As the sun begins its trek further south onto the horizon, you begin to feel a change approaching. The mid-summer’s heat is starting to lose its grasp. And the mornings are replaced with a crispness signaling fall is coming. While the days are getting shorter, it brings with it a magical time filled with color and excitement. This is a time for all who visit to experience the local’s season. It’s time for fall festivals in the High Sierra.

49er Festival & Chili Cook-Off

Groveland – September 16th

Groveland 49er Chili Cookoff High Sierra Fall Festival
Photo by: Terri Metz Photography – Image appears courtesy: Visit Tuolumne

Originally dubbed the “Old West Days,” the 49er Festival and Chili/Salsa Cook-off celebrates Groveland’s early days of the California gold rush era. A time when shoot-outs occurred in the streets and hangings were an everyday matter. Groveland was a true boom-town. With numerous saloons and hotel establishments filled with the wildness you’d expect from the days of gold mining, this event brings back that era of the wild west. The day starts off with an old-fashioned parade on Main Street that turns into a bit of mayhem including a western shoot out and maybe even a kidnapping. From there, the crowd moseys on over to the town’s park where vendors offer themed crafts, live western music & dancing, more gunfight re-enactments and a chili/salsa cook-off, featuring booths constructed to follow a gold rush era theme. It is a full day of fun not to be missed!

Lumberjack Day

October 7th

Contestant throwing ax to a wooden bullseye at the Lumberjack Day on a warm fall afternoon
Image appears courtesy: Calaveras County

The Gold Rush sparked the great migration to California which created high demand for timber in housing construction, mining, and railroads. Every first Saturday in October, the cozy town of West Point celebrates the history and traditions of the Calaveras County lumber industry as part of Lumberjack Day. A full day of festivities, it includes a home-cooked breakfast, craft fair, soap-box derby, parade, and of course logger’s contest.  

Lone Pine Film Festival

Lone Pine – October 5th – 8th

Image appears courtesy: Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce

Ever wonder where all those classic Western films were shot? The Alabama Hills just west of Lone Pine has been captured in over 400 feature movies. So much so that it’s often referred to as “Hollywood’s largest natural back lot”. Every year, the Lone Pine Festival celebrates this by showcasing movies and their producers, directors, actors and crews who made these films that will entertain for generations to come. This multi-day event includes screenings, panel discussions, lectures, professional displays and even a guided tour of the area. If you’re a film buff or want to be one, this is THE event of the year for you. For more fall events in and around Bishop, be sure to check out their Fabulous Fall Fun In The Eastern Sierra.

30th Annual Oakhurst Fall Festival

Oakhurst – October 6th – 8th

Photo by: Steve Montalto – Image Appears Courtesy: Visit Yosemite | Madera County

This “Funtober” festival has undergone many forms over its 30-year history. But at its core, it’s always been a way to celebrate the fantastic fall weather in the area. For the 2023 edition, expect a fantastic selection of local wines, hand-crafted brews and a wide variety of delicious eats from the region’s renowned restaurants. And chocolate covered strawberries for dessert, of course. The Oakhurst Fall Festival provides something for everyone with thrilling midway rides for all ages, a Jedi Training for Padawans, an Elvis stage show, character meet ‘n greets, a Where’s Woody Scavenger Hunt, lots of vendors, and live entertainment each day. It’s a great way to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather in a beautiful park setting in the town of Oakhurst.

Truckee River Day & Fair

October 15th

Truckee River Day 2019 with volunteers helping restore wetlands
Image appears courtesy: Truckee River Watershed Council – Photo by: Peter Kulchawik

Did you know that Lake Tahoe has only one outlet – the Truckee River! Starting from Big Blue just outside of Tahoe City, it flows through the historic town of Truckee and onward to Reno before finally reaching Pyramid Lake. It’s the ideal place to spend an afternoon cooling off in its waters or just floating down. Help ensure your great grandkids can enjoy it by joining other nature-lovers this October 15th for Truckee River Day & Fair. You’ll help improve wildlife habitat, plant native species, and ensure that this beautiful river remains beautiful. To see the past years hard work in person the Truckee River Watershed Council has created this self-guided tour that you can take.

Taste of Downtown

October 8th

Taste of Downtown Visalia
Image appears courtesy: Visit Visalia

For those that have visited Visalia, you’ll know that Farm-to-fork isn’t just the newest fad but something they’ve been doing since the town was pretty much founded. Visalia is in the epicenter of one of the most diverse growing regions in the world. No wonder it’s nicknamed the “World’s Fruit Basket.” As you can imagine, the Taste of Downtown gives you a chance to sample the area’s agricultural bounty as 30+ vendors and restaurants share their signature dishes as well as new concoctions. This is just a taste of the fall festivals happening in and around Visalia this season.

Even though the summer crowds have waned, it doesn’t mean the fun has stopped. Instead, this is THE time to visit the High Sierra. The season for local’s AND visitors alike to enjoy the peace, tranquility and numerous fall festivals of the High Sierra.

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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