River Canyon).  There’s probably a week left of spotty color on either route.

Photo Credit: © 2009, John Poimiroo