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5 Great Places to See Autumn Leaves in California

5 Great Places to See Autumn Leaves in California

See California color pop in these leaf-peeping locations across the state

Posted 5 years agoby Ann Marie Brown

When autumn is in full bling, California’s trees are among the most vibrant in the nation. For leaf-peepers, a Golden State fall offers aspens, cottonwoods, dogwoods, maples, oaks and more, all decked out in flashy regalia. When’s the best time take it all in? John Poimeroo, editor of the seasonal blog California Fall Color, says the season typically kicks off in early September in the Sierra, then gradually descends through lower elevations through fall and doesn’t fade until December in some coastal areas. Typical foliage seasons for these five sure-fire spots are provided below, but keep in mind that a cold snap or storm can change these timeframes overnight. Check Poimeroo’s website for weekly updates, or seek out real-time conditions from other local sources, like Mono County’s Fall Color Report. If you’re headed to a national or California State Park, a call to one of their ranger stations might provide some insight.

1. Eastern Sierra

From Bridgeport to Bishop, aspen groves have celebrity status (at least on Instagram). Check with the aforementioned Mono County Fall Color Report to see when will be the best time to fill your windshield with color by cruising Highway 168 west from Bishop. Near Bridgeport, stop for photo ops on the snaking drive up Sonora Pass (Hwy. 108). Hike uphill to aspen-lined Parker Lake off the June Lake Loop or tunnel your way through Lundy Canyon’s dense groves. Typical peak season: mid-September through October

2. Carson Pass

South of Lake Tahoe on Highway 88, the aspens of Carson Pass unfurl their colors, offering a diverse palette. On the west side of the pass, Hope Valley is an easy score for glowing golds and opulent oranges, especially in the groves surrounding Wylder Hope Valley resort. On the east side, admire the tawny red aspen stands near Caples Lake and Woods Lake. Typical peak season: early September through early November

3. Plumas County

Plumas County’s trees are capable of a serious show-off mode. Drive the Feather River National Scenic Byway near Quincy to see Pacific dogwoods turning deep wine-red and bigleaf maples waving their massive yellow leaves. Frenchman Lake and Frenchman Creek light up with flamboyant aspens, cottonwoods, and oaks. For daily updates, check Plumas County’s “Awesome Autumn” Facebook page. Typical peak season: mid-October through early November

4. Napa Valley

Procrastinators, take heart: California’s vineyards provide a dazzling kaleidoscope that lasts till late November. Colors change according to grape variety, so if the Cabernet vines aren’t in full splendor, check the Chardonnay fields. Best bet: Drive Silverado Trail between Napa and Calistoga. In Oakville, see the fan-shaped golden leaves of 100 ginkgo trees at Far Niente winery, plus Japanese maples. Typical peak season: mid-October through November

5. Oak Glen

The mile-high climate of this rural Southern California hamlet lends itself to apple-growing, pumpkin patches, and fiery fall colors. Oak Glen’s namesake oaks glow a lush, buttery gold, but the real head-turner is the black walnut, whose leaves turn amber and crimson. Take in the chromatic scenery, then stop at Snow-Line Apple Orchard for to-die-for cider donuts. Typical peak season: early September through November












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