best spots to enjoy fall colors in california
Photo Credit: Priyadarshini Rajendran

10 stunning places to see fall colors in California

California is an all-round amazing destination to visit and explore any time of the year. This fall, enjoy the beauty of these colorful autumn spots. Here are some spots recommended by popular travel bloggers, apart from Hope Valley and the drive to Calistoga.

1. Mammoth Lakes

Image by Alain Audet from Pixabay

Jessica from Uprooted Traveler blog recommends:

Mammoth Lakes, California for a colorful fall experience. Consider a stay at the Juniper Springs Resort, with cozy in-room fireplaces and heated outdoor pools, where you can take in the surrounding jaw-dropping views.

Mammoth Lakes, a charming ski town nestled in the eastern Sierras, is also home to plentiful groves of aspen trees. Come fall, these trees burst into brilliant shades of gold as their last finale of the year.

One of the best places to see this fall foliage is Convict Lake, a loop trail around a beautiful lake at the base of the snow-capped Mount Morrison. The closer you hike to the mountain, you’ll get closer to the groves of aspen trees along the trail- and the better the views will get!

While you’re in Mammoth Lakes to enjoy the fall foliage, be sure to stop by any of the natural hot springs in the area, like Wild Willy’s Hot Spring. This spring, offering a thermal river and a natural pool filled with steamy hot water, is the perfect place to relax after a long day of leaf peeping and enjoying the breathtaking views of the eastern Sierras around you.

2. Sonoma Valley

Photo Credit: Sierra Schmidt

Sierra from Island and Alpine blog recommends:

While the leaves are changing across the US, Sonoma County is one of the best places to see fall colors in California. Not only do many of the leaves change color, but the vineyards in this beautiful wine country do too – and it is magical!

Walk through the two-mile path in the vineyards at Vintner’s Resort and see the colors up close and personal. Stay for dinner at their onsite restaurant, John Ash & Co, and don’t miss the homemade pasta and brick chicken.

Try breakfast at Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg and then drive Dry Creek Road over the hills to capture great views of the colorful valley. Ferrari-Carrano is a great spot to stop for a picnic on their patio alongside the vineyard.

Drive along Highway 12 to the city of Sonoma and stop for tastings and tours at Benziger Family Winery and Ledson Winery & Vineyards along the way. Their vineyards are beautiful and their wines delicious. Jack London State Park is also worth a stop with hiking trails and a museum honoring the renowned author. Eat dinner on the plaza in Sonoma and pick up chocolate at Wine Country Chocolates for treats to take home.

Best Place to Stay: Vintner’s Resort, Santa Rosa

Also read: Best road trips to take from the SF Bay Area

3. Lake Arrowhead

Photo Credit: Jenifer Byington

Jenifer from The Evolista blog recommends:

Crisp mountain air, blazing fall foliage, and annual Oktoberfest celebrations–there’s no place like Lake Arrowhead in the fall. This charming California town comes alive as the leaves start to change, making it the perfect spot for an October getaway.

Top spots to enjoy the fall colors include one of the many hikes in the area like the Will Abell Memorial Trail or the Heart Rock Trail and the scenic drive around the lake on North Bay Road and Highway 173. And to see the beautiful foliage from the water, take a lake tour on the Arrowhead Queen.

Then head to Lake Arrowhead Village for Oktoberfest, with live music, a Beirgarten and Bratwurst. If you have kids in town, check out Skypark at Santa’s Village. In addition to pumpkin decorating there’s a Halloween bike ride and Monster Mash skate party.

And when you’re done exploring, you can relax at one of the designer perfect Lake Arrowhead Airbnbs. Cuddle up by the fire and enjoy the autumn vibes- it’s the perfect way to spend a Fall weekend!

4. Eastern Sierras

Image by Enrique from Pixabay

Noel from Travel Photo Discovery blog recommends:

The Eastern Sierras are a gorgeous region to explore and also enjoy fall colors for autumn. With less crowds visiting this time of the year, you can enjoy more relaxed exploring without all the crowds and enjoy nature outdoors in the beautiful landscape of the Sierras.

Visit historic and beautiful park areas like Devils Post Pile, Mammoth lakes, Inyo National Forest, Big Pine lakes and south to the gorgeous landscapes of the Alabama hills to Mount Whitney is fun to explore all these fantastic landscapes.

If you love to do outdoor adventures like hiking, kayaking or just sitting in a hot spring, there’s so much outdoor recreation to enjoy in the area. For fall colors a road trip is ideal with visiting the forested areas with golden crimson colors that dominate the landscape.

You’ll see fall season colors start at the 9,500 foot elevation around Rock Creek Lake, Virginia Lake and down to Mammoth Lakes and filter down to the lower levels. The cottonwood trees change to their lovely golden colors along the areas of Summer Meadows Road, Tioga Pass, Bodie Hills and McGee Creek Canyon. These are all must stop spots to enjoy fall color at its best here in the Eastern Sierras of California.

5. Napa Valley

Photo Credit: Kristel Flores

Gabriel of Chef Travel Guide blog recommends:

The best time to visit Napa Valley is during the early fall when the Valley Oaks and the leaves in the vineyards start to show their fall colors. This is a special time of year in the Napa Wine country as its harvest season is when all the grapes have reached maturity, and the grapes are collected for crushing.

The valley gets really busy as countless festivals and celebrations commemorate this annual bounty and the end of the season. You can head to Trefethen Family Vineyards for their Hands On Festival, where you can pick grapes, or head to Grgich Hills Estate, where wine club members can stomp grapes.

Even with all that’s going on in Napa during the early Fall, it’s still easy to find a tranquil spot to relax and take in the fall colors. You can hike on the Jack London and Quarry Trail, where you will get stunning views of the vineyard-covered hillsides. You can also have a picnic and wine tasting at Rutherford Hill Winery with sweeping views of the valley.

Reservations to amazing restaurants and hotels like Auberge du Soleil can be hard to come by, so make sure to book early.

Best hotel to stay: The Napa Inn

6. Yosemite National Park

Photo Credit: Priyadarshini Rajendran/Glorious Sunrise

Candice from CS Ginger blog recommends:

Yosemite National Park is a fantastic area to visit in the fall. You can see lots of fall colors while hiking and driving around the park, and the park is far less crowded. This makes the park a great romantic and refreshing place to visit in the fall.

There are lots of great things to do in Yosemite National Park in the fall. One popular activity is to drive to the different points in the park and see the fall colors. You can also go hiking in the park. There are many great hikes.

The meadows and waterfalls are beautiful, with many great accommodation options.

Your best Yosemite accommodations are the Yosemite Valley Lodge, Timberlodge Cabin, The Ahwahnee, AutoCamp Yosemite, and The Evergreen Lodge.

You will love the beautiful contrast of the mountains, evergreen trees, and changing foliage. Yosemite is a beautiful and majestic landscape that will not disappoint.

7. Humboldts Redwood State Park

Image by Zhu Bing from Pixabay

Karen from Travel Mad Mum blog recommends:

Humbolts Redwood State Park. Fall is an incredible time of year to see the foliage in Redwood State Park. Home to some of the tallest trees in the world across 132,000 acres of land, it is not the Redwoods that provide the foliage.

Redwoods are evergreen and they are surrounded by millions of big leaf maple trees, dogwoods and black oaks throughout the park. Drive along the Avenue of Giants and see some of the amazing shades of yellow, red and brown.

Another option is to hike along the Eel River just off the Avenue of Giants for a different perspective. Wrap up warm and take some hiking boots and of course a camera for some of the best shots in California Fall.

The area tends to attract crowds from May through to September so it is a fantastic time to visit when it is less busy.

Accommodation: Ye Old Danish Inn, Ferndale, it’s a self-catering property amongst the fabulous trees. The balcony is the best place to sit with a hot drink and take in the views of the Fall landscape.

8. Lake Tahoe

Image by lhs_333333 from Pixabay

Orlaigh from Dream Big and Travel Far blog recommends:

Spanning the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a beloved destination in both states. It’s popular throughout the year for its beautiful beaches in summer and awesome ski slopes in winter, and is especially gorgeous during the fall, with stunning colors across the landscape.

What’s great about visiting Lake Tahoe is that it makes for a memorable Californian road trip, with a lot of people preferring to start in Los Angeles. The journey teems with gorgeous scenery, impressive alpine lakes, and fun recreation!

Late September and October are the perfect time to witness the changing hues of the trees and foliage in Lake Tahoe as the mild temperature allows you to enjoy fun outdoor activities like in the summer—but without the crowd. From hiking trails to mountain biking, the options are endless.

Perhaps the best place to see fall colors within the area is in Hope Valley, which is nestled a stone’s throw away from South Lake Tahoe. Alternatively, on the north side, climb up Mount Rose Highway Summit to behold a spectacular view of the golden meadows. Don’t worry, it’s an easy trail that is suitable for families and non-hikers.

Best Accommodations: The Coachman Hotel, Black Bear Lodge, Tahoe Beach & Ski Club

9. Sacramento

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Óssama from Awesome Traveler Blog recommends:

Sacramento is one of the best places to visit in California during fall season. It is known as the city of trees. Thus, the colors of fall are in every corner.
The American River: the best spot to see this natural phenomenon is along the American river. You can rent a bike and roam around the American river’s endless trails.
Sacramento is famous for its museums: visiting Old Sacramento and its ample museums to learn about Sacramento and California’s history, such as California State Railroad Museum, California automobile museum, and California Museum.
The Best Place to Say: you should stay in Hyatt Regency Sacramento. It comes with a spacious room, free Wi-Fi, an outdoor swimming pool, and is close to shopping areas and restaurants.

10. Big Bear Lake

Image by Alain Audet from Pixabay

Diana from Travel in Poland recommends:

Big Bear Lake in California is the perfect destination to experience fall foliage. With a multitude of oak, maple, aspen and many other trees, the change in colors provide for a wide variety of red, orange and yellow hues in the fall.

Bluegreen The Club at Big Bear Village is a great place to stay while visiting the lake. A two story clubhouse has a game room and swimming pools for kids and adults. The downtown shopping area has a rustic feel and has lots of local store owners, that provide a great opportunity to purchase local gifts. Helicopter tours are available for visitors who want to experience fall foliage from above. It is worth getting on the water, as the local marinas have rental opportunities to get out on the lake including jet skiing, pontoons or even kayaking.

Also read: Most beautiful camping spots in California

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About Priyadarshini Rajendran 210 Articles
Priyadarshini Rajendran is a travel enthusiast, avid reader and a passionate writer. She has a few of her books published and is writing more books. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a software consultant taking breaks for her travels. Her blog is her passion and she writes about travel, books and food on the blog. She offers customized itineraries for South Indian destinations.

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