Yosemite Valley at Peak

Fern Spring, Yosemite Valley (File Photo) © 2006 John Poimiroo

Fern Spring, Yosemite Valley (File Photo) © 2006 John Poimiroo

Color spotters visiting Yosemite Valley have been reporting black oaks at peak, with cottonwoods, bigleaf maple and dogwoods slightly past peak.

The reflections of bright yellow and orange in the near-still Merced River (seen posted on the national park’s Facebook page) have been lovely.  Fern spring has been cluttered with fallen bigleaf maple leaves as autumn peaks in the national park.

The National Park Service posted in late October that “Bears eat as many as 10,000 to 20,000 calories every day at this time of year as they fatten up for hibernation. Acorns are probably the best food source right now, but a bear would have to eat several hundred if not a few thousand acorns every day to meet this requirement. Luckily, black oaks are producing lots of acorns this year.”  The NPS advises that because oaks are attracting bears, deer and other animals in search of acorns, please be mindful of the speed limit (35 mph in the park) and be observant while driving on park roads.

GO NOW! 75 – 100% – Yosemite Valley (5,000′) – This is likely the last weekend to see fall color at peak in Yosemite Valley, as a storm will arrive on Monday.


Yosemite Open and Colorful

Yosemite National Park is open and colorful again.  Black oak in Yosemite Valley are approaching peak.  A color spotter posted a photo of a particularly beautiful landmark tree in Ahwahnee Meadow that is putting on a show of orange and black, with Half Dome rising above in the distance.

GO NOW! 50-75% – Yosemite Valley – Approaching peak among the black oak, which should continue to show color for a week or two, conditions permitting.

Yosemite Fall Color Update

Excerpted from the Yosemite National Park Daily Report: “Summer-deciduous California buckeyes always let their leaves wither and brown by late summer, even as their seeds continue to develop. Dogbane over the higher elevations seems to be changing color normally this season, typically a month ahead of the trees. Bigleaf maples on driest sites often start to show some yellow or brown along veins and margins as early as August, but leaves in moister locations can still peak with good color in November.  Best weather for fall color is always dry, with short, warm days, and cool, but not freezing nights. For more information go to:

Autumn Lodging Specials


The Yosemite Resorts in El Portal are offering two special autumn packages.  CLICK HERE for more information or reservations.

At Cedar Lodge, stay two nights and your third night is free on any stay through Nov. 20.  Optional rooms include rooms with an in-room spa tub for two, or one with a four-poster King Bed, or perhaps a room that will fit the entire family.   Regardless of the type room, Cedar Lodge offers affordability and is minutes from Yosemite Valley.

Mountain View King Spa Room, Yosemite View Lodge

On Nov. 12, the Yosemite View Lodge holds its Fall Wine and Dine event, a four-course banquet with wine pairings for $85 per person.  Includes reception, appetizers and the banquet.  The View is known as being the best value for lodging in the Yosemite area, with deluxe rooms at reasonable cost.

50 – 75% – Yosemite Valley/Merced River Canyon – Dogwood are at 50% of color in Yosemite Valley, with black oak still coloring up.  Bigleaf maple and cottonwood have turned.  Autumn color has been running two weeks late, so – barring a turn in weather – fall color should still be seen in Yosemite Valley into the first couple of weeks of November.


Big Basin Tent Cabin, Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Beginning December 1, through January 31, Big Basin Tent Cabins at Big Basin Redwoods State Park is offering accommodations for “an all time low price of $49.95 per night!”  There’s no coupon to redeem or anything else you need to do.  Just CLICK HERE to book a tent cabin and you’ll receive the reduced rate.

The lower rate does not apply to cabins with the Deluxe Camping Package or Deluxe Cabins. The lower rate applies to new reservations only.  Lower rate prices is available 7 days a week, through December and Janaury. The lower rate does not apply to Holiday weekends. Offer expires January 31, 2012.

30 – 50% – Santa Cruz Mountains – Deciduous trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains are glowing nicely.  Look for color in riparian areas and meadows.

Yosemite Valley Approaches Peak

Fern Spring, Yosemite Valley © 2006 John Poimiroo

50 – 75% – Yosemite Valley – Kari Cobb, a public information officer for the National Park Service in Yosemite Valley confirms what other color spotters have reported: that bigleaf maple have mostly turned, though many of the park’s other principal species remain in the midst of change.  Dogwood are a mix of rose and green; black oak are mostly yellow and transitioning to their trademark orange and black.  The exotic sugar maple planted by early settlers near the Yosemite Chapel has completely turned with its red leaves now dry.

A Thousand Words

Conway Summit (10/22/11) © 2011 Bill Langton

They say a picture is worth… well you know the rest.  This weekend, we received a comment that Conway Summit was past peak.  So, Bill Langton went out there this past Saturday and took this photo.  Worth a thousand?  You be the judge.

Cathedral Lake, Yosemite National Park (10/23/11) Donna Mercer

Here is another shot worth a thousand, taken yesterday at Cathedral Lake in Yosemite National Park by Donna Mercer.  Click on the photo to see an enlargement and note the beautiful red brush along the lakeshore.  Note to travelers:  Tioga Pass (Hwy. 120 West) is open as is Sonora Pass (Hwy. 108)  and Monitor Pass (Hwy. 89).  Always check CalTrans Road conditions at this time of year before heading across, as conditions can change quickly:  800-427-7623.

7 Best Spots for Fall Color

Yosemite Valley © 2006 John Poimiroo

KCET-TV blog editor-in-chief, Zach Behrens contacted us for our views on the best color spots in California.  There are just too many, but given Zach’s limitation, we settled on seven general areas.  To read the full report, CLICK HERE.

Gallimaufry – Bloggers’ Report

Now and then, we look at what other bloggers are writing about California Fall Color (all of whose links are in the Blogroll at left) … here’s a summary of the latest…

75 – 100% – McGee Creek Canyon, Eastern Sierra – One Horse Studio photographer and blogger Greg Boyer reports McGee Creek should be at prime this weekend, though is starting to see the June Lake Loop just past peak.  The lower areas leading to Convict Lake are glowing.

75 – 100% – Quincy, Plumas County – Black Oak Naturalist Joe Willis reports seeing red maple in Quincy.  Joe is an advocate of looking down and finding natural treasures along the landscape… things you might not otherwise notice, like unusual fungi, insects and critters.

75 – 100% – Antelope Lake, Plumas County – Virtual Drive color spotter Richard McCutcheon gets out and about gorgeous Plumas County on his quad, finding wonderful color and providing a virtual drive of the fall color in his area.  Richard’s latest drive took him to Antelope Lake where auburn trees are flickering among the gold.

Dogwood Near Valley View, Yosemite Valley (10/21/11) © 2011 Michael Frye

30 – 50% – Yosemite Valley – Photographer Michael Frye shows through his photography that fall color need not be shot at peak to be impressive.  His delicate photographs of mist, turning leaves and reflections in Yosemite Valley’s Merced River are threaded with emotion and take you deep into the moment.  Michael says there’s been little color in Yosemite Valley so far, though he estimates 60% of the bigleaf maple have turned completely yellow in the Valley.  CFC predicts the next three weeks will be increasingly beautiful in the Valley.  CLICK HERE to visit Michael Frye’s blog and see more of his exceptional photographs.

Photo tip: When in Yosemite Valley, stop at Fern Spring upon entering the Valley from Hwy 120 or 140, at any turnout along the Merced River for pink to rose dogwood and  near Yosemite Village for orange leaves on black oaks.  For the sharpest photos, shoot all pictures on a tripod.  In low light, use your camera’s timer to take the picture so that you’re not pressing the shutter, which can move the camera and blur the image.

Colorful Routes to the Eastern Sierra – Go Now!

From the Central Valley and SF Bay Area, the most direct and most colorful route to June Lake and Mammoth Lakes is across Tioga Pass (CA Hwy 120).  Color spotters are reporting rosy dogwood glowing in the forests of Yosemite National Park along the park’s Big Oak Flat and Tioga roads (Hwy 120).

75 – 100% – Tioga Pass (Hwy 120) – 90% of the aspen are showing yellow with “huge swaths of color, with quite a bit of orange” along slopes visible from US 395, according Ann Turner reporting in

75 – 100% – Monitor Pass (Hwy 89) – Most of the aspen over the pass are at peak with brilliant yellow.

75 – 100% – Conway Summit (US 395) – Broad areas of orange, yellow and red color cover the hillsides east of US 395 at Conway Summit.

75 – 100% – Carson and Luther Pass (Hwy 88 and 89) – The Hope Valley is flickering with bright yellow and at peak.

Past Peak, Past Peak, Peaking

This weekend will bring the first major “winter” storm to California and although fall doesn’t end for another month (until December 21), the turn in temperatures and weather will make Thanksgiving Day week seem in the minds of many Californians, to mark the end of autumn.

This coming winter storm does not mean that incredible fall scenery will no longer be seen across the Golden State.  Just click on Michael Frye’s blog (to the left) and view his impressive photograph of black oak leaves peaking through snow, to see what I mean.  Autumn at this time of year requires special vision.  Give up looking for those bold splashes of red, orange and yellow against deep blue skies and find satisfaction instead in the subtle beauty to be found in the more muted colors of dying leaves reflected upon wet city streets, as that’s where the show has moved.

It’s past peak above 2,000′, but below that the color is still peaking, especially in California’s diverse urban forests… Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and in exotic pockets of urban Southern California.

So, enjoy the weekend storms and do not be discouraged by the elements.  There is wonder to be found where you least expect it.