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:

Yosemite Valley Past Peak

Reflections along the Merced River, Yosemite National Park © 2011 Michael Frye

Michael Frye reports this week that last Thursday’s light dusting of snow provided both beautiful images of color peeking through the dusting and the last of the peak in Yosemite Valley.  Here’s a report taken from his blog:

Past Peak – Yosemite Valley – “The next question is… what did the storms do to the fall color? While the rain and snow Thursday night knocked some leaves down, things were still in pretty good shape on Friday. But it got colder Friday night, and then there was another storm, and more cold temperatures Sunday night and last night. I spoke with Ansel Adams Gallery staff photographers Evan and Kirk, and it seems that the trees that were already turning, particularly the big-leaf maples in many spots, lost most of their leaves. There’s still some good color around Fern Spring, and Valley View, and some oaks and dogwoods in the eastern end of the Valley are still partially green. It’s been a long, slow-changing autumn in Yosemite, with no real peak. The best color is probably over, but some spots could have good color for awhile longer.”

In our experience, some of the loveliest color can be found with the first snowfall on the last fall color.  Black oak can be covered with snow or frost, well into early winter for moody photographs, so consider visiting Yosemite in November to capture these kinds of photographs and for the special solitude that occurs during this quiet time in the national park.

Yosemite Valley Still Colorful

Bigleaf Maple, Yosemite Valley (11/2/11) © 2011 Michael Frye

75 – 100% – Yosemite Valley – Outdoor photographer Michael Frye took this shot during one of his camera workshops.  He reports, “The yellow big-leaf maples are past peak in a couple of early-changing spots, and just getting there in other places (like around Fern Spring), but overall they look great. The dogwoods are becoming more colorful every day. Most are still partially green, but you can find beautiful specimens around Valley View and between the old dam (Highway 120/140 junction) and Pohono Bridge. The higher-elevation dogwoods along Highways 41 and 120, and in the Tuolumne Grove, should be prime, though I haven’t checked them out personally.”

As mentioned in previous posts on his blog (seen at left) “most of the cottonwoods leaves just turned brown and dropped off, and the same thing happened to some of the black oaks. But the oaks around Cook’s Meadow seem to have avoided this problem, and are still in good shape, though they’ve only just started to change color. The elm in the middle of Cook’s Meadow looked great two days ago, but will probably lose most of its leaves soon.”

A weak but cold storm came through the Sierra this week and Michael blogged “that could change everything. The snow level might drop as low as 3,500 feet. Since Yosemite Valley is at 4,000 feet that means a dusting of snow could coat the trees and those yellow leaves—a highly photogenic combination if it happens. But the wind, precipitation, and sudden dip in temperature might also cause many trees to drop their leaves abruptly, or make partially-green trees, like the oaks, turn brown. It’s impossible to predict how these things will play out, but autumn could end abruptly in Yosemite Valley. On the other hand, snow-covered trees and clearing storms can look great also!”

For more of Michael’s great reports and photos, consult his blog in the Blogroll at left.

California Fall Color is reporting this week and much of next from New Zealand, where spring has just ended and summer is beginning.  So, we’re at a temporary disadvantage in not being able to see the color, though will post as we receive reports from California color spotters.  In the meantime, do as we’re doing and explore the great outdoors!

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.

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.