Updated fall colors

Old Road from Willow Camp to Parchers Resort.  Photo by Jared Smith

Old Road from Willow Camp to Parchers Resort. Photo by Jared Smith

Subject: California Fall Color Report – 10-9-14
To: [email protected]

CaliforniaFallColor.com reports that warm days and cool nights this past month contributed to an intense peak of fall color above 8,500′ in the High Sierra during the past week.  Peak color has now moved down to between 7,500 and 8,500′ in elevation, with the best autumn color to be seen at Bishop Creek Canyon, Mammoth Lakes, June Lakes, Hope Valley and Big Bear.

CaliforniaFallColor.com is now reporting Past Peak in several locations above 8,500′ elevation. Although spots of beautiful color will still be seen in many of these Past Peak  areas, most of their leaves have now fallen.

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Here’s this week’s report:

“Crazy Good” is how color spotter Jared Smith of Parchers Resort described fall color conditions between 7,500 and 8,500’ elevation in the Eastern Sierra, this past week.  Above 8,500’ the color has peaked and though there are spots of beautiful color, a lot of leaves have fallen

Peak has moved down to lower Bishop Creek Canyon, June Lake Loop, Hope Valley Lake Tahoe and the San Bernardino Mountains.
Just starting to patchy conditions are found in the Northern Sierra and Shasta Cascade.

Inyo County

Big Pine Creek Canyon
GO NOW! – Peak (75 – 100%) Big Pine Creek Canyon – This hidden gem lies west of the town of Big Pine in the Eastern Sierra.  Color spotter Scott Turner reported he “wasn’t expecting much here, but I was fairly blown away. South Fork Canyon is about 50%. Along the North Fork Trail, the color is patchy until just past the second waterfall, at which point there’s a glorious grove of aspen trees at 100% peak with every color represented. Getting all the way back to Second lake, with its aquamarine waters, added nicely to the color below.”

Bishop Creek Canyon

Overall Conditions Above 8,500′ Elevation – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
Jared Smith from Parchers Resort reports that this past week was incredible for fall color, especially last weekend which exhibited an absolute peak at North Lake and Lake Sabrina.  An impressive number of weekend visitors traveled to Bishop Creek Canyon for the show.  Several areas above 8,500’ still have color yet to develop, though many trees have now lost their leaves. Many of the upper areas are now rated as Past Peak.

Overall Conditions Between 7,500’ and 8,500′ Elevation – Patchy (10 – 50%)
The difference between this week and last was stunning, especially between the 8,000’ and 8,500’ elevation, where last week’s lime green and patchy yellow turned to brilliant yellow and orange with touches of rosy red. Some of the more famous views in the canyon, including Mist Falls and the view up canyon from Aspendell are now showing peak color providing visiting photographers and painters with as much fall color as they could possibly need to inspire their artistic spirit.

Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Weir Pond (9,650′)
The canyon wall above the pond is pretty well stripped of color now and even the aspen behind the pond have faded. There are still some brilliant aspen in full fall splendor along either side of South Lake Road but this location certainly isn’t as beautiful as it was last week at this time.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Parchers Camp (9,260′)
Despite its high elevation, color around this resort has held strong with lots of peak color, mostly yellow and orange, especially on the mountainside to the north of the resort. Some gorgeous old growth aspen behind the resort and along Green Creek are showing some of the brightest and purest yellows in the canyon making for some wonderful forest views. Also noteworthy is the old road along the So. Fork Bishop Creek that flows between the resort and Willow Campground. The sheer granite cliffs have some awesome red shrubbery adding a unique contrast to some of the yellow aspen clinging to the rock. There are also some tremendously large trees which provide a rather awe inspiring canopy to those who wander down from Parchers or up from Willow.

Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Willow Campground (9,000′)
The aspen along the road around the campground, and to a large degree the aspen within the campground, have past their peak and begun to lose their leaves for the season. Still, some excellent opportunities for color can be found by parking on the shoulder or in front of the gate to the campground and walking up the old road.

Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Lake Sabrina (9,150′)
As incredibly gorgeous as the color still is at Lake Sabrina, the peak color around the reservoir was probably late last week. Much of the color has faded or disappeared altogether from the east shore with the best color, especially some seriously bright orange and touches of red, near the back of the lake and all along the inlet stream at the very south end of the lake.

Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Sabrina Campground (9,000′)
There is still some color hanging around in the campground and along Hwy 168 above the campground but this area was certainly better late last week than what we’re seeing now. Many of the trees have already shed their leaves and most of the yellow aspen are exhibiting some brown spotting, a sure sign that the leaves won’t be around much longer.

Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) –  Table Mountain Camp (8,900′)
The groves just below the campground are now mostly kaput but some exceptional color can still be found by walking into the campground itself.

Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – Surveyors Meadow (8,975’)
There is still a lot of color in this area but even so, it’s past peak. The group of about 20 plein air painters was there to capture the peak.  There’s been a slight decline in the amount of color here each day since.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Big Trees Campground (7,800’)
Nothing terribly impressive happening down below the South Lake turnoff as yet.

Past Peak (YOU MISSED IT!) – North Lake (9,255′)
North Lake is another must-see location even though it isn’t quite as amazing as it was last week. Especially impressive is the color along the north shore of the lake and along the dirt road. There is also quite a bit of color to the left of the road near the campground gate (which is now closed).

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Stiny Loop above Mt. Glen Camp (8,600′)
While there is one short stretch of stream where the aspens have dropped their leaves, the majority of the color between Mt. Glen Campground and the end of the Stiny Loop is simply gorgeous with lots of yellow and orange. This old dirt road is especially beautiful in the afternoon as the backlit aspen shimmer brilliantly.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350′)
It doesn’t get any better than what we’re seeing this week down near Mist Falls. The groves from Bishop Creek Lodge all the way up to Mt. Glen Campground are incredibly bright. There is a bit of lime green still yet to turn but for me this contrast of colors makes for an even better view.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Aspendell (8,400′)
While there is still some green hanging tough within the small community, there is near peak color both just above and below the homes making for some gorgeous views.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550′)
The scrub aspen on the canyon wall just below Cardinal Pinnacle are mostly gone now but the most brilliant color and the densest groves of aspen are all along the middle fork Bishop Creek from just below Sabrina Campground all the way down past Cardinal Village Resort.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Four Jeffries (8,000′)
Some really nice color is developing along the So. Fork Bishop Creek in this area, especially between the campground and Bishop Creek Lodge. One stand of aspen is especially impressive showing some really bright red hues.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Intake II (8,000′)
This is probably the best color seen at this small lake, especially between the upper campground and the lake. Some pretty impressive red is showing, along with bright yellow and some nice orange hues too. There is a sprinkling of green among the turning aspen making for some really cool reflection shots early in the morning.

Mono County

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) June Lake Loop – Mono County color spotter Alicia Vennos reports “It’s like the switch just flipped and Mono County is spectacular everywhere right now, including the June Lake Loop, Lundy Canyon, Convict Lake, Conway Summit, Summer’s Meadow/Green Creek Road and Log Cabin Road (at the bottom of Tioga Pass Road!).

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) Little Walker Lake – Aspen above Little Walker Lake on the Bloody Canyon trail to Sardine Lakes are incredible right now.  This is a strenuous hike, so plan accordingly.  The aspens around the south-west end of Little Walker Lake itself are just starting but should be peaking by next week!  To get to Little Walker Lake, take the Parker Lake Road exit from the north end of the June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158 and follow the signs to Walker Lake Trailhead.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) –  Log Cabin Road – Peaking at higher elevations.  This dirt road is located at the bottom of the Tioga Pass Road near Lee Vining — it is in fairly good shape with some steep, rocky sections.  At the historical cabins, it is advised to park and walk to the best viewpoints which are another 1.5 – 2 miles.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) –  Conway Summit – US 395 between Lee Vining and Bridgeport is gorgeous right now, both on the south and the north sides.  Green Creek Road and Summer’s Meadows just south of Bridgeport are also peaking.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Kirkwood Mountain Resort – This was the weekend to be hiking goat trails surrounding the Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Caples Lake – The east shore of Caples lake has bands of day-glo orange-red and yellow aspen.  A nice view is from the fishing access parking area on the west shore of the lake at Caples Lake Resort.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – East Slope, Carson Pass (Hwy 88) – The upper reaches of the Hope Valley near Carson Pass are at full peak.  On the dirt road toward Red Lake is a boulevard of yellow, peaking aspen.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) -Hope Valley Recreation Area – Blue Lakes Road which travels through the Hope Valley Recreation Area has little color along it.  Though there are a few brilliant stands.  The best is a boulevard of yellow aspen just beyond the winter road closure gates, after passing the Hope Valley Campground.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) -Hope Valley – There’s still quite a bit of green and lime, particularly on the north side of the valley, though too are wide swaths of red, orange and yellow among fir and pine forests.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) -Sorensen’s Resort – This popular collection of cabins set in a forest of towering aspen flickers with yellow.  Across Hwy 88, large groves of aspen are mostly yellow and orange, though some trees still have green or lime leaves in abundance.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Big Meadow – A little yellow is ringing Big Meadow on State Route 89, north of the Hope Valley, though it is still mostly green and lime.  The drive up 89 to the meadow from Hope Valley passes through groves of very green aspen.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – U.S. 50 – Also called the Lincoln Highway, US 50 has a few pockets of yellow aspen on the west slope of its summit at 6,400′; black oak are beginning to be edged with orange and yellow at 5,400′, black cottonwood are turning gold at 3,600′ and bigleaf maple seem almost sun burned with edging of yellow and brown at 3,300′.

Shasta Cascade

Patchy (10-50%) – Plumas County -This prime fall color destination in the northern Sierra usually peaks mid-October, though changes are already appearing.  Color spotter Lisa May reports the dogwood is nearly at peak and changing rapidly. Pinks and soft reds are predicted compared to its usual vibrant red.

Patchy (10-50%) – Siskiyou County – Parts of Siskiyou County are beginning to show patches of red and yellow, reports color spotter Ashley Holgarth. Warm days and cool nights will likely lead to accelleration of the color change.

Just Starting (0-10%) – Shasta County – Color spotter Lisa May says Shasta County is just starting with hints of yellow and lime.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) Whitmore – Orange and red are already showing says Lisa May.

Just Starting (0-10%) – Tehama County – Scrub Oaks are beginning the change with patches of lime and yellow.  Tehama County has large areas of riparian woodland along the Sacramento River that provide beautiful color.

Just Starting (0-10%) Trinity County -Weaverville is one of the prettiest places to see fall color in the Shasta Cascage, though it’s just starting now with some lime and yellow among the bigleaf maple.  Look for chartreuse wild cucumber along the Trinity River with full peak at the end of October through early November.

Patchy (0 – 10%) Butte County -Another fabulous place to see fall color in the Shasta Cascade is Chico, but with temperatures still in the mid-eighties to lower nineties, there’s not much color change at all, so far. Color spotters there are predicting a late October to mid November show at Bidwell Park and CSU Chico.  Color spotter Amanda Secrest of Paradise reports some trees there are beginning to turn lime and red.

Patchy (10 – 50%) Lassen County -Like the other areas in the Shasta Cascade, Lassen County is reporting mostly patchy yellow and lime in its forests. The Bureau of Land Management office in Chester predicts the trees to peak by the third week of October.

Just Starting (0 – 10%) Modoc County – California’s remote northeast corner is often overlooked by color spotters, but Paul Bach, a wilderness Ranger for the Modoc National Forest says Aspen and rabbitbrush are beginning to show beautiful color in the Warner Mountains of Northeastern California. The South Warner Wilderness in the Modoc National Forest has some outstanding groves of Aspen to view in the coming month, when it begins to cool.

Southern California

Color spotter Nick Barnhart traveled up to the San Bernardino Mountains this past weekend and got these colorful shots of fall color at Lake Gregory, Green Valley Lake and Big Bear Lake.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – San Bernardino National Forest –A mix of black oak, mountain maple, rabbitbrush and aspen are delicately coloring Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Big Bear Lake – The famous aspen grove near Big Bear is peaking.  This is probably the last weekend to see it in its glory.
Patchy (10 – 50%) – Lake Gregory and Lake Arrowhead – Only about 25% of the trees are showing color.

Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Mormon Emigrant Trail – The first color seen is an orange-yellow tinge to black oak leaves at 4,200′.  At 7,500′, willows shine bright yellow, though the color spots are so few and far between that the road is hardly worth exploring for fall color, though as a road that is historic, wide, straight and untraveled, Mormon Emigrant has few peers.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – West Slope, Carson Pass (Hwy 88) – As you near Silver Lake, stands of bright yellow aspen speckle the forest at 7,500′ elevation.  A particularly good stand of very large, old aspen flickering bright yellow is found on the north side of the highway at elevation 7,200′ at the entrance to the Kirkwood Lake Road.

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