California may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of fall foliage, but it does have one and is brutally underrated. Many consider the Eastern Sierra region being California’s headquarters for fall, with Mammoth Lakes on top of the list. gathering tons of visitors every year around this time. Every year around this time, lots of outdoor enthusiasts nature lovers, and leaf peepers come to here to witness the change of season.
Mammoth Lakes boasts an abundance of vibrant autumn hues, thanks to thousands of Aspens, Willows, and Cottonwood trees lining its roads, creek beds, and lakes in the area.
While the timing of peak fall colors can vary from year to year, generally, the best time to experience fall foliage in this area is from late September to mid-November. Here are some of the best places to see fall foliage in Mammoth Lakes:
Mammoth Lakes Basin
The Mammoth Lakes Basin, including lakes like Lake Mary, Lake George, and Horseshoe Lake, is a great place to witness fall colors. The surrounding forests of aspen and pine trees turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red. Take a scenic drive around the lakes or go for a hike to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the changing leaves.
June Lake Loop
Just north of Mammoth Lakes, the June Lake Loop is another excellent spot for fall foliage. The loop includes June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake. The aspen groves along this route create a stunning display of autumn colors.
Convict Lake is not only picturesque in the summer but also comes alive with fall colors in September and October. You can take a leisurely walk around the lake or hike into the Convict Canyon for more immersive fall foliage experiences.
Rock Creek Canyon
Located to the east of Mammoth Lakes, Rock Creek Canyon boasts colorful aspen groves. Drive along Rock Creek Road and make stops at trailheads or viewpoints to enjoy the changing leaves. The area is particularly beautiful in the fall.
The Minaret Vista overlooks the Minarets and offers sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. In the fall, you’ll have a stunning backdrop of colorful foliage as you take in the vistas. It’s an excellent spot for photography, especially during sunrise or sunset.
Hot Creek Geological Site
Combine fall foliage with geothermal wonders at the Hot Creek Geological Site. The contrast between the fiery oranges and yellows of the trees and the steam rising from the hot springs can make for some unique photos.
Mammoth Lakes is a haven for hiking enthusiasts and leaf peepers in the fall. Some of the best hiking with great vistas of fall foliage include Parker Lake Trail, the Duck Pass Trail, and the McGee Creek Trail.
Some of the most scenic drives include the Mammoth Lakes Scenic Loop, which offers picturesque views of the lakes and surrounding forests. Also, consider driving along the Tioga Pass Road (Highway 120) towards Yosemite National Park for more fall foliage opportunities.
Remember that fall foliage timing can vary based on factors like elevation and weather conditions. So, it’s a good idea to check with local sources or the Mammoth Lakes Visitor Center for up-to-date information on the best time to visit for fall colors.