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.
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
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.
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.
in the Central Coast Winery region of Paso Robles CA
Warmth is in the air and the earth is abundant for harvest. The colors have turned and it is time to celebrate a year of hard work by harvesting the new vintage. This colorful, three-day celebration is a combination of individual events held at over 100 wineries throughout Paso Robles Wine Country. Wineries from the region open their doors for an array of activities, including culinary arts and wine pairings, traditional grape stomping and barrel tastings, to name a few. There is no other time like the harvest in Paso Robles, come enjoy your wine country experience at the Harvest Wine!
A good ole country style fair in the heart of SoCal. The 40th+ annual event, music and art festival in Silverado Canyon, Orange County. Explore the wonders of canyon history and culture, music, tasty food, handmade arts and crafts, games and silly contests, all nestled under the oak trees below the infamous Saddleback Mountain. Wild West theme! Folk, Country, Bluegrass, and Classic Rock bands will entertain through 2 days.
This event is held twice a year & sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce. Held in Downtown Lodi, this is a one-day event focusing on food and vendors. The Street Faire takes up a 14-square block area of Lodi. Over 500 vendors participate in this biannual event, selling antiques, arts & crafts and commercial items. While shopping, visitors can satisfy their appetite with their choice from 25 food vendors offering everything from hamburgers, to hot dogs, sausages, to pizza. Mexican, Chinese and Filipino dishes are also available for those craving a more international fare. And, no faire is complete without sweet treats and cold drinks.
60+ years of this beach festival, with parade & all. A community tradition since 1946, the Pismo Beach Clam Festival starts off with the Friday Night Wine Walk at 5pm. On Saturday join the community for parade, Best Local Clam Chowder Contest, surf contest, food and craft vendors, Beer & Wine Stage and Pier Pubs. Enjoy the live music all weekend. On Sunday, bring the kids for the Clam Dig by the pier beginning at noon. Stop by the food and craft vendors, Beer & Wine Stage and Pier Pubs. Enjoy a Clam Bake.
This one is a huge deal in the Los Angeles area. 4×4 extremes – in every direction. Tons of offroad industry vendors, displays, demos, and custom rigs and hot chicks in skimpy shirts for your viewing pleasure. Drool over every suspension, roll cage and locker. Lucas Oils is the big sponsor and this event is held annually, Family Events off road expo, summertime, air conditioning, in gorgeous Pomona, CA
The Heritage Days is held at McArthur-Burney Falls State Park. On the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend, the park hosts Heritage Day, featuring demonstrations and recreations of activities and crafts common to people during the late 19th century.