Where To See Fall Colors In California?

From apple picking to pumpkin carving, many things make fall one of the best seasons. It is also the time of the year when many trees show off bright reds and glowing golds. While many will instantly think of New England, fall colors in California are equally stunning! 

Thinking of where to head to see the mesmerizing fall foliage California? This article lists down some of the top spots that are worth checking out! Get ready to indulge in a visual feast!

The Best Places for Stunning Fall Colors in California 

Clueless about where to head? Below are some of the places that should be on your radar! 

1. Yosemite National Park

Even providers of tree services California will agree – Yosemite National Park is an unbeatable place to witness the striking colors of fall. More than its ancient sequoia trees, towering waterfalls, and distinct rock formations, the park comes alive with bright colors in fall. While most of the trees are evergreens, you can see spectacular colors from the likes of big leaf maples and black oaks. 

How to Get There

The Yosemite National Park is four hours away from San Francisco and three hours away from Sacramento. If you are coming from the Bay Area, start at the Oakland Bay Bridge, head to Highway 580 East, follow Highway 205, and take Highway CA 120.

2. Lake Tahoe 

Attracting more than 2.7 million people annually, Lake Tahoe is a favorite destination in California. Its crystal-clear waters draw most people, but come fall, it also attracts visitors because of its beautiful colors. One of the best places to check out is Hope Valley, which is known for having the best aspen trees in the area. Driving through the Ebbetts Pass is also a treat as you see the colorful passageway. 

How to Get There

It is about a 3.5-hour drive from east of San Francisco. You can also fly directly to Reno-Tahoe International Airport and you can reach Lake Tahoe in 90 minutes depending on if you are heading south or north. 

3. Shasta Cascade

If you want to see fall colors on the West Coast, then Shasta Cascade is one of the places that should be on your list. Occupying almost 25% of the landmass in California, Shasta Cascade is home to numerous maples, oaks, aspens, and fir trees, all of which are showing off beautiful foliage colors. You can also find numerous waterfalls, making it the perfect pitstop for an adventure weekend. 

How to Get There 

Located in the northeast of California, you can reach Shasta Cascade through Point Reyes. Head east to highway 505 until you reach 5. 

4. Bishop Creek Canyon 

With an area of 30 square miles, Bishop Creek Canyon is one of the best places for fall colors not just in California but in the United States. Most of the foliage turns yellow from mid to late September. Red and orange leaves are also common. The trees look as if they are lit with a subtle glow within. 

How to Get There 

To reach Bishop Creek Canyon, take CA Highway 168. Go west toward the mountains. In 20 minutes, take a turn depending on where you want to go. Choose from South Lake, North Lake, and Lake Sabrina as your main destination. 

5. June Lake 

Driving around the June Lake loop in early October is another great way to experience fall colors in California. The turquoise water at June Lake complements the beauty of the golden foliage that is set with the Carson Peal as the backdrop. It is part of a 15-mile loop that will take you to three other equally impressive lakes. Dense aspens and willows will let you witness striking autumnal fire burns that you cannot find elsewhere. 

How to Get There

You can reach June Lake two miles from Highway 395. It is located about four hours from Bakersfield, six hours from Las Vegas, and seven hours from San Diego. 

6. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park 

To see San Diego trees in their full colors in fall, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is one of the best places. With an elevation of 5,000 feet, it has a pleasant climate that contributes to dramatic season changes for more vibrant fall colors. It is also home to more than 100 miles of hiking trails, making it a great destination for an outdoor adventure while enjoying fall foliage California. 

How to Get There

Start from east of San Diego and take Highway 79. Five miles from the north of I-8, you will reach Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. It is only 43.3 miles away from San Diego, which you can reach in under an hour. 

7. Golden Gate Park

An iconic park that covers 1,017 acres, this is one of the most iconic destinations of California. It is home to some of the best Bay Area trees and trees native to San Francisco, many of them show off picturesque fall colors. It has more than 7,000 plants, green lawns, and interesting museums. Golden ginkgo trees and purple maples are some of the main attractions in the area that come fall. 

How to Get There 

The best way to go to Golden Gate Park is by taking the free shuttle service. It has eight stops from McLaren Lodge to JFK/Traverse Drive, making it easy to explore the different parts of the park. 

8. South Yuba River State Park 

While the South Yuba River is more popular for its large granite boulders and emerald pools, it also attracts tons of visitors who are interested in seeing fall colors. The cool weather during fall makes the place more attractive, especially for hikers. The South Yuba Trail, Point Defiance Loop Trail, and Independence Trail are some of the best routes to see trees changing colors. 

How to Get There

The I-80 is the main highway that connects different locations in California to the South Yuba River State Park. There are four main access points to the park – Edwards Crossing, Purdon Crossing, Highway 49 Crossing, and Bridgeport Crossing. 

9. Ortega Highway 

As you drive from Palm Springs to San Juan Capistrano, you will be passing through the Ortega Highway, which is at its most beautiful from September to October because of its fall colors. More than the trees you will see along the way, it is also a thrilling experience because of the hairpin twists that make the drive challenging. Not to mention, the highway is also believed to be haunted, which makes it a more interesting destination for a fall drive. 

How to Get There

Make your way to the Ortega Highway by taking Exit 74 at interstate 15 freeway through San Juan Capistrano. There are plenty of visible signs that will take you through the 33.5-mile highway. 

10. Big Bear Lake 

Aspens, oaks, maples, and cottonwoods are some of the best trees that make the Big Bear Lake another excellent destination for seeing foliage colors in the Golden State. Hiking in the woods from October to November is a magical experience not just because of the wonderful colors but also because of the crisp air. The Town Trail, Castle Rick Trail, and Pine Knot Trail are some of the best options for a fall hike at Big Bear Lake. 

How to Get There

Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, the Big Bear Lake is approximately two hours away from Los Angeles. CA-18, CA-38, and CA-330 are the three main roads that will lead to the lake. 



Q: Where can I see fall colors in California? 

A: The best places for seeing fall colors in California are Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Shasta Cascade, Bishop Creek Canyon, June Lake, and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Check out these places from mid-September to late October for the best fall foliage California. 

Q: Where are the fall colors in Northern California? 

A: Some of the best locations for fall colors in Northern California are in Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park, Auburn State Recreation Area, Bodie State Historic Park, Castle Crags State Park, Grover Hot Springs State Park, South Yuba River State Park, and Yosemite National Park.

Related Post: Trees In Northern California

Q: Where can I see fall colors in Southern California? 

A: The best places to see fall color in Southern California include Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Mount San Jacinto State Park, Palomar Mountain State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, and Bishop Creek Canyon. 

Related Post: Trees In Southern California

Q: Do the leaves change color in California? 

A: Yes, leaves change colors in California. The changing of colors starts at places with the highest elevation slowly moving to foothills. In some places, you can see the mesmerizing foliage even up until November. 

Local Tree Experts Overview 

From purple trees in San Diego to Fremont cottonwood tree, the Golden State is home to beautiful trees with stunning foliage. If you want to see the best fall colors in California, make sure to check out Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and Golden Gate Park, among other places. 

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