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 (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 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.
CAMPFIRE RESTRICTIONS can still be in place from the dry summer, but any decent amount of rain can change the status, so make sure to check with the rangers for up-to-date fire info.
BOOK CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS
has minimal fall colors.
Big Bear Lake, CA
Lake Arrowhead, CA
Ojai Camping – Wheeler Gorge
Sespe Hot Springs (hike-in access only)
Southern and Central Sierra
have a few aspen groves and several cottonwood canyons.
Kern River Canyon
Quaking Aspen Campground
Quaking Aspen Cabin
Giant Sequoia National Monument
Lily Pad Campground
Blue Lakes Road
Carson Pass CA Highway 88
primarily has the big river canyons, most of which have fall colors. Yuba River, Feather Rivers.
Yuba River Campgrounds
Hope Valley, CA
Hope Valley Campground
Bucks Lake, CA
Haskins Valley @ Grizzly Campground
Oro-Quincy Highway – Plumas NF
is the ‘place to be’ for Autumn Colors in California. The dramatic desert meets the tallest granite peaks. Every canyon is a different scene, some have small lakes lined with aspen groves, some have a creek with aspens.
North Lake Campground
Lake Sabrina Road
Bishop Pass (high country hikes)
Bishop Creek, Hwy 168
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest – both Silver Canyon and
Cottonwood Creek have aspen trees. (both are 4×4 roads)
Green Creek Road w/ signage for
Hoover Wilderness (high country hikes)
Onion Valley Campground
Kearsarge Pass (high country hikes)
June Lake, CA
June Lake Loop / Hwy 158
Parker Lake (dirt road to primitive camps)
June Lake Campground
Oh Ridge Campground
Reversed Creek Campground
Lee Vining, CA
Lee Vining Canyon / Hwy 120
One of the biggest aspen grove canyons in the state.
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.
Lone Pine, CA
Alabama Hills has a few cottonwoods in the canyon.
Whitney Portal has only a few aspens.
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Red’s Meadow Campground
Laurel Lakes Road (dirt road, rough)
Tom’s Place, CA
McGee Creek Campground
Impressive Rock Creek Road in Rock Creek Canyon, one of the very best “Autumn Drives” in the Eastern Sierra.
Rock Creek Lake Campground @ 9600′ elev
Iris Meadow Campground @ 8600′ elev
Iris Meadow on Rock Creek Rd
(this part under construction)
River RV Parks
Mount Shasta, CA
(downtown of Mt. Shasta)
McBride Springs Campground
(slopes of Mount Shasta)
Beach Camp Resort & RV Park
4239 W. A. Barr Rd
Mount Shasta CA
MacArthur-Burney Falls State Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen National Forest
Bizz Johnson Trail
Roxie Peconom Campground
Modoc National Forest (coming soon)
Siskiyou Autumn Colors (coming soon)