Dreaming of Fall colors in Vermont and London but scared to hop on a plane? Don’t worry I’ve got you!
California is not all about warm rays and beach days, it has some of the best fall folliage…if you know the right spots. I was disheartened that I will not be able to travel to Vermont this year to catch the beautiful fall colors, so I started doing some research to find a few fall spots locally. Mid October we packed our bags and went hunting for the “Perfect fall vibes!“
Here’s where to find the best Fall Colors in Northern California!
The leaves start turning colors by mid of September and lasts till end of November and it varies from region to region. Unfortunately there’s no way to pinpoint a date when the leaves will change as it’s dependent upon the weather. But it happens with a blink of an eye and the fall foliage season is already over. So you have to be flexible with the exact location and timing to get the fall foliage.
My best bet would be to plan your fall trip during the month of October to get the fall colors at its peak. But but you’ll still want to check out the yearly autumn colors reports planning the exact timing of your trip.
In this post I’m going to be sharing with you my favorite and top places to find fall foliage in the Northern California region.
1. June Lake Loop
Best time to visit: October week 1 – October week 3
Leaves color: Orange and Yellow
Location: 2407 CA-158, June Lake, CA 93529
June Lake is a mountain town on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Mono County. Just 45 minutes from Mammoth Lakes, a popular ski village, this place is truly a fall paradise. The June Lake Loop is a 16 mile scenic road that loops around June Lake and takes you among fall foliage running through mountains and three other lakes. How beautiful does that sound , just reading it. June Lake puts up some of the best fall colors in California – Great fall vacation!
As you enter the road, you will be greeted with an amazing view of the road heading off into the distance with trees along the sides with a mountain backdrop. We stopped at multiple spots to capture some of the bright orange colored trees.
The first lake you get to is June Lake, and it’s a great spot for hanging out on the beach and swimming during the summer. It can be busy, but is never as busy as the other lakes in the area.
And the next stop is….
2. Silver Lake
Best time to visit: Mid October especially before sunset
Leaves color: Yellow
Location: Silver Lake, June Lake, CA 93529
Silver Lake is my favorite place in the June Lake Loop. The lake has fantastic views of Carson Peak reflecting off the water, and is a stunning spot for photography, fishing, and boating.
It is filled with a lot of aspen trees that turn bright yellow during the fall. 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. Truly a sight to the sore eyes!
3. Convict lake
Best time to visit: Mid October especially at Sunrise
Leaves color: Yellow
Location: Convict Lake, California 93546
This is one of the most picturesque lakes, massive, and an excellent spot for fishing since there are generally fewer people there. Best time to visit this lake is at sunrise, seriously I mean it; Some of the best views at Sunrise. The oblong-shaped lake is filled with water as clear as glass, and as the sun casts its rays on the mountains, you can see a super clear reflection of the mountains in the lake. Great photo op right there!
It is encircled by a three-mile long access trail filled with warm yellow trees and boxed in by the steep backdrop of the Sierra Nevada, highlighted by the 12,241’ Mount Morrison. Convict Lake was originally carved out by glaciers, and at up to 140’ deep in some places, it’s one of the deepest lakes in the region. It is great lake to canoe, kayak or float tube.
We loved the patches of yellow and got some really cool photos with the surrounding yellow colors reflecting off the glassy lake!
4. Yosemite National Park
Best time to visit: Mid October – November
Leaves color: Yellow, Orange and Red
Of course, you can’t talk about fall colors in California without including Yosemite! On our way back from the Mammoth lakes, we made a pit stop at the Yosemite valley to do a quick hike. A few spots to get some of the best of fall colors are – Tuolumne Meadows, Tioga Pass and Valley
From quaking aspen trees to dogwoods and black cottonwoods, Yosemite’s trees and shrubs offer an explosion of color along meandering brooks. While peak leaf season is dependent on temperatures, rain and other factors, the end of October can be a great time to experience the foliage.
In the Valley Bigleaf Maple is one of my favorites. During fall, its yellow leaves outline the river areas along the southern side of the Valley adding splashes of color among the brown of the oaks. We did a small hike – Sentinal/Cook’s Meadow Loop and captured some beautiful fall colors against the mountain backdrop.
The Yosemite Chapel area (can be reached by Southside Drive) is also popular with photographers due to lots of red color from the maples.
5. Mountain View
Best time to visit: Mid October – November
Leaves color: Yellow and Orange
Looking for something local? This is for all the Bay Area residents. You can find small patches of yellow and orange trees in and around the downtown Mountain View area. Some of the streets are lined with beautiful aspen trees which change color during the last weeks of October through November. A few areas you can look:
- Middlefield Rd- Between Moffett Blvd and Rengstorff Ave
- Around Mountain View downtown – Castro Street
- Near Mountain View Public Library
- Shoreline Golf Links
Eastern Sierra Fall Colors List
There are a LOT of places you can visit to find fall colors. I highlighted my personal favorites but below is a list of other the spots so you can plan a scenic fall trip to East Sierra:
- McGee Creek Canyon
- Mono Lake
- Mammoth Lakes
- Inyo County
- Lundy Canyon
- Virgin Lakes
- Conway Summit
- Twin Lakes – Bridgeport
- Lake Tahoe
I hope this has helped you plan your next trip to see Eastern Sierra Fall Colors! Overall, when you want to find fall foliage, go into the mountains and you will Fall in love with California all over again. Which is your favorite spot in California to find fall colors? Leave a comment below!
Also, feel free to DM me on Instagram @preksharaj at any time if you have more questions about leaf peeping on the West Coast.