Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to travel far to catch the change of seasons—fall is just as spectacular in the northern parts of California.
With mild weather and stretches of forests, vineyards, and mountain ranges providing your backdrop, the Golden State is the place to be as autumn sets in.
When to Go
The last two weeks of October are typically the ideal time to catch the changing colors, while the weather is still crisp and dry but before temperatures start to freeze. However, some foliage, especially at lower elevations, lasts well into November.
Where to Go
From the vineyards of Napa to the peaks of the Sierras, these are the best places to catch nature’s paintbrush at work this season:
Around harvest season, Napa Valley vineyards start to take on brilliant hues of glowing golds and crimson reds. Wind through the region’s backroads with the colorful fall canopy providing your backdrop. With most of Napa Valley vineyards currently offering patio seating, you can now take in the changing scenery with a glass of wine.
Lake Tahoe Area
The Tahoe area is one of the most spectacular places in Northern California in the fall, with the changing colors framed by the topaz blue lake. Explore some of the best views by hiking portions of the Tahoe Rim Trail, cruising along Highway 89 from South Tahoe to Truckee, or taking it all in from high above on a hot air balloon ride.
Wind your way up Highway 395 along the Eastern Sierras where rushing streams, rugged canyons, and a cobalt blue sky create a spellbinding contrast of colors. We recommend leaf peepers head to Bishop, Convict Lake, June Lake Loop, and Bridgeport to see fall colors at their finest.
For a full fall color report and more information on where to go and when, check out this Eastern Sierra fall color map. Also, given the recent wildfires in these areas, please check AirNow.gov for up-to-date air quality reports.
Whichever region you decide to head color spotting this fall, step out into the crisp air with a cup of something warm, grab your camera, and go marvel as autumn graces the Golden State.