Perfect 10 List: Fall Foliage in California

Perfect 10 List: Fall Foliage in California

Many people come to California each year excited for the sights of fall. In order to get a taste from each of California’s beautiful regions, below is a list of the top places in California to see fall foliage. Whether it’s golden hills, fallen leaves or amber vineyards that you’re seeking, each destination will deliver breathtaking views.

Seasonal Painted Landscapes in Fresno

Sit on a park bench in Woodward Park and admire the orange-and-yellow-painted landscape overlooking the San Joaquin River. Also in the park, view the find bright colors adorning the trees that surround the picturesque bridge and koi pond in the Shinzen Japanese Gardens. Beginning in November each year, Fresno County’s Blossom Trail trees are transformed into the Citrus and Fall Foliage Trails. Take a leisurely stroll through seemingly endless rows of fresh oranges and experience the beauty that is fall in an agricultural region. Be sure to hit these spots in the early afternoon before the chilly weather sets in, or better yet, pack a picnic basket to bring along.

Fall Foliage in Laguna Beach

Nix Nature Center on Laguna Canyon Road is the headquarters for the 7,000 acre Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and stands as an entryway to the South Coast Regional Wilderness area encompassing nearly 30 square miles. Its ecosystem includes coastal sage scrub, maritime chaparral, oak woodlands and riparian habitats, as well as the only natural lake in Orange County, CA. At Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, take in wildflowers, elderberry, willow, mature oak and sycamore. Sycamores produce golden to orangish red leaves in November/December and the willows turn yellow at this time. Coast live oaks stay green all year while poison oak turns red in August/September. Trail tours on foot or bicycle by volunteer naturalists. Hike one mile up Laurel Canyon to see a 75-foot waterfall.

Fall Colors Explode in Lake Tahoe

From September to November, trees on the north side of Lake Tahoe transform with stunning hues of red, orange and yellow. Leaf-peeping hikers head to Page Meadows just south of Tahoe City seeking a wealth of trails that lead through miles of fall foliage. Those looking for water access can start hiking from Spooner Lake and arrive at Marlette Lake where the shore is ringed in yellows, oranges and reds each fall making for a spectacular setting for lunch before hiking back downhill to Spooner Lake. For instant gratification, sweeping 180-degree panoramic views of North America’s largest alpine lake surrounded in fall foliage can be found by taking a quick 15-minute hike up to Eagle Rock, a few miles south of Tahoe City near Blackwood Canyon.

Serene Settings in Los Angeles 

With beautiful, natural surroundings and near-perfect weather year-round, Los Angeles boasts countless pristine garden oases for visitors and locals alike to enjoy. Descanso Gardens hosts approximately five-acres of roses among other breathtaking botanical wonders, as well as a teahouse donated by the Japanese-American community. While the Los Angeles Zoo does not have an isolated botanical garden, its sheer size and proximity to Griffith Park make it a pleasant home to over 800 plant species. A secret rooftop, Kyoto Garden, sits atop the DoubleTree by Hilton Downtown where guests can wander and take in the view. This Zen-like, half-acre garden features flowers, bonsai trees, waterfalls, and a curved walking bridge, as well as some stunning views of the city and the San Gabriel Mountains. Those in search of a serene place to sit and read, or enjoy their lunch break in peace can look no further than the Walt Disney Concert Hall Garden, which provides a tranquil escape from the city.

Spectacular Views in Mammoth Lakes

Experience a spectacular tour of the Eastern Sierra just on the drive to Mammoth Lakes, with many attractions nearby including national monuments and parks plus bright golden hues of fall. Once there, Mammoth Lakes is surrounded by everything from rugged canyons carved by rushing streams to high peaks to sprawling valleys and is home to some of the finest fall color viewing anywhere. Mammoth offers a vast number of hiking and biking trails, with more than 2 million acres of National Forest lands to explore, plus boat, fishing and horseback to take it all in. For the best fall foliage views, check out Sherwin Creek/Mammoth Creek, Mammoth Lakes Basin, Mammoth Scenic Loop, and Reds Meadow (aka the “mini-Yosemite,” plus hike another 1.5 miles to see Rainbow Falls).

Lush Color and Sweet Scents in Napa Valley

Fall is a time of color and beauty in the Napa Valley and it all starts when the last of the grapes come in and harvest comes to an end. The valley floor is covered with yellow and red foliage and the aroma of fermenting grapes seeping out of their tanks fills the air with the smell of blueberries and yeast. Watch as winemakers survey the crop to make sure that they harvest at the right time to capture the grapes at their peak. The vistas are spectacular from any spot in Napa Valley all year long, but there is a special magic in the air each fall.

Falling for Paso Robles’ Autumn Foliage

Paso Robles’ expansive vineyards are beautiful year-round, but in the fall they are nothing short of spectacular. As harvest arrives in mid-October, the leaves and grapes are transformed into a beautiful fusion of gold, purple and red. While the options for leaf-peeping are endless, traveling along the picturesque Vineyard Drive; gazing at Eberle Winery’s Estate Vineyard from the scenic deck; and looking out at Heart Hill from Niner Wine Estates’ patio are particularly enjoyable. Fall is also the perfect time to experience some of Paso’s outdoor offerings. Here, visitors can appreciate the brilliant autumn hues as they soar over vineyards via zip line, ride across the hills on horseback or play a round of golf at the beautiful Hunter Ranch Golf Course. Whether going on a leaf-peeping adventure or simply wandering amongst the vines, visitors will find that Paso is an ideal destination for enjoying the vibrant colors of fall.

Crisp Air and Vibrant Shades in Santa Clarita

In autumn the mornings in Santa Clarita are crisp, the birds are chirping, the sun is almost always shining and the leaves on the trees are a variety of colors. Go rock climbing at Vasquez Rocks, hiking at Towsley Canyon and Placerita Canyon, or boating, skiing and fishing at Castaic Lake and Pyramid Lake. Santa Clarita has over 70 miles of connecting trails that are surrounded by beautiful foliage waiting to be explored. Ride a bike, don some roller blades or plan a leisurely stroll. Be sure to trek over and check out the wildlife at Placerita Nature Center or climb the plateaus at Towsley Canyon.

Autumn Aromas in Sonoma County

Vineyards turn from green to gold to red, offering fall foliage that rivals New England – the perfect backdrop for a drive, hike, or to cycle along. At the end of the foliage tour, there’s a glass of wine at one of more than 400 wineries; or a pint of beer, a cup of cider, or a tipple of gin. Known as “crush,” harvest time in Wine Country is magical time and the culmination of a year-long growing process. Winegrapes are harvested, crushed (more of a gentle press) and loaded into tanks to start the fermentation process. Autumn serves up such scrumptious events as the Heirloom Tomato Festival and Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. Cool evenings heat up at the Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival. Others include Art Trails, and Weekend Along Farm Trails.

Brilliant Colors in Yosemite National Park

Photographers, hikers, artists and anyone with a passion for the outdoors will delight in Yosemite’s fall colors as maple, dogwood, aspen and oak trees acquire seasonal hues of gold, yellow and orange. Daytime temperatures are mild and perfect for hiking Yosemite’s trails for an up-close view of fall foliage now that the summer crowds are gone. Though it begins earlier in the high country, fall color begins to make appearances during October in Yosemite Valley. Plan a fall getaway in Yosemite with a range of overnight accommodations: Yosemite’s historic national park lodge, The Ahwahnee, the family-friendly Yosemite Lodge at the Falls or a rustic national park camping style experience at Curry Village. Many park visitors are content to simply sit back and enjoy the scenery, but for others, a leisurely bike ride in Yosemite Valley is a fun way to view Yosemite’s granite peaks and fall color. Bike rentals are available at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls.

By California Travel & Tourism Commission

The California Travel & Tourism Commission is a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. Learn more here:

Photo Credit: turtix/