Welcome to the 2012 Fall Color Report

Enjoy the fall color of your national forests

Aspen trees show hues of yellow and orange with grassy field on the foreground and forest on the background. Highway flanked by colorful hues of yellow and orange trees. Close-up of colorful hues of yellow and orange leaves. Foreground of vibrant colors on young aspen trees with pine trees on the background. Foreground of reddish-leaf bushes against a row of green trees on the background. Close-up of a mixture of red, yellow, and green leaves. Row of trees displaying hues of yellow and and light green leaves. Close-up of aspen leaves displaying reddish-orange hues against an intense blue sky. Pine trees flanked by aspen trees, which show reddish-yellowish leaves. Row of trees with yellow leaves flanked by a hillside on the left and a mountain on the right. Oak and aspen trees showing red and yellow colors.

Join us and enjoy the illuminating fall colors throughout the National Forests in the Pacific Southwest Region. Our 18 National Forests in California stretch from the Mexican border to Oregon and offer a variety of landscape and plant types framing an awesome array of fall color. Take time out and enjoy the fall color of your national forests.

Just as a reminder, fall colors start in the higher elevations and move down to the lower elevations by late October and early November.

October 25, 2012 Update

Inyo National Forest and Eastern Sierra Fall Color

The Inyo National Forest has wonderful displays of fall colors from late September through the month of October. The glacier carved canyons adjacent to US Highway 395 are home to colorful aspen groves which provide an impressive contrast with rich green pine forests and dramatic granite walls.

Winter is approaching in the Eastern Sierra, with the first significant snow storm of the season occurring early this week. Gusty winds over the Sierra crest did knock down the dried leaves located at higher elevations, however, the forecast for this weekend calls for sunny skies and near normal temperatures. Conditions will be perfect for a visit to the Inyo National Forest this weekend.

In general, aspen groves and willows, around 7,500 feet to 8,000 feet, are still producing a fine display. The canyons, from Lundy in the north to Bishop Creek in the south, have nice displays at their mouths. Trees above 8,000 feet have lost most of their leaves. Due to a dry spring and summer, peak shows are relatively short in duration (5 to 7 days).

This weekend, the June Lake Loop (west on SR 158) will continue to be a great show of fall foliage. The combination of water, trees and now a touch of snow, is tough to beat for photographic qualities. This loop of the “California’s Alps” is beautiful year round, but especially stunning in the fall.

Trees near the community of Crowley Lake are in full show of yellow to gold, with a splash of orange.

Bishop Creek continues to produce beautiful photographic opportunities. Check the areas around Aspendell and the south fork of Bishop Creek near Bishop Creek Lodge.

The communities of Mono and Inyo counties offer a wide variety of accommodations and eating establishments to meet the needs of visitors viewing and photographing the fall show. Temperatures are very cool in the morning and warmer in the afternoon, dressing in layers will make it easy to adjust to changing conditions. Also, drink plenty of water at high elevations.

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Our slow progression into fall has quickened within the past week. Daytime temperatures have dropped into the low to mid-60s and nighttime temps are in the mid to high 30s. On the South Shore, the aspen leaves at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center have begun their transformation. Across Highway 89, Cathedral Road continues to peak. Fredrick’s Meadow on Fallen Leaf Lake Road is turning, but still has a ways to go. There is still beautiful color at the Lake Tahoe Community College Demonstration Garden.

On the East Shore, Spooner Summit is almost past its’ peak and Ponderosa and Rabe Meadows have not peaked yet, but are close. Another nice spot that is almost at peak is Zephyr Cove near the stables.

The peak continues at Sorenson’s in Hope Valley, with the west side nearing it’s’ peak. Hope Valley is known for its’ spectacular color on a larger scale and is definitely worth a visit.

There is still plenty of time to see the beautiful fall color in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ltbmu/FallColorGallery to view our Fall Color Gallery from last year. New photos will be posted here as soon as they become available.


Lassen National Forest

Aspen have begun to change to yellow, with a few oranges and reds. The change has been sudden, perhaps due to the extended, dry summer.

The Almanor Ranger District of the Lassen National Forest will be offering a photographic driving tour on Friday, Oct. 26.Participants will have the opportunity to view fall colors and learn how to best photograph trees and foliage in the forest. Although it's hard to predict the best time for viewing fall colors, there is sure to be some great scenery.

The tour will begin down Highway 32 to catch the red color of the Indian Rhubarb along the creek, early in the day. Participants will meet at the Almanor Ranger District office across from the airport in Chester at 8 a.m. and return between 3 and 4 p.m.

Los Padres National Forest

View the Fall Colors Photo Gallery linked from the forest home page.

Modoc National Forest

Fall color in Modoc County is at 30–50% with the Modoc National Forest and Alturas area reporting a shift of color to bright yellow and orange.

Plumas National Forest

Native locust trees and big leaf maples are showing yellow, dogwoods are turning rose to red, and at higher elevations the color is more intense.

Spanish Creek is a riot of ruby, yellow and lime Indian rhubarb.

San Bernardino National Forest

The quaking aspen grove in the San Gorgonio Wilderness is the southern-most aspen grove and a special places to view fall colors in the San Bernardino National Forest. The leaves there are just beginning to turn—they are expected to peak in the couple of weeks. To get to the grove, visitors will need a high-clearance vehicle to drive to the trailhead and then hike about ½ mile.

To get to the Aspen Grove Trailhead, take Highway 38 east of the Mill Creek Ranger Station. Turn right (south) off Highway 38 about 6 miles past the Barton Flats Visitor Center on Forest Service Road 1N02. Follow 1N02 until it forks right to 1N05. Go right up 1N05 (this is a rough unmaintained road not intended for low-slung autos) to the signed Aspen Grove Trail parking (7,400'), 2.6 miles in from Highway 38. Hike south down the trail. After crossing the creek, hikers will be amongst the first aspen trees. Take the unsigned trail to the right to see more aspen trees. The best grove is about ¾ mile down this trail.

Sequoia National Forest

The oak along Cherry Hill road is about a week from good color. Some reds and yellows began showing last week but the colors are still a little weak with a fair amount of green in the trees.

Stanislaus National Forest

The Stanislaus National Forest is one of the few fall color destinations where wildflowers continue to bloom as trees turn color.

Recommended Viewing Routes:

  • 3N01—Cottonwood Rd area oak trees have started changing colors.
  • Along Hwy 120—Groveland Ranger District 3,000’ and at Rainbow Pool the maples trees are turning yellow, orange and red in color.

Tahoe National Forest

Fall is an exceptionally pretty time to explore the Tahoe National Forest. Warm days and crisp, cold nights make forest outings especially enjoyable. At the lower elevations (2,500 – 4,000 ft.), autumn colors are at their best in mid-October through early November while in the higher elevations (4,000 – 9,000 ft.), colors peak from early to mid-October.

Scenic Drives:

  • Highway 49— A beautiful drive along Highway 49 from Nevada City through Downieville to Sierra City features big leaf maple, oak, locust and dogwood foliage. As you wind through the North Yuba River canyon, dogwoods and oak trees start to change colors in early October. The colors are often reflected in the river, doubling the intensity of color.
  • Gold Lake Road—In the Sierra Buttes vicinity, color peaks in early to mid-October with the yellow and gold of aspen and maple trees in this beautiful alpine area. Views of and from the Sierra Buttes are outstanding.
  • Highway 89—Fall colors extend from late September though the month of October. The drive along Hwy 89 from Lake Tahoe through Truckee and on to Sierraville is especially picturesque with aspens, willows and cottonwoods painting the landscape with brilliant yellows. Expanding the drive from Sierraville west via Hwy 49 up to Yuba Pass provides spectacular views of the Sierra Valley. The drive from Hwy 89 through Kyburz Flat and Sardine Valley is also especially nice with grasses, willows, cottonwoods, and aspens.
  • East of Highway 89 and north of Boca Reservoir, cottonwoods, aspen, and willows follow the Little Truckee River.
  • Highway 267—From Truckee south toward Lake Tahoe through Martis Valley, the gold and browns of willows and grasses contrast with the deep green of the pines.
  • Highway 20—East of Nevada City, the landscape comes alive with crimson hues of dogwood and bright yellows of the big leaf maples. Bear Valley is especially pretty as the grasses, willows and cottonwoods turn gold.
  • Mosquito Ridge Road—Mid-September to mid-October is a great time to drive Mosquito Ridge Road, east of Foresthill, which passes through beautiful canyons and forests of oaks, maples, dogwoods, and evergreens providing an array of fall colors. A cautionary sign reduces the road to one lane for a short distance where a slide damaged the road. The Big Trees Picnic Area is an excellent stop to view the northernmost stand of Giant Sequoia interspersed with the ruby red of the dogwoods. Mosquito Ridge Road also leads to French Meadows Reservoir and the Granite Chief Wilderness where fall color can be outstanding.
  • Old Highway 40 and I-80—Another scenic drive follows old Hwy 40, parallel to I-80 along the rocky South Yuba River lined with aspens and cottonwoods. When the leaves turn, the vibrant yellows and golds are duplicated in the reflections of the river. These colors are usually best in early–mid October.