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Where to See Stunning Fall Foliage in Southern California

Where to See Stunning Fall Foliage in Southern California

Fallin' for sights of fall foliage? Celebrate the season by exploring the best places to see stunning fall foliage in Southern California.


6 min read

October 28, 2021

As forests shed their emerald green leaves and don hues of red, yellow, and orange, sunny SoCal gets in the mood of pumpkin spice. We’re setting aside our swimsuits and getting ready for sweater weather. Whether you’re in the mood for a full-on autumn road trip or an intimate picnic at a nearby park, there’s no denying that the season brings forth a new sense of peace and relaxation. Take a break from your Halloween shopping and head out to see the vibrant fall foliage of Southern California that’ll make you fall in love with the region all over again.

The best displays of fall leaves in Southern California

Whether you want to take a scenic drive from the City of Angels to the surrounding mountains or venture out to the lush parks and forests near America’s Finest City, SoCal has no shortage of destinations to admire the autumnal foliage and celebrate the season.  

Take in the colors of the season at Malibu Creek State Park, home to one of the best displays of fall foliage in SoCal.

Malibu Creek State Park

The 8,215-acre Malibu Creek State Park offers the best displays of fall foliage in Southern California. Located in Calabasas, this park explodes with California fall colors as the leaves gradually reach their peak. With rolling tallgrass plains, oak savannas, stunning canyon vistas, and dramatic peaks, it’s not surprising that people call it the Yosemite of SoCal. And similar to Yosemite, there is ample camping and picnicking here—not to mention that hiking trails take you straight to the most stunning fall foliage you’ve ever seen.

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Angeles National Forest

Covering over 700,000 acres of scenic wilderness fields, the Angeles National Forest protects large areas of the San Gabriel Mountains and boasts the most dramatic fall colors in Southern California. With developed campgrounds and several trails for hikers, riders, and off-road vehicles, the forest is as diverse in appearance and terrain as it is in entertainment opportunities. Oak woodlands gradually change to pine and fir-covered slopes in the higher elevations of the Angeles. As the fall foliage in this Southern California forest comes into existence, the solitude of the quiet wilderness areas becomes revealed. With spectacular scenery and breathtaking natural environments, it’s hard not to fall in love with one of California’s best national forests.

Hot Springs Mountain

The highest point in San Diego County is Hot Springs Mountain; it’s only natural to assume that you’ll find the best fall foliage here. Boasting stunning views of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial Counties on a clear day, the mountain rises to an elevation of 6,535 feet. Picture this: a variety of conifers spread among deciduous black oaks changing into red and golden; who wouldn’t want to catch a glimpse of that! Hiking and driving up there are both possible. As you reach the peak, the hot springs emerge from the mountain. The scenic drive offers panoramic views of trees and abandoned buildings that add to the feeling of mystery meandering through the area; now those are California fall colors you should never miss.

Palomar Mountain State Park

Located in northern San Diego County, Palomar Mountain State Park is abundant with large pine, fir, and cedar trees, making for stunning fall foliage. The invigorating mountain air energizes you while the surrounding views of the kaleidoscopic colors take your breath away. With 1,862 acres of natural wonders, the state park features a number of exciting outdoor adventures. Camping, picnicking, hiking, and trout fishing are popular activities here. Providing diverse adventures for locals and visitors, Palomar Mountain State Park is a must-visit place to admire California’s fall colors, so don’t hesitate to take the beautifully scenic San Diego drive.

When it comes to mesmerizing fall foliage, this L.A. garden is hard to beat. Photo Courtesy of Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden provides the most vivid fall foliage in Southern California; you’ll have to see it to believe it. Offering a variety of landscapes for your enjoyment, the arboretum is perfect especially for a visit in autumn. With tranquility flowing all over, each garden is uniquely designed, making it a wonderful place to take in the wonders of nature. Not only is the plant collection here phenomenal, but the trees and the themed gardens are strikingly majestic. A wonderful place to visit with the whole family, the arboretum captivates every visitor with both the flora and fauna. Leaf-peeping in SoCal has never been so colorful.

Oak Glen Preserve offers truly bewitching fall foliage around a small lake that reflects the sky and the fall colors you've been cravin'.

Oak Glen Preserve

One of the best preserves to visit to view the fall foliage in Southern California is Oak Glen Preserve. With over 2,000 acres of tranquil natural beauty, it is tucked away in the foothills of the imposing San Bernardino Mountains. As you walk into the area, you’ll find the Southern California Montane Botanic Garden waiting for you. The 909-acre preserve offers two scenic trails that take you to the best spots for leaf-peeping. Soak in the California fall colors as you stroll by tranquil ponds and groves of trees. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the everlasting beauty and the fond memories you make here. 

Idyllwild Nature Center is a great place to surround yourself with colorful fall foliage. The serene setting is perfect for relaxing.

Idyllwild Nature Center

Immerse yourself in the best fall foliage Southern California has to offer at Idyllwild Nature Center. Providing a variety of environmental education programs that focus on mountain ecology, habitats, flora, and fauna, the nature center is a must-visit on your trip to Idyllwild. A wonderful place to go with children, it is a delightful spot to get out and enjoy the day. With the stunning vistas of the fall foliage, you immediately get a sense of serenity and relief. And besides the postcard-perfect trails—which practically beg you to spend the day walking—the nature center also features a refined museum.

Grass Valley Park

Located almost two miles away from Lake Arrowhead, Grass Valley Park is SoCal’s best-kept secret. The members-only park offers a multitude of opportunities for a wonderful afternoon picnic; it’s the ideal place to visit to admire the fall colors in Southern California. As the crisp weather provides a pleasantly dry ambiance for visitors to enjoy, trees of autumn gradually let go of their russet leaves. With designated barbeque areas, a children’s playground, and picnic tables, it’s hard to resist spending a day in the beautifully landscaped grounds of Grass Valley Park.

Lush vegetation, breathtaking views, and a relaxing ambiance are among the reasons Whittier Narrow Recreation Area is a top fall destination.

Whittier Narrows Recreation Area

One of Los Angeles County’s largest and most popular parks, Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is a 1,492-acre multi-use facility. Located in South El Monte, the park offers a wide range of activities for people of all ages—it’s equipped with baseball and soccer fields, BMX tracks, boating areas, community gardens, and many more amenities. Within the recreation area is the Whittier Narrows Nature Center, a 400-acre sanctuary of riparian woodland with many plants and animals native to wetland communities. As one of the best places to view the fall foliage in Southern California, you can never go wrong with this park.

William Heise County Park

The best place to take in California’s fall colors is William Heise County Park. The 929-acre park is also one of the few in San Diego County to get snowfall each year. Composed of oak, pine, and cedars, the park boasts 11 miles of picturesque hiking and equestrian trails. For those seeking a wilderness experience while soaking in the fall foliage of Southern California, you now know where to visit next.

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