Fall Color Report

North Lake Road.  Photo by Jared Smith

North Lake Road. Photo by Jared Smith

From: John Poimiroo <editor@californiafallcolor.com>
Date: Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 2:31 PM
Subject: California Fall Color Report – 10/2/14


General Summary

Bishop Creek Canyon in the Eastern Sierra is the place to be in California this week, as the aspen and willows are putting on a spectacular show of red, orange, yellow, gold and lime fall color above 8,500’ elevation.

A storm last Saturday dusted the High Sierra with snow and stripped some aspen groves of color, though there so few trees had already fully peaked that the storm didn’t seriously diminish the show.  There’s still lots of color to be seen, as evidenced by the photographers who set up tripods along roadsides to capture the beautiful show.
Hot days and cold nights will intensify the fall color this weekend and through the coming week, as long as winds do not blow leaves from the trees in the Sierra.

Rabbitbrush are brilliant yellow surrounding Bishop and throughout the Owens Valley, a reminder not just to look up to see color in autumn, but also take notice of the beautiful colors to be seen along the ground and along the edge of streams.

Lundy  Canyon Trail.  Photo by Alicia Vennos

Lundy Canyon Trail. Photo by Alicia Vennos

Spots of color are appearing throughout California, but no area other than the Eastern Sierra is near peak or peaking.

This will likely be the last full week of peak color above 8,500’ in elevation. The color will then move to lower elevations now reported as near peak or not yet reporting.


Overall Conditions Above 8,500′ Elevation – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
While Bishop Creek lost some of its fall color this past week, cooler temps over the weekend, which included a dusting of snow and nighttime lows in the 20s.  Those prime conditions set off much of the color that was just starting to turn. Peak color still dominates most of the higher elevation locations in the canyon with Parchers Camp, South Lake Road below Weir Pond, the North Lake Road and the approach to Lake Sabrina just below the dam glorious. It is still very much go-time in the Bishop Creek Cayon, evidenced by the legions of tripod-equipped photographers set up near many of the best canyon views. Jared Smith predicts peak color will persist well into next week, weather permitting. Drive carefully when visiting, as lots of photographers throw caution to the wind by setting up their cameras on blind corners on the mountain roads.

Overall Conditions Below 8,500′ Elevation – Patchy (10 – 50%)
It was difficult to grade the lower part of Bishop Creek Canyon this week as some areas are starting to pop with touches of yellow, red and orange while other areas are barely showing anything other than lime green. Still, the areas below Aspendell and Bishop Creek Lodge are going to produce some great color over the next couple weeks if the weather holds out, and the forecast as of today looks very favorable with mild temps and light winds.

Inyo County

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Weir Pond (9,650′)
Aspen on the mountainside above Weir Pond were pretty well stripped of color during the wind storm late last week but thankfully aspen around the pond itself and lining the road are still spectacular. This will probably be the last week of ideal peak color at Weir, but the views are still worth the visit, especially mid-morning when the color reflects off of the surface of the pond the the Sierra Crest looming in the background.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Parchers Camp (9,260′)
The color has really arrived in and around Parchers camp, especially on the canyon walls above the cabins. Also looking gorgeous are the trees along Bishop Creek in between Willow Campground and the resort. It’s hard to know how long the color is going to stick around here but I’d have to guess we’ve got a week of color continuing to develop before it’s all said and done.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Willow Campground  (9,000′)
Although somewhat of a wind-tunnel late last week, the color within the campground and on the canyon walls above the campground and along the beaver pond just past the campground are still looking beautiful. Not much in the way of red here but beautiful yellow and some orange are showing.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Sabrina Campground (9,000′)
The brilliant red & orange aspen at the entrance of the campground have now started to fade. However, the view up Hwy 168 is still exceptional and the aspen above and within the campground are near at or very near peak color. The middle fork of Bishop Creek that runs through the campground is a nice slow crystal clear stretch of stream making for excellent reflections and gorgeous views.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Table Mountain Camp (8,900′)
Aspen lining the creek within the campground are taking center stage with brilliant yellow and orange surrounding a grassy meadow that is coursed by a meandering and slow, trout-filled stream. The hillside just below the campground is still photo-worthy but less spectacular than last week. Just below the campground is Steiny Loop, a cool dirt road that winds away from South Lake Road along the western bank of Bishop Creek, So. Fork. The color is really popping even though there is still a touch of green left to change.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Surveyors Meadow (8975ft)
The green is just about gone now with the exception of evergreens along the stream and mixed in with larger aspens, providing spectacular views. Jared doesn’t recall ever seeing so much orange and red here but says it’s certainly welcome while it lasts. This was another area that was thought would be damaged by last week’s wind though Jared says he was pleasantly surprised by the vitality and vibrancy of the color between the meadow and the Tyee Lakes Trailhead bridge, especially on the right hand side of South

GO NOW! Near Peak – (50 – 75%) – Lake Sabrina (9,150′)
This is an unusal report, as last week Lake Sabrina was at full peak… this week nearing peak.  That’s because the color was stripped by wind this past week, though Lake Sabrina still has lots of color left to see, especially towards the inlet side of the lake. What color was lost was replaced by spectacular color which developed just below the dam and all along the road down to Sabrina Camp. Especially noteworthy are the small ponds just as you approach the dam. This is probably the last week of good color around the reservoir but the color just below will to continue to get better for the next week or so.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – North Lake (9,255′)
Aspen along the shoreline near the outlet are as brilliant as Jared has ever seen them and are now extremely impressive. Also of note is the gorgeous view of the dirt road that goes along the east shore of the lake. Some really attractive pockets of red are to be seen, though some of the color up on the mountain was stripped over the weekend. Nonetheless, the North Lake area is probably the hottest color spot in the canyon as of now. Not to be missed are the aspen within the campground itself or on the canyon wall near the grass lake inlet. Watch out for photographers driving in this area as they seemed to be set up in the middle of the road or stopping their vehicle in the middle of the road all over the place up here. Can’t blame them, the views are insane right now.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Steiny Loop above Mt. Glen Camp (8,600′)
Jared mentioned the Steiny loop in the Table Mountain report and does so again, here. The campground at Mt. Glen is still patchy but it is really starting to exhibit some brilliant pure yellow in areas. Still enough green here to go with a patchy rating however just above the campground, the aspen are really starting to pop. This area should be near peak or peak by this time, next week.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350′)
Still patchy at Mist Falls, but the deep dark green is turning lime green and yellow increasingly, each day. The best views of this area are probably a week or so out, possibly more, but photographers are already setting up along South Lake Road to get a view of the famous waterfall.

Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Aspendell (8,400′)
Lime green dominates the aspen at Aspendell but it has lightened considerably since last week. Aspen high up on the mountain near Cardinal Pinnacle are starting to fade a bit, but larger old-growth aspen are going to look pretty impressive.

GO NOW! Near Peak – (50 – 75%) – Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550)
Like Sabrina Lake, this area also lost some color, particularly below Cardinal Pinnacle, but the lower aspen surrounding Cardinal Village and up towards Cardinal Mine are still looking amazing. This is another area that Jared downgraded as the loss of turned leaves means it is now again moving toward another peak, probably in a week, once the rest of the aspen at Cardinal Village finish turning. It’s hard to beat the view of the peaks above Sabrina with this gorgeous grove of aspen below and along the creek cascading down from Sabrina Camp above.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Four Jeffries
Some really nice patches of color are now showing in and around this campground just a mile down from Bishop Creek Lodge. Some orange, yellow and even a bit of red has developed this week but we’ve got a lot more color to come here.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Intake II
This small lake is somewhat of an enigma as most of the aspen all around the lake are still green as green can be but near the bubble hole on the right hand side of the dam there is a big patch of bright orange & red. Also some nice red showing on the west side of the lake.

Just Starting – (0 – 10%) – Big Trees Campground
Very little color is visible at this lower elevation campground. The aspens are huge here and can be quite spectacular during peak color. I’m guessing we’re at least a couple weeks from seeing much here.

Mono County

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) Mammoth Lakes Basin – Twin Lakes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin is at peak with beautiful orange colors.  Other lakes in the basin either lack fall color or are still patchy.  Color spotter Kevin Lennox reports erratic uniformity of color among the trees in the Lakes Basin.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Laurel Canyon – Very little color showing at base, though about a fourth of trees have turned at the top of the canyon.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Convict Lake – Convict has lots of yellow just appearing around the lake; Convict Canyon has a way to go.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – McGee Creek Canyon – Gorgeous color above 8,500′

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Crowley Lake – Very little color is showing, as yet.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Lundy Canyon Trail – Color Spotter Alicia Vennos of Mono County picks Lundy Canyon as a peak hike for this weekend.  She reports color at peaking along the trail and in waterfall areas though the Lundy Lake Road and the lake itself are still green.  That means the color should be good not just this weekend, but for the following week (wind and weather permitting).

Patchy (10 – 50%) – June Lake Loop – A mix of green, lime and yellow color the aspen surrounding the June Lakes.  Brush are painting surrounding mountainsides auburn and orange. June Lake has at least a week to two weeks before peaking.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Saddlebag Lakes – Upper Tioga Pass is at full peak.  There aren’t many aspen in this area, though riparian color is beautiful.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Lee Vining Canyon – Similar to June Lakes, it has a way to go before full color.

Past Peak – Upper Virginia Lakes Road – Wind stripped turned trees near the Virginia Lakes this past weekend.

Patchy (10 – 50%) Lower Virginia Lakes Road – Wind swept aspen surrounding Virginia Lakes lost their leaves this past week. Color spotter Steve Wolfe reported “The last half of Virginia Lakes Road at Conway Summit is past peak, with lots of leafless stands, but the first half… is still just this side of “patchy”, with green, lime and yellow stands.”

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Sonora Pass – Most of the color to be seen along Sonora Pass is on the eastern side of the pass. Higher elevations are at full peak with lower groves of aspen a mix of yellow and green.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Walker/Coleville – Very little yellow and orange color is showing among the willows and cottonwood.

Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Monitor Pass – Wind stripped some of the turned color this past week, but leaves that hadn’t turned are now coloring up.  Color Spotter Kimberly Kofala reports the white trunks of the aspen contrast nicely with the new color.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Bishop – Rabbitbrush are brilliant yellow. Cottonwood are beginning to flush with yellow and lime.  Isolated trees are turning faster.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Hope Valley – John Brissenden reports that the willows at the Sorenson’s Resort are coloring orange-golden, though aspen are a mix of green, lime and yellow.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Lake Tahoe – Patchy color is seen at South Lake Tahoe’s Richardson Bay, along the north shore, Hwy 268 and from Truckee north on CA-89.



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4 Responses to Fall Color Report

  1. Bonnie October 3, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Great informative color report. Thanks!

  2. Steve October 5, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    You should at least give a link back to them for letting you post this information….

  3. Sierra Lady October 7, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Thank you for posting my image to the right side of the SWN page. I see that you don’t have the space for images in the landscape format so I will remember to submit them in portrait format in the future.

    To see the full beauty of that image please click on the link below. Thanks again.


    (I hope this works since there is no way for me to preview an image link submission.)

    It’s a beautiful time of year in the High Sierra!

    B. Richter


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