California is a pretty big place to explore, and many can expect to not be able to see everything it has to offer in one getaway. Especially during the time of year for changing colors, gorgeous fall leaves are to be observed from everywhere in the Golden State. So what are the best places to see fall colors in California?
The great thing about California fall colors is that you can behold the most breath-taking fall foliage from almost anywhere in this West Coast state. So if you're planning to do some leaf-peeping before the winter season starts creeping in, consider exploring Northern California. And while Southern California definitely has plenty for leaf-peepers to consider, you'll have more options in its upper neighbor to hit if you're planning a scenic road trip.
The 13 Best Places to See Fall Colors in California
1. Yosemite National Park
Of course this park should be one of your first options to consider when looking for fall foliage in California. But what people don't realize is that the over-crowding ceases as summer ends, making autumn a perfect time to visit. Known for its leafy, red maple trees and yellow, quaking aspens, Yosemite Valley presents views of the area that won't be seen at any other time of the year.
2. Bishop Creek Canyon
Bishop Creek Canyon offers plenty of areas in the Eastern Sierras to see the aspens', willows', and cottonwoods' changing colors all throughout the fall season. If you visit the Inyo County place during mid-September, then check out the area's two forks: North Lake and South Lake. If you head to there in October, it's recommended that you check out all the abundant colors in Lower Rock Creek Canyon.
3. Lake Tahoe
Although known for lake swimming in the summer and cross country skiing in the winter, Lake Tahoe offers the most golden fall foliage during autumn. Accompanied by the comfortably cool weather, you should head to Hope Valley in South Lake Tahoe to embark on one of the many hiking trails while witnessing the beautiful aspen groves that cloak the paths.
4. June Lake Loop
As one of the most scenic drives in Mono County, this 16-mile route passes four incredible lakes: June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake. Although some bike or walk along the path, many take it on as a drive. Your journey will be accompanied by bright, yellow quaking aspens that pop out in contrast with the deep evergreen pines.
5. Mount Shasta
In the Cascade Range in Plumas County, you'll find the fifth highest mountain peak in California- Mount Shasta. There are plenty of trailheads for you to climb up the mountainside, where you'll be accompanied by dazzling dogwoods and big-leaf maples that make up the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
6. Muir Woods
In the Bay Area, San Francisco isn't only known for its city culture and the Golden Gate Bridge. Near the iconic bridge is Muir Woods National Monument, where many come to behold the massive redwood trees that tower the area. Instead of the aerial views that most look for in observing fall foliage, submerge yourself within all the changing colors you'll behold above you.
7. Convict Lake at Mammoth Lakes
Another great road trip from the Bay Area, Convict Lake holds some of the oldest rocks in the Sierra Nevada Range were discovered here. But rocks aren't the only natural features worth visiting Mammoth Lakes for. The area is home to more than a dozen lakes that are surrounded by golden fall colors in October. Convict Lake is one of the more memorable lakes to hike around or picnic at during this season.
8. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
People come to Napa Valley Wine Country to obviously indulge in the wineries while intaking the most gorgeous valley views. Adorned in silver maples and liquid ambers during autumn, you can time your visit based on your wine taste! Fresh grape crushes and harvests come during the season, making late October great for whites and early November popular for reds.
9. Lundy Lake near Bridgeport
Another incredible location in the Eastern Sierras, Lundy Lake is a picturesque place to visit in the fall. Lundy Canyon Trail is a popular, scenic 5.3-mile trail that runs through a forest to the lake, and then uphill towards a beautiful waterfall at the back of the lake. Thankfully, the trail is pretty easy and made for the whole family to take on.
Skip Los Angeles and San Diego County, and come explore Southern California's most underrated city- Julian. While apple picking for delicious apple pies, you'll be accompanied by plenty of hills full of colorful black oaks and pines. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park presents an oak woodland forest, where you can also go camping and hiking
11. Big Bear Lake
It's no surprise that Big Bear Lake made our list of places to hit for amazing fall foliage, and you'll want to visit the place during mid-October to early-November. The vast lake reflects colors of amber, crimson, and maroon creating an endless atmosphere of fall colors, going as far as the eye can see. The California fall colors pop against the contrasting evergreens, painting the landscape with nature's paintbrush.
12. Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
What better way to see fall foliage than to head to an arboretum! The Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens puts on quite the display during autumn, with chinaberry, redbud, maples, and sour gum trees adorned in crimson, gold, yellow, and orange decorating the area's 127 acres. Pro tip: head to the arboretum's Celebration and Meadowbook Gardens. That's where the fall colors shine the best.
13. Oak Glen
Apple orchards await your picking in Oak Glen, where you can also enjoy a nice stroll through the changing colors of the oak and black walnut trees. Stop by the Snow-Line Orchard to grab some cider and donuts for the whole family or take your date to the winery for a romantic getaway.
Have you ever traveled to the best places to see fall colors in California? Share your experience with us at our Wide Open Roads Facebook!
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