Best Places to Find Fall Color in California

  • 01 of 08

    California's Best Place to See Fall Foliage

    Aspen Leaves in the Fall, Eastern California
    ••• Aspen Leaves in the Fall, Eastern California. ©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    If you want to see fall foliage in California, don't go to Yosemite. Nearly every tree in the national park is evergreen. Instead, you need to go east. To the other side of the mountains, to be exact.

    When you get there, don't expect to find the exuberance of color you might see in New England. Instead, go looking for gold —not the kind prospectors hunt for but in the aspen trees.

    The aspen's heart-shaped leaves flutter in even the smallest breeze, sometimes looking like thousands of yellow butterflies flapping their wings. It happens so often that the tree is often called a quaking aspen. In, fact, the aspen might just be America's liveliest tree.

    Best Place in California for Fall Foliage

    The best places to see golden aspen trees in California is on the eastern slope of the Sierras along US Highway 395. The eastern Sierras provide a perfect storm of conditions for the trees to grow. They don't tolerate shade and thrive best in plentiful sunshine, which they get under...MORE the open skies of Eastern California.

    If you want to find the most beautiful places to see natural beauty in any season, follow the photographers. Fall is prime time for photography workshops in eastern California. This guide covers some of their favorite stops, along with one I discovered on my own.

    The town of June Lake and June Lake Loop are the perfect locations to start your leaf peeping. Along a 15-mile loop drive that passes through the town, you'll pass four lakes that provide the perfect mirror for the colorful foliage. Many of the photos in this guide were taken along that loop.

    When to Go and Where to Stay

    It's hard to predict when fall color will peak, but October is your best bet. You can use this guide to fall color in California to get the current year's conditions and predictions

    The town of June Lake is the perfect place to use as a base for exploring the fall color. Use this guide to find out more about visiting it.

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  • 02 of 08

    Fall Foliage at Gull Lake

    Aspen Trees on the Road to McGee Creek
    ••• Aspen Trees on the Road to McGee Creek. ©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Gull Lake is the smallest lake on the June Lake Loop. Large stands of aspen cascade down the hillsides around it. Those sprawling splashes of color sometimes look like they were created by a gigantic paintbrush. The uniform color is one of the most eye-catching things about the trees in a big group —and Mother Nature has a reason for it.

    Aspens can spread by spreading their new roots and sprouting new trees along them. Every tree in the group is identical genetically. They have the same bark texture and more important for their fall beauty — the same autumn leaf color.

    Use this resource if you want to know more about  how aspens grow

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  • 03 of 08

    Where to Find Fall Color in Eastern California

    Sunrise at Silver Lake
    ••• Sunrise at Silver Lake. ©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    This photograph was taken moments after morning sun struck the trees at Silver Lake. Besides this gorgeous view, you'll find some picturesque small boats docked on the lake shore - and you can get a cup of coffee across the street to warm up those fingers and toes that nearly froze while you were waiting for that perfect shot. 

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  • 04 of 08

    Fall Foliage at Silver Lake

    Fall Foliage at June Lake
    ••• Fall Foliage at June Lake. ©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

     This photograph was also taken on the shore of Silver Lake, along a walking path that winds through the trees.

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  • 05 of 08

    Aspen Trees on the Drive to McGee Creek

    Aspen Trees and the Sierras, California
    ••• Aspen Trees and the Sierras, California. ©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    In a fit of exuberance during a particularly glorious fall day, I christened the drive from US Hwy 395 to McGee Creek the Most Beautiful Three Miles in California. It starts south of Highway 395 near Crowley Lake. A 3-mile drive will take you to the creek, but what you see along the way will have you stopping so often that it might take an hour to drive those three scenic miles.

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  • 06 of 08

    Fall Foliage at McGee Creek

    Aspen Leaves at McGee Creek
    ••• Aspen Leaves at McGee Creek. ©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    When you reach the end of the road to McGee Creek, you'll find aspens growing along a mountain stream, its banks covered with so many golden leaves that you can barely see the ground.

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  • 07 of 08

    Fall Color at Convict Lake

    Fall Color at Convict Lake
    ••• Fall Color at Convict Lake. Albert deBruijn/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

     The view of Convict Lake is set against dramatic, rocky mountains and the fall aspen color spills down the slopes. You can walk around the walk on a trail, or rent a boat and get out in the middle of it.

    Find out how Convict Lake got its name what else there is to do there in this guide.

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  • 08 of 08

    More Fall Foliage in Eastern California

    Foliage and Berries at Gull Lake in Fall
    ••• Foliage and Berries at Gull Lake in Fall. ©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Aspens aren't the only fall foliage in eastern California. But they always seem to find a way to photobomb your pictures. Here, they show up reflected in the water in the background.

    Other eastern Sierra locations known for their fall color include Lobdell Lake, Green Creek and Summers Meadow off Green Creek Road, Lundy Canyon, Parker Lake, Rock Creek and Lee Vining Canyon.