Fall, in California? This state isn’t all warm weather and beaches, California has some amazing fall foliage... if you know where to look, that is! Leaf peeping in California is fun, and a little bit of an adventure. I live in San Francisco where it’s 65 degrees pretty much year-round.
After 4 years here, I was really missing the changing seasons, so this fall, I decided to go fall foliage hunting to find the top spots in the state to view the changing leaves.
Here’s where to find the best Eastern Sierra Fall Colors!
As you know, the time period when the leaves on trees start to change and hold color is hard to predict, and when it happens, it happens for a blink of an eye and then the fall foliage season is over. Thankfully, I learned after driving around California this fall, that each region in the Eastern Sierras and California, in general, are changing color at different times.
No matter what weekend you have set aside to go leaf peeping, you should be able to find Eastern Sierra Fall Colors somewhere! (You just may have to be flexible on the exact location!
Eastern Sierra Fall Color Color Report
Before we dive in, lets quickly chat about the fall colors California reports. In this post I’m going to be sharing with you my favorite and top places to find fall foliage in the Sierras, but you’ll still want to check out yearly autumn colors reports planning the exact timing of your trip.
Looking for Hope Valley fall color updates? Trying to find a 2019 Lake Tahoe fall foliage report? This site usually has yearly information, maps and real-time data around fall foliage in all of California. 100% useful when planning a trip! You can also check out the Bishop visitors center site for a California fall colors map as well, they are usually a great site that provides reports for free.
The best time of year to see fall colors is usually October. There may be some September colors here and there but October colors tend to be the most robust. I personally usually block off the middle two weeks in October to go leaf peeing and will adjust the actual dates based on real-time fall color maps and reports.
Where to find the best Eastern Sierra Fall Colors
JUNE LAKE LOOP
June Lake is a tiny mountain town on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Mono County. You may have heard of Mammoth Lakes, a popular ski village. June Lake is about 45 minutes North, tucked under Carson’s Peak. June Lake Loop is the name of the ~16 mile road that loops around June Lake and takes you among fall foliage with a backdrop of either the lake and/or a mountain range. It’s really very stunning on some of the best fall colors in California. It makes for a great fall vacation.
I went up to June Lake with my friends and we were about 1 week too early to see the height of the foliage, but we caught the beginning of the changing colors. June Lake Loop is filled with a lot of aspen trees that turn bright yellow during the fall. Yellow is my favorite color, so I loved the patches of yellow we discovered around the town!
You will definitely find yellow trees here but will have to allow for a flexible schedule to time the height of these fall colors perfectly. It changes every year and can be fleeting!
is another top place to find fall colors in California. This season, it was actually my favorite stop along our fall foliage tour as we hit it right at the peak of changing colors. Hope Valley isn’t a town with full services, it’s just a valley with a general store and most of the fall colors can be easily spotted either on the main road or from the main road.
My recommendation is to start on the East Side and keep driving towards Kirkwood until the fall colors run out. When we visited, we turned a corner and BOOM, there were all the fall colors. It was amazing and like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
You’ll find all the best leaves on HWY 88. As you’re driving West, keep an eye out on the right side of the road for a little brown cabin that’s tucked right under a bunch of orange, yellow and red trees. This is a popular spot to pull over for a photo because it’s too dang cute! Check out this photo on Instagram to see. Make sure to bring a zoom lens because it’s tucked back from the road a bit and you can’t walk up.
>> Read this post to see more of my photos from Hope Valley!
Have you heard of ? No? That’s ok – most people in California have never heard of this region. It’s so off the radar, that it’s sometimes referred to as the Lost Sierras. Plumas County is about 1.5 hours North of Truckee and has a fraction of the people that Lake Tahoe has, making it full of fall colors!
The main (tiny) town in the county is Quincy, which is known for lots of orange and red fall colors at the height of the season. It’s a charming little town that’s worth a visit on your way to Lassen National Park! When we visited Plumas County, we spent a few nights at the Greenhorn Ranch, a dude ranch in California where life is all about riding horses! It’s such a unique place and the best time of year to visit is fall when it’s not too hot, plus you’ll be rewarded with fall colors!
>> Read more about Plumas County and Greenhorn Ranch in this post!
Of course, you can’t talk about fall colors in California without including Lake Tahoe! While you won’t find huge patches of colorful fall leaves, you’ll get plenty of lone trees along the lake that are bright orange, yellow or red. You can find the colors on the North and Southside, though when we visited, I think they were stronger on the North side.
We stayed at the Hyatt Lake Tahoe for a few days and I fell in love with all the little pops of colors on the edge of the lake. Paired with the blue water and fresh, crisp mountain air and Lake Tahoe easily become one of my favorite places to experience fall colors in California.
>> Read more about my trip to Lake Tahoe + see more photos in this post!
Eastern Sierra Fall Colors List
There are a LOT of places in that you can visit to find fall colors. I highlighted my personal favorites but below is a list of all the spots so you can plan a full East Sierra fall colors scenic route road trip if you want!
- Big Pine Canyon
- City of Bishop
- Bishop Creek Canyon
- Buttermilk Recreation Area
- Round Valley
- Lower Rock Creek + Canyon
- McGee Creek Canyon
- Convict Lake
- Mammoth Lakes (go visit the hot springs, too!)
- June Lake Loop
- Inyo County
- Sagehen Summit
- Lee Vining Canyon
- Lundy Canyon
- Virgin Lakes
- Conway Summit
- Green Creek
- Twin Lakes – Bridgeport
- Sonora Pass
- Walker River Canyon
- Lobdell Lake
- Monitor Pass
This upcoming fall, I personally hope to visit Canada for foliage. But if I’m around California I’ll be visiting the Sonora Pass and Twin Lakes area, possibly another trip to Yosemite. We accidentally drove the wrong way on our drive back from June Lake Loop last year. This was a happy mistake because we went through Hope Valley but we were supposed to go through the Sonora Pass. I later saw on Instagram that the pass was FULL of foliage! I had serious FOMO.
I also heard that Cottonwood trees in Death Valley turn yellow. If you’re in Southern California you can still catch some foliage, just on a smaller level!
I hope this has helped you plan a great trip to see Eastern Sierra Fall Colors! Overall, when in doubt, if you want to find fall foliage in California, you have to get away from the coastline and go into the mountains. Do you have another favorite spot in California to find fall colors? Leave a comment below so we can all know about it!
Also, feel free to DM me on Instagram @thewhimsysoul at any time if you have more questions about leaf peeping on the West Coast.
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