Near Peak – Upper Bishop Creek At Peak – Upper Rock Creek

Lake Sabrina, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/22/18) Alena Nicholas

S. Fork Bishop Creek (9/22/18) Alena Nicholas

Color spotter Alena Nicholas planned a trip to Bishop Creek Canyon on the day of the autumnal equinox, texting these mobile phone shots of color from Lake Sabrina, Weir Pond and the upper S. Fork where fall color is Near Peak.

Lake Sabrina is demonstrating the family nature of aspen with some stands still green and lime-colored, while others are at full peak in glorious tones of red, orange and yellow. Float fishermen drift across the lake’s wind-brushed surface.

At Weir Pond, between Parcher’s Resort and South Lake and along upper S. Fork, Bishop Creek, aspen now vary from Near Peak to full Peak. A rocky hillside of stunted aspen that forms a backdrop to the shaded pond is a mix of brightly lit yellow and lime. Fly fishing anglers cast for wary trout upon the pond’s still water. (Click photos to enlarge)

Clayton Peoples agreed with Alena Nicholas that Upper Bishop Creek is Near Peak, at least at the highest reaches. He stated, “It all depends on elevation.” On Saturday, he found the color Lake Sabrina and along the road to North Lake. But other areas–including North Lake–have yet to display much color.”

That means Bishop Creek “should remain a great color destination for at least the coming week or two as color works its way down,” Clayton concluded.

He also visited Upper Rock Creek and the trails to Hilton Creek and the Little Lakes Valley, to declare them at full peak and absolutely stunning.

Change happens quickly in the Eastern Sierra and that’s happened within half a week at the highest elevations of these two canyons.

Within a few days, Upper Rock Creek has evolved from Patchy to Peak. While the two areas should continue to improve, you’ve got two weeks at most to see the high areas of these two canyons at peak.

Lake Sabrina is a day or two from being at Peak, and Rock Creek Lake is already there. If these two areas are on your must see at peak list, GO NOW! 

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

Rock Creek Lake, Hilton Creek and Little Lakes Valley Trail – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Weir Pond, S. Fork Bishop Creek (9/22/18) Alena Nicholas

Lake Sabrina, Sunrise (9/22/18) Clayton Peoples

North Lake Rd. (9/22/18) Clayton Peoples

Upper Rock Creek (9/22/18) Clayton Peoples

Aspen, Lake Sabrina (9/22/18) Toru Takahashi

Lake Sabrina (9/22/18) Toru Takahashi

Lake Sabrina (9/22/18) Toru Takahashi











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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.


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


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.