LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KRON) — Nothing feels more like fall than seeing leaves turn vivid colors of crimson red, orange, and yellow. Californians mostly miss out on Mother Nature’s annual October spectacle. But there are some patches of the Golden State were leaf-lovers can find forests filled with vibrant fall foliage.
“Dude, autumn happens here too,” wrote California Fall Color, a website that crowdsources data from foliage enthusiasts to create a California Fall Color Map.
Kyle Cotner, who compiles The Foliage Report tracking colors nationwide, said the best forests for finding brilliant yellow cottonwood trees are in Mono County. “While California is not known for fall colors, it absolutely is a sneaky great fall foliage state. The cottonwoods display great color,” Cotner told KRON.
Leaf-lovers in Mono County reported that fall colors are peaking this week and next week.
The California coastline’s iconic redwood trees grow leaves that remain green year-round. For fall foliage seekers, the coast is the last place you want to look for finding yellow, orange, and red.
John Poimiroo, a nature photographer and creator of CaliforniaFallColor.com, said fall foliage seekers must journey east. The eastern region of the state is blessed with the longest fall foliage season in North America, he said.
“That is so because of California’s extreme range of elevations (from sea level to over 14,000′) and because of California’s Mediterranean climate which permits propagation of an extraordinary variety of deciduous trees and plants,” Poimiroo wrote.
Bright autumn colors first appear in September along California’s far eastern border at elevations of 10,000 feet. Following the autumnal equinox, fall color descends by elevation continuing to December.
Just like springtime wildflowers, fall foliage has a small peak time window. Leaves evolve from “near peak” to “past peak” within two weeks.
“However in California, because of our extreme range of elevations, peak color can be seen in September, October, November and December. In California, if you miss peak at one elevation, just go to a lower elevation elsewhere and see it there,” Poimiroo explained.
Where to find fall foliage, according to California Fall Color
1. The Eastern Sierra (Inyo and Mono counties)
- California Fall Color’s weekly report states, “Peak fall color has currently dropped to 8,000 in elevation in the Eastern Sierra. The best locations to see peak color still remain in Inyo and Mono Counties, though these areas lost a lot of peak color this past week above 8,500′. Conway Summit (US 395) in Mono County has been described as looking its best in recent memory, with a gorgeous mix of forest green, lime, yellow, orange and red. The Mist Falls and Mountain Glen Camp in Bishop Creek Canyon (Inyo County) are now at their best. Intake II at 8,000′ is presenting a poetic mix of forest green, lime, yellow, orange and red among its twisted aspen.”
2. The Northern Sierra (Hope Valley / Carson Pass, Lake Tahoe)
- CFC’s report states, “South of Lake Tahoe, the Hope Valley (CA-88) has, over the past eight years, consistently peaked near Oct. 8. This year is no exception. ‘The trees along Woods Lake Road are especially striking right now, particularly just before sunrise,’ writes one color spotter.”
3. Western & Southern Sierra (Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks)
- CFC’s report writes, “In Yosemite National Park, the exotic Pioneer Sugar Maple, planted by Yosemite pioneers a century ago has peaked, though peak color elsewhere in Yosemite Valley will not develop until late October.
4. The Shasta Cascade (Plumas County, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Trinity Alps, Redding, Chico)
5. Southern California mountains (San Bernardino, San Gorgonio, San Jacinto and Laguna mountains)