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Great Spots To See Fall Colors In Northern California
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Great Spots To See Fall Colors In Northern California

The season of pumpkins, cozy sweaters, and fall foliage is here. Check out the best spots to see fall colors in Northern California now.

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6 min read

October 19, 2021

The season of pumpkin patches, crisp breezes, cozy sweaters, and colorful foliage is finally here. With the arrival of autumn, vibrantly gorgeous landscapes make the Golden State ripe for road trips—West Coast journeys are extraordinary during this time of year. Leaf-peeping in Northern California is a must-do, with the region's lush forests, rows of vineyards, and mountainous terrain. So, grab your outdoor gear and join us on a trip to see the spectacular fall colors in Northern California.

The Most Kaleidoscopic Fall Colors in Northern California

Follow the scenic road to Mono County to catch glimpses of the golden leaves surrounding the landscape.

MONO COUNTY FALL COLORS

Known for its numerous lakes and expansive forests, Mono County is one of the best places to catch the Eastern Sierra fall colors. On the road to Mono County, Highway 395 will give you views of the picture-perfect autumn landscape, which you’ll definitely want to stop and snap photos of

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For a bit of lakeside leaf-peeping, make sure to visit June Lake or Convict Lake (no, convicts aren't found here, so don't fret). Both are excellent places to admire the vibrant Mono County fall colors and dramatically rugged peaks reflecting on the still, turquoise-blue waters. Hey, with less than 30 minutes from one lake to the other, you might as well admire the June Lake fall colors as well as Convict lake fall colors in one go; why not?

Wish to have a jaw-dropping experience? Witness the unparalleled beauty and natural wonders of Yosemite National Park in the fall.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

While Yosemite National Park draws droves during the busy summer and spring seasons, crowds tend to dwindle in the fall. But this is a prime time to visit. Yosemite Valley is framed with colorful trees, making it the perfect getaway to view California fall foliage. The valley is easily accessible by car through Northside Drive and Southside Drive, both of which boast gorgeous views of the landscape and provide easy access to trails in the area. Shuttle services are also available if you just want to sit back and relax as you pass the California fall foliage on your way to major trailheads.

It's impossible to be in Wine County and not admire the vibrant hues of the vineyards. See for yourself and hit the road this fall.

WINE COUNTRY

Wine Country is among the best places to see fall colors in the Bay Area. So start your engines and take a scenic drive through the rural backroads of Napa and Sonoma Valleys to gaze at the brilliantly colorful landscape. Watch as the leaves transform from emerald green to glistening gold and cardinal red, and don’t forget to stop by the top sights and revel in the mystical autumnal spirit. If you visit in early November, you might be able to partake in the ultimate celebration of film and food at the Napa Valley Film Festival. Film, food, and fall foliage—what could be better than that? 

Gaze upon the colorful trees towering above the glimmering waters of Lake Tahoe, the most gorgeous alpine lake in the world.

LAKE TAHOE

Arguably, there’s no better time to visit Lake Tahoe than in autumn—you can witness the vibrant hues of golden yellow, ruby red, and electric orange surrounded by sapphire waters. For the best views, explore the trails of Lake Tahoe and get your adrenaline pumping. Trek the Tahoe Rim Trail for a long adventure surrounded by California fall colors. Taking you upwards of 6,000 feet in elevation, this pathway promises breathtaking vistas paired with a thrilling workout amidst the autumnal trees. To experience a bird's-eye view, hop in a hot-air balloon and go for a ride with Lake Tahoe Balloons; photograph the copper, scarlet, and maroon colors covering the land below. Extend your Lake Tahoe trip and stay overnight at The Landing Tahoe Resort and Spa for a laid-back, romantic escape by the lakeshore.

Don't miss the scarlet red, electric orange, and mellow yellow leaves of the beautiful Hope Valley this season.

HOPE VALLEY

Just south of Lake Tahoe, Hope Valley is a wonderful spot to enjoy various outdoor activities—including hiking, camping, fishing, and skiing—year-round. But the area is most breathtaking when it is engulfed in the fall colors in Northern California. The fall season welcomes vibrant yellows, oranges, and ambers from the aspens lining the valley floor, giving it sort of an artists’ palette look, dotted with all warm autumn colors of typical fall foliage.

Driving to the valley is its own form of fall gratitude; the vibrant trees framing the roads channel all the autumn vibes, making you feel warm and cozy like you’re wrapped in the fluffiest sweater of all time. Turn your trip into a weekend-long adventure at the Wylder Hotel Hope Valley, where warm mountain cabins, fine dining, and a wood-fired sauna await you—you deserve it. 

One of the most beautiful places to view California's fall foliage is in Nevada City, so spend a weekend in this forested getaway.

NEVADA CITY

Exemplary opportunities to view California's fall foliage are found in Nevada City, just an hour away from Sacramento. The pops of yellow, orange, and red make this quaint town all the more charming in the fall. The drive along I-80 east to Auburn affords gorgeous autumn views, filling you with excitement and joy as you see the fall colors in Northern California. While you're in town, fulfill your fall dream of staying in a cozy cabin; book a night at Piety Hill Cottages for a marvelous evening in one of nine singular units surrounded by maple, birch, and cedar trees.

Stunning shades of yellow and orange adorn the trees within Bishop Creek Canyon's magical forests.

BISHOP CREEK CANYON

Visit the High Sierra this season to experience some of the best fall foliage in NorCal. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the majestic California fall colors near Lake Sabrina, North Lake, and South Lake, all of which are found just west of Bishop. With an elevation reaching 10,000 feet, Bishop Creek Canyon's beautiful fall foliage is reflected on the still alpine waters, making it a sight to behold. Pick a trail around the lakes, and hike it for unparalleled leaf-peeping. Treasure Lake Trail is a prime choice; it leads you through the forest and along the water, taking you above South Lake for sweeping views.

Get in the fall spirit in Plumas County, where waterfalls and endless exhibitions of autumn colors await a photo session.

PLUMAS COUNTY

Plumas County is popular for its displays of vibrant fall colors, especially along Feather River Canyon. Your drive along Highway 70 (also known as the National Scenic Byway) is sure to get you in the fall spirit. Dark black oaks, golden maple leaf trees, and red mountain dogwoods adorn the road, splashing the scenery with pops of vibrant California fall colors. For a quiet and secluded stay, head to Ada’s Place in Quincy; choose from one of four individual cottages set amidst a gorgeous garden.

Is there any place more romantic in autumn than Mammoth Lakes? Surprise your S.O. with a trip to this alpine lake.

MAMMOTH LAKES FALL COLORS

Mammoth Lakes is a hub for hiking, jogging, fishing, kayaking, and skiing. But come fall season, and you won’t want to do much besides being enamored by the beautiful fall foliage. Hike the seven-mile Mammoth Town Loop Trail, which takes you to Mammoth Creek Park and Snow Creek Ponds and provides glimpses of the gorgeous Mammoth Lakes fall colors reflecting on the azure waters. Complete your Mammoth Lakes trip with a stay in a charming cabin at Tamarack Lodge, located on the edge of Twin Lake

Visit the Shasta Cascade to witness the vibrancy of the fall foliage, which is bound to leave you breathless.

SHASTA CASCADE

The magical Shasta Cascade is all about the trees, so take a trip to the region to admire the gorgeous California fall colors. Considered one of the best places to view fall foliage in the Golden State, the Shasta Cascade boasts rugged mountains, lush forests, crystal-clear alpine lakes, and rushing rivers. The blazing-red and bright-orange leaves dangling from the trees line Mount Shasta, creating a breathtaking sight of the most beautiful fall colors in Northern California. Explore the Shasta Cascade by hiking or biking through the landscape, then stop by Crumbs for cupcakes, milkshakes, and more treats.

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