Amazing autumn colors can be found through OCTOBER and NOVEMBER in California, but you’ll need to leave the city in order to find the very best colors and scenic beauty. Fall season happens quickly (within weeks) in the high country and slower (months) in the lowlands. Plenty canyons and parks in the urban centers have hiking trails thru some nice trees, but nothing compares to the backroads, creeks and rivers of the big mountains.
Elevations, the higher the better, is where you’ll find the real displays of color. Aspen groves can be found along mountain slopes, creek canyons from 5000′-10,000′ in elevation. Cottonwood trees are found in the drier regions, in ranching areas and in desert canyons – up to about 6000′ elevation. Aspen trees start to turn yellow as soon as the chill of nights drop; if the temperature shift is subtle, the aspen leaves become more orange as the days go into the fall season. If an early snow or freeze happens, just one night, the glorious foliage becomes dead brown crispies dangling in the wind.
CAMP FIRE RESTRICTIONS are still be in place from the dry summer, and now comes the autumn winds. Any decent amount of rain can change the fire burn status, so make sure to check with the rangers for up-to-date fire info.
Best Autumn Campgrounds in California
Many of these campgrounds are located in or near aspen groves & are simply spectacular during the fall months. Some may be located near alder groves. Maple trees located along rivers turn golden between September and October.
Higher elevation (7000′-9000′) colors will change faster and earlier in the year (as soon as September), whereas the lower countryside may wait until late October.
Pack warmly, cuz the cooler temps at night (20-30 degrees) is what makes these awesome, little autumn leaves change colors. The change can happen very fast (in days). When the early season snows move in – usually a minimal dusting by October, fall colors can fade fast.
The Eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada is the ‘place to be’ for Autumn Colors in California. The dramatic desert meets the tallest granite peaks. Every canyon is a different scene, many lakes lined with aspen groves, some have a creek with aspens.
North Lake Campground
Lake Sabrina Road
Bishop Pass (high country hikes)
Lee Vining, CA
Lee Vining Canyon / Hwy 120
One of the biggest aspen grove canyons in the state of California.
NFS Campgrounds in Lee Vining Canyon: Big Bend, Aspen Grove, Boulder, Moraine, and Cattleguard Campground.
NFS Camps @ Yosemite’s EAST GATE (9000′ elev): Ellery Lake, Junction, Saddlebag Lake, and Sawmill Campground.
Impressive Rock Creek Road #4S12 in Rock Creek Canyon, one of the very best “Scenic Autumn Drives” in the whole Eastern Sierra. Numerous NFS Campgrounds on this road; many of which close for the season, just about the time then fall colors peak.
An autumn meteor shower peaks in late October & perfect for planning a camping trip, cabin weekend or fishing trip around it. Eastern Sierra Nevada destinations are wonderful at this time of year, as fall colors w/ aspens peak as well. Look in the southeastern part of the nights sky these shootings stars, up to 12 per hour. Pre-dawn viewing is always best for meteor showers.
Take a scenic drive and see the back roads near Lake Casitas, where numerous avocado orchards grace the hillsides. This coastal Avocado Festival has evolved into one of the largest festivals within California; Three full days of fabulous food, terrific music, & family fun. Held in Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara, CA
A small but impressive State Historic Park located in downtown Weaverville, a small Northern California town located near the Trinity Alps Wilderness and the Trinity River.
This darling park is only open Thursday through Sundays (mid day) and tours can be arranged. A one room museum tells the story of the Chinese miners who came to the Trinity River region in search of gold. The neighboring temple is a historic masterpiece and has been preserved for all to enjoy. The wooden building has withstood deep snow falls and logging trucks rumbling by on the highway a block away. Neighboring museums, outdoor displays and lush creek side parks make for ideal picnic spots.
Manhattan Beach Fair is every October & a great day to go out to the beaches of Los Angles County. Weekend festivities begins with a 10k race and a parade. Music, vendor booths, art exhibits, food & wine/beer.
This Los Angles county beach destination has been doing this event for 42+ years! Since this is LA and parking is horrible, shuttles are available from Aviation Avenue.
Starting in 2014 Death Valley National Park announced that there will be NO sporting events of any kind held within Death Valley National Park, so this particular event has been relocated to the Reno, Nevada high desert region.
AdventureCORPS hosted the Furnace Creek 508 Bicycle Race in the deserts of Southern California. Claimed as “The Toughest 48 hours in Sport”, a 508-mile bicycle race revered the world over for its epic mountain climbs, stark desert scenery, desolate roads, and its reputation as one of the toughest but most gratifying endurance challenges.
Catalina Island & Avalon are known for this event world wide, held at the Avalon Casino Ballroom. 3 weekends long! This music event has been running over 25 years & has some big sponsors from Los Angeles Jazz Radio.
This Pumpkin Festival is the one in Half Moon Bay, up near San Francisco. Been running nearly 50 years. Traditional, wholesome, family fun outdoor weekend on the coast near the Bay Area. Plenty of Campgrounds and Lodging nearby for visitors.
Reyes Adobe Days is held in the City of Agoura Hills, California. Carshow, parade & 5k run. The parade starts at Forest Cove Lane and travels along Thousand Oaks Boulevard to the Reyes Adobe Historical Site.
Families can experience California culture, past and present, with free museum tours, a music stage, interactive historical demonstrations, children’s history scavenger hunt, horse competition, pony rides, inflatables and carnival games, Victorian games, beer garden and food vendors.
The Reyes Adobe Historical Site is located at 5464 Reyes Adobe Road, (Rainbow Drive & next to Reyes Adobe Park) in Agoura Hills, California.
The sleepy mountain foothills town on Hwy 190, Springville California, holds the Apple Festival near the Tule River & the Sierra Nevada mountains. 5k & 10k runs (Apple Run) , mountain bike races (Fat Tire Classic), free shuttle service to/from the rodeo grounds; 34+ years of small town celebration on this event.
The Oakland Black Cowboy Association is best known for the Black Cowboy Parade & Festival, the only celebration of its kind in the U.S.A. This parade is held in memory of the black cowboys that helped to settle the American West.