California Fall Getaways

  • 01 of 07

    6 Great Places to Go in California in Autumn

    Fall Colors Emerge in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
    ••• Fall Color in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. David McNew / Getty Images

    Some places in California are great anytime, but others are most spectacular during the Fall. These California places are especially nice to visit during September, October and November.

    These are places where you can enjoy fall foliage, autumn harvests, seasonal activities and the clearest skies of the year in the coastal cities.

    You can get more details about other seasons in these guides to Best California Places in the SpringCalifornia Summer Getaways, and Winter Getaways in California.

    Get month by month details in the guides to California in SeptemberCalifornia in October, and California in November.

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  • 02 of 07

    Scenic Highway 395: Best Fall Foliage in the State

    Aspen Trees at Gull Lake in the Fall
    ••• Aspen Trees at Gull Lake in the Fall. ©2005 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    The high desert east of the Sierras is one of California's under-discovered areas. With eye-popping geological formations, landscapes that look more like Mars than Earth and beautiful views in all directions. 

    It's also the best place in California for fall color when aspen trees growing on the mountainside turn golden. In fact, if you go there for fall foliage, this otherwise spectacular area will look positively ordinary any other time of year.

    Here's how to plan a getaway to Mono County.

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  • 03 of 07

    Hearst Castle: Evening Tours

    Neptune Pool - Hearst Castle
    ••• Neptune Pool - Hearst Castle. Courtesy of Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument

    Hearst Castle is far too busy in mid-summer for a genuinely enjoyable visit, packed with harried tourists who can't wait to see it and move on to check off the next item on their must-see list.

    In autumn, the crowds thin out. But even more important, Hearst Castle offers evening tours in the fall, which are by far the best way to see the Castle. During these seasonal tours, you can get a glimpse into life in the Castle during Hearst's day, with costumed docents recreating a dinner party tableau.

    Here's How to Plan your Hearst Castle Getaway.

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  • 04 of 07

    Julian: Apple Time

    Hotel in Julian California
    ••• Hotel in Julian California. Richard Cummins/Getty Images

    In the nineteenth Century, everyone rushed to Julian looking for the shiny mineral found in the ground. The plucky little gold rush town survives, with an attractive downtown and lots of old-fashioned charm.

    Nowadays people rush to Julian for red, green, and gold: the colors of the apples that ripen in nearby orchards the fall. You'll find roadside stands around Julian selling varieties you never heard of - and fresh apple pies for sale at every shop in town.

    You can find what you need to know about visiting Julian in this guide.

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  • 05 of 07

    Lake Tahoe: Fall Foliage

    Lake Tahoe in the Fall
    ••• Lake Tahoe in the Fall. Claver Carroll/Getty Images

    Lake Tahoe is well known for its winter skiing, and in summer it's packed with visitors who like the outdoors, going hiking and kayaking. 

    Between those two busy seasons, Tahoe quiets down and the days are clear and crisp.

    It's also the best time for a leisurely drive around the lake. Fewer tourists mean less traffic to get stuck in. And the earliest snowfall is usually toward the end of November, which means the roads will be clear and easy to drive.

    The Lake Tahoe vacation planner will help you get started right away.

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  • 06 of 07

    Napa Valley: Harvest Time

    Napa Valley in the Fall
    ••• Napa Valley in the Fall. John "K"/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    Everyone thinks they should go to Napa Valley during the grape harvest, but I disagree. Until the last grapes are crushed, and their juice is on the way to becoming wine, winery staffs are too busy to give visitors as much attention as they can at other times of the year.

    Another reason to go is to see the fall color. After the harvest is over, the grape leaves in Napa Valley put on a colorful display that rivals what any trees in the state can muster.

    In the fall, things quiet down in the wineries, too. Tasting room staff have more time to devote to each visitor, and smaller crowds make driving through wine country much more pleasant than it is in mid-summer. Find out more about visiting Napa in the fall.

    Use this guide to start planning your Napa getaway - right away.

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  • 07 of 07

    San Francisco: Clear Skies, No Crowds

    San Francisco Skyline on a Clear Day
    ••• San Francisco Skyline on a Clear Day. Marco Simoni/Getty Images

    By fall, the legendary San Francisco summer fog is gone. So are the crowds of tourists that can make a summer visit unpleasant. 

    In fact, October is one of the best times to visit San Francisco. Your pictures will likely have blue skies like this one, and you'll encounter shorter lines everywhere you go.

    Get started planning your San Francisco fall getaway: Just use this handy guide.