Last blog update Oct. 2021:
I revisit the Sierra at October 1-3 2021
From Hope Valley in the north (highway 88) to Bishop Creek in the south. The next 2-3 weeks is the time to visit and see the Aspen trees fall colors.
Important note: check for smoke conditions before your trip.
Few blogs links that provides additional information, this will help you plan your road trip to this area:
My Eastern Sierra blog directory
California have short fall color season and you can enjoy it at the Eastern Sierra....
The western part of USA as well as California state has an amazing and divers nature but a red-yellow foliage trees during autumn season is associated with the north-east coast of the US with it dramatic color display (at states near New England…).
There are also beautiful areas of fall colors in Colorado and New Mexico but to the best of my knowledge not so much in California, where most of our wonderful forests are mainly evergreen pines forests.
In this Blog I will describe the places along highway 395 that I visit and saw the fall colors, from Bridgeport at the north to Bishop at the south.
I will provide more in depth description on Bishop area.
I will provide links to blogs on each locations.
The yellow colors in California mountain forests are usually from the Aspen, Cottonwood and Willow trees that are growing at the creeks, valleys, and at some mountain slopes.
Despite this year (2021) wildfires near lake Tahoe, I would recommend on few places to enjoy the fall colors of at the Eastern Sierra.
Most of the fall-color recommended to visit locations in this blog, except for Hope Valley, are located far south of lake Tahoe so I do not think they will be affected from this year fires or smoke.
Eastern Sierra is one of my favorite’s areas in California year-round, so the fall colors is just used as an excuse to visit this amazing but somehow less known part of the state.
Due Note 1: Make sure to respect this year (2021) all forest closures as results of the fires.
Due Note 2: In past drought years, color has arrived early and been short-lived (a week).
When we can see the fall colors:
This is the tricky part, the exact timing when the leaves change their colors is related to the weather leading up to fall and usually the peak timing of the yellow color is quite short, for only about two to three weeks.
Because tree yellow coloring depends on colder temperature and elevation, leaves start turning yellow earlier at higher elevations compare to the lower elevations. The cold cycles and moisture varies from year to year so peak coloring is not happening the same every year.
In my experience from the last three years the recommended weeks for East Sierra fall colors are just before winter, usually around mid-October.
For exact timing and planning for each location you can look at the following map or other web sites that track and report local fall color condition:
For how long to plan our visit in the Eastern Sierra:
Assume you are starting your trip at San Francisco, or LA, I will recommend planning for at least a long-weekend trip i.e., at list 3 nights.
The drive east from San Francisco (or LA) to highway 395 and Bishop is quite long (around 6 hours) and there are many things to do in this area on top of watching the fall colors.
Things that I will not cover in this blog:
I will not provide in this blog additional information about what to do in this amazing area of the Eastern Sierra.
As usual, I’m not covering in my blogs information on where to sleep or where to eat… I’m manly focus on nature and outdoor experience.
Everything I cover in my Blogs is something I did and I took all my pictures…
For additional information please look for my other blogs about the Eastern Sierra:
One of the best location to see Fall Colors is in Hope Valley on Highway 88.
I wrote a detailed blog on what you can do and things to see in and near Hope Valley:
Trip route for those that are coming from San Francisco:
State Highway 108:
From the town of Sonora take highway 108 road east into the Sierra ridge, it is one of the most beautiful roads there is. The road is closed in winter, exact timing depends on the snow but usually it is close to traffic from mid-November.
The road climb into the Sierra and pass to the east side at an altitude of about 10,000 feet above sea level. When you are driving up near the pass and especially at the other side of the pass, when descending there are Aspen trees spread in the forest with yellow colors, stop at the roadside where it possible (outside of the highway asphalt) and enjoy the view.
Blog on Route 108:
Continue driving on route 108 east to route 395 (Sonora Junction), which is the main traffic artery from north to south, east of the Sierra.
Turn right and head south on highway 395.
On your way south you will reach the small town of Bridgeport, here you will take Twin Lakes Rd to the south-west, just after the first gas station on your right. This road will take you to Twin Lakes. In this area near the lakes there are clusters of Aspen trees and fall colors.
The lakes are popular location for many outdoor activities.
Twin Lakes Blog:
Continue south on 395 and then, about 12 miles south of Bridgeport, on the west side of the highway (right-side for the one driving south) you can see a large valley full of Aspen trees in varying degrees of yellow-orange colors.
Stop carefully at the shoulders of highway 395, there is no official parking lot so park as far as you can on the right side (there are relatively wide section you can do it safely).