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After Labor Day weekend, it’s a magical time to be in the Sierra Nevada range. The large assortment of fall festivals will keep you entertained while mother nature brings the fireworks. We’re talking about the fall color in the High Sierra. Compared to other parts of the country, the landscape, vegetation and meadows create a display unlike anywhere else in the world. While you still have a few weeks until the fall color starts, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite spots for fall color in the High Sierra.

Best Time To See Fall Color In The High Sierra

Just like any natural phenomenon, timing is essential. Fall color in the High Sierra arrives around the middle of September and peaks through October, but the exact timing for when the leaves change color varies somewhat from year to year. You also need to take into account where you’re headed in the High Sierra.

Sugar Pine Point State Park – Getting More Acquainted With Ma’ Nature

Top 5 Fall Adventures in North Lake Tahoe

Image appears courtesy: Go Tahoe North

When you think of Tahoe, the first trees that come to mind are conifers. In autumn, the stars of the show are the stands of aspens. They bring the “pop” of color for this time of year. And, one of the best places to see them in person is to head over to the General Creek Trail in Sugar Pine Point State Park. The 4.5 mile loop contains a vast stand of black cottonwood and quaking aspens that are a sight to behold. Additional Leaf Peeping Hikes in North Lake Tahoe include Page Meadows, Marlette Lake and Spooner Lake. Nature guides and outfitters, including Tahoe Adventure Company, provide guided educational hikes and bike rides through the backcountry.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park – On A Journey For Color

Get Some Tips On How To Find The Best Fall Foliage

Fall in the high sierra
Image by: Lisa Boulton – Appears Courtesy: Calaveras Visitors Bureau

Among the tall giants of this state park, you will unexpectedly find a deep spectrum of fall colors. The contrast of the giant sequoias as a background with the dogwoods dressed in red and big leaf maples transitioning to yellow and gold… let’s just say the scene will leave you speechless. If that isn’t enough, head a bit further north on Highway 4 to see an explosion of color transforming aspens.

Tioga Pass – Scenic Drive

Best Mono County Fall Color Viewing Spots

Fall Colors In The High Sierra
Rock Creek Road – Photo by: Jeff Simpson – Appears Courtesy: Mono County Tourism

At a summit elevation of 9,943’, Tioga Pass is the highest highway pass in California. Although just about every bend in the road reveals another awesome view, the dramatic and rugged Lee Vining Creek off of Poore Power Plant Road is a great option for fall color. This graded dirt road accesses you to a forest of aspens that line the creek. You’ll be rewarded with a display of red, gold and green with views of the 13,000-foot Mount Gibbs and Mount Dana towering overhead. Go here for the most up-to-date fall color report from Mono County Tourism. The Eastern Sierra is filled with a multitude of places to see autumn’s display of color. If Tioga Pass is a bit too far from where you’re staying places like Rock Creek Road (pictured above), the iconic June Lake Loop Road, and Virginia Lakes Road will leave you speechless and still capture the essence of the season at its best. 

Biking @ Mammoth – Combining Cycling With Leaf Peeping

Learn More About Fall Color Mountain Bike Rides

Image by: Minaret Photo – Appears courtesy: Visit Mammoth

If you’re an adrenaline junkie AND want to get in some leaf peeping at the same time, look no further than Mammoth Mountain. Boasting 3,600 acres and 80 miles of single track, it offers a vast assortment of terrain for all abilities AND a chance to get in some fall foliage viewing. From rocky mountain faces above a sea of color or a trail that rushes through a forest of golden aspen, you’ll end up feeling inspired AND invigorated.

Fall in the High Sierra is quite beautiful but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Like all mountainous regions, weather can change fast. Reviewing the weather forecast is important, especially when heading into the higher altitude areas like Tioga Pass. While you may have a few weeks until the fall “show” begins, get prepared as mother nature WILL deliver some amazing fall color in the High Sierra.

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at

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