The Golden State may not be the first one that comes to mind when you think of fall foliage, but it does have a few good spots to enjoy the change of colors. The fall foliage season in California starts a little later and lasts a little longer than in other places. It typically runs from early October through November, and in some places, it lasts all the way until December.
Peak fall foliage season in California varies from year to year, from region to region, based on factors like elevation and weather conditions. Before you plan your trip, remember to check with local sources or the Visitor Centers for up-to-date information on the best time to visit for fall colors.
Without further ado, here are some of the best places to see fall foliage in the Golden State:
The Eastern Sierra, particularly the areas around Bishop and Mammoth Lakes, is known for its stunning fall foliage. The groves of aspen trees turn vibrant shades of yellow and orange in late September and early October. The June Lake Loop and McGee Creek Canyon are popular spots for leaf-peeping.
The Lake Tahoe area, on the border between California and Nevada, offers picturesque fall foliage. The aspens and cottonwoods along the lake’s shores and in nearby valleys display a beautiful range of colors in late September and early October.
Redwood National State Parks
While it’s more famous for its towering redwood trees, this park also offers some beautiful fall foliage along its creeks and rivers, with maple and dogwood trees turning vibrant colors in the fall.
Shasta Cascade Region
This Northern California region offers diverse foliage viewing opportunities, with oak woodlands, vineyards, and river canyons. Areas like Lassen Volcanic National Park and the Trinity Alps Wilderness are great for fall colors.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Valley and the surrounding areas within Yosemite National Park feature some lovely fall foliage, especially in mid to late October. Oak trees and bigleaf maples contribute to the color show.
Sonoma County Wine Country
In addition to the vineyards, Sonoma County is home to beautiful fall foliage. The Russian River Valley and the vineyards around Healdsburg and Santa Rosa offer stunning autumn scenery, with the vines changing colors and the trees turning various shades of red and gold.
Big Bear Lake
Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake is a fantastic place to see fall foliage for SoCal residents. The oak and aspen trees display vibrant reds and yellows from late September to mid October.
This charming mountain town in the San Jacinto Mountains boasts a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees. In the fall, the oaks and maples in the area turn brilliant shades of red and orange.
It’s not New England foliage; we can’t even compare the two. But there is fall foliage in California as well, and it’s awfully underrated. From leaf peeping to hiking on some of the nation’s most beautiful trails and national parks, memorable road trips, and diverse landscapes, the Golden State is a great place to visit in the fall.