Fall colors still out there

Walker Canyon autumn - photo by Andrew Kirk

Walker Canyon autumn – photo by Andrew Kirk

Peak of the Week, again this week, is Plumas County in the Shasta Cascade where hillsides and streams are flush with crimson, pink, yellow, gold, orange and lime leaves, shrubs and grasses.

Quincy (Plumas County – CA-89), with its classic white-steeple’d Methodist Church backed by tall oaks full of orange leaves is the quintessential image of a fall destination. Other areas near peak in the Shasta Cascade include Siskiyou County with its views of Mt. Lassen framed with fall color and Lassen County, whose Bizz Johnson Trail and streams are splashed with color.

The Eastern Sierra and Lake Tahoe areas are now mostly past peak with a few pockets of brilliant color still found at Aspendell, along the June Lake Loop and at Lower Rock Creek Trail. These areas will be past peak momentarily.

Yosemite Valley in the Western Sierra is Near Peak and a little late in turning. Yosemite locals call this an off year for fall color with many trees turning quickly and dropping brown, desiccated leaves. Still, Yosemite Valley’s large black oak are becoming dressed in their Halloween colors of orange and black. Yosemite’s high country is now past peak.

The Gold Country’ s rivers have spots of bright color edging them at about 3,000’ in elevation. Along US 50, east of Pollock Pine the American River is lined with bright yellow with color moving down into the Gold Country to elevations below 3,000’.

One of California’s great cities of trees, Sacramento, has piles of London Plane Tree leaves building along the Fabulous 40s (avenues in east Sacramento numbered in the 40s) and surrounding William Land Park. Walnut groves off CA-99 from Valley Spring north to Red Bluff are beginning to carry yellow leaves.

Chartreuse wild cucumber are climbing beside US 101 between Willits and Laytonville along The Redwood Highway. The North Coast’s Eel River is edged with gold.

In Southern California, Lake Gregory in the San Bernardino mountains is peaking with orange and gold black oaks; Lake Hemet’s yellow and gold cottonwood are near peak; and San Diego County’s Laguna Mountains are a mix of peaked and patchy black oaks. The Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia submitted its first report of fall color and it often is the last area in California to report peak.


This will likely be the last week for any significant color in the Eastern Sierra. “Crazy” winds this past Friday and Saturday stripped many leaves, though – remarkably – left many stands of aspen with their leaves, in what color spotters Nick and Alena Barnhart call “pockets of resistance.”

Inyo County

Lone Pine (US 395) – (Peak to Past Peak) – Stands of color are seen high up in the Eastern Sierra. GO NOW!

Aspendell, Bishop Creek Canyon (Peak to Past Peak) – Brilliant color continues to survive, despite winds above 20 mph. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been reporting the color would last only a few days. Reports of its death are beginning to sound “Twainian.” GO NOW!

Mono County

Lower Rock Creek Rd (Peak – 75-100%) – HIKE OF THE WEEK: Drive about 2.5 miles down Lower Rock Creek Rd. to the first major pull-out (west side of the road), park and then cross the road to hike back up the trail. Aspens along the beautiful rushing creek are at peak now. Look for the beaver dam which has stilled the water surface to afford mirror-like reflections of the trees. The trail is multi-use, so mountain bikers, hikers and anglers. Alicia warns, “Please watch out for one another!” GO NOW!

Mammoth Lakes (Peak to Past Peak – Sections of Mammoth Creek Rd. (off Old Mammoth Road in Mammoth Lakes) still offer brilliant red and orange on the trees.
June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158 (Past Peak) – Even though the June Lake Loop moves to being past peak, a few stands remain vibrant, particularly around Gull Lake, at the base of June Mountain and just north of Silver Lake. YOU MISSED IT!

Lee Vining Canyon (Peak to Past Peak) – The lower section of Tioga Pass Rd. and Lee Vining Canyon are peaking beautifully, with some trees definitely past peak. GO NOW!

Conway Summit, Green Creek Road and Twin Lakes (Past Peak) – Again, though spots of color appear in the groves surrounding Bridgeport, comparative photos now show the haunting contrast between most of the trees that are completely bare and those few with bright patches of color still on them. Overall, it’s past peak and one good gust from being stripped. YOU MISSED IT!

West Walker River and Walker/Coleville (Peak 75-100%) – Grand cottonwood flanking the northern stretch of US 395 and along the West Walker River are bright yellow at peak. GO NOW!

Bishop (Peak 75-100%) US 395 from Lone Pine to Bishop is at peak with cottonwood and sage brush golden. GO NOW!

Alpine County/Hope Valley/Lake Tahoe (Past Peak) – YOU MISSED IT!


Plumas County (Peak 75-100%) Plumas County has just transitioned to full peak, which should continue for a couple of weeks. The bucolic charm of Plumas County, its landscape and architecture are most like New England, with covered bridges, signature white town churches and pastoral splendor. This northern Sierra county’s fall color is best found by driving its backroads (often paved, sometimes gravel) near Greenville, La Porte and Quincy (such as the American Valley, earning the title for Plumas County as CaliforniaFallColor.com’s Peak of the Week. GO NOW!

Lassen County (Near Peak 50-75%) – The Susanville area and Bizz Johnson trail are exploding with fall color. Many of the area’s aspen, cottonwood, dogwood, black oak and bigleaf maple are near peak and should peak in the coming week or two. Lassen Peak has received a dusting of snow, creating a beautiful backdrop for fall color in the national park. GO NOW!

Siskiyou County (Near Peak 50-75%) – It’s getting as good as it gets in Siskiyou County with plenty of Fall color set before the breathtaking backdrop of snowcapped Mount Shasta. Vibrant red, orange and yellow oaks, maple and cottonwoods populate the scenic villages of Mt. Shasta and McCloud. GO NOW!

Shasta county (Patchy 10-50%) – Yellow bigleaf maple and orange black oak are near peak at MacArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. Elevations above 3,500’ are near the high end of patchy or nearing peak. Elevations below 3,500’ (Anderson, Redding) have modest color change, mostly exotic trees in their urban forests. Riparian forests along the Sacramento River are showing lime and yellow and will likely peak in mid November.

Butte County (Patchy 10-50%) – Urban parks surrounding Chico State University and in Bidwell Park are beginning to show vibrant lime and yellow, though the change in Chico, Oroville and Paradise is still developing. Poison oak is providing flashes of crimson in the woods.

Tehama County (Patchy 10-50%) Not much has changed over the past week. It’s still patchy with some foliage now blushing with red and yellow. The Sacramento River is a great place to see big stands of cottonwood and valley oak as they color up with orange and yellow, particularly in Red Bluff where Victorian homes provide an ideal backdrop for the color between Halloween and Thanksgiving Day.

Trinity County (Patchy 10-50%) Only patches of color are yet to be seen in Trinity County and mostly along the Trinity River and CA-299. Look for chartreuse wild cucumber which is peaking along the river and bigleaf maple and oaks dressed with yellow and lime colors.

Modoc County (Patchy 10-50%) The austere autumn landscape of northeastern-most California has not changed greatly in the past week, though when it does the subtle tangents of fall color and high plains provide a show unseen elsewhere in North America. Photographers who have captured it rank among the state’s greatest landscape photographers. We give it another week to two before we’re saying it’s ready.

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