As many of you know, I’m a New Englander. And part of the deal with being a New Englander is that every year, usually around mid-September, you get the insatiable, uncontrollable desire to be near trees that are losing the chlorophyll in their leaves. You can’t explain it and you definitely can’t fight it.
Over the past few years, I’ve usually stared at the beautiful photographs on California Fall Color, wondering if I’d ever get the chance to take a trip up to see California’s version of fall foliage for myself. This year, KCET’s Zach Berens posted some incredible photos of his weekend in the Eastern Sierra and that was enough for me.
I spent the weekend based in Sabrina Campground and had an amazing time leaf-peeping and exploring the trails. I’ll have some trail reports posted in a bit, but I wanted to post some pictures ASAP because the color is great – but will probably still be very good for the next few weeks, so there’s still time for you to head up to see some California color for yourself.
The scenery all around is pretty jaw-dropping, but most of the good foliage is visible right from the road. The areas near Lake Sabrina had decent color, but there’s still enough green left to turn.
The lake itself is almost completely drained, but a short walk on the trail along the lake’s southern shore will take you through some very nice patches of aspen with absolutely stunning views of the Eastern Sierra behind them. Groves on the western shores have mostly peaked, but there are still enough green trees to continue putting on a show for a little while longer.
A drive along the road just before Sabrina Camp had the best foliage at this time. The entire drive to the shores of North Lake was absolutely stunning – the dirt road and quaking aspen leaves like something out of a perfect autumn dream. Still, even these groves had room left for their color to peak.
Near South Lake it seemed like peak color had mostly passed, although there were still some nice patches of golds and reds. Along the road near Weir Lake or the village of South Fork, though, were plenty of aspen that were still green. There will be fantastic photo opportunities along the South Fork of Bishop Creek for the next few weeks here.
Fall foliage is a notoriously fickle thing – rainstorms or a few windy nights can all but erase the color from the landscape. Thankfully, weather here in California is a bit more stable than that in New England. Good fall color in this region above Bishop should continue for at least another week or so, so if you’ve been putting off a road trip there’s still time to squeeze one in before winter rolls along.
There is obviously some great hiking in the region (I’ll have some trip reports posted soon), but you can see most of the foliage right from your car – or with a short walk from the side of the road. There is plenty of lodging in nearby Bishop and eight walk-in campsites in the region, although they will most likely be closed until the current government shutdown is resolved. You may be able to backpack in the wilderness, but you’re supposed to have a Wilderness Permit and I’m not sure any offices are open to process those right now.
Still – it’s worth a drive up in the next few weeks! Go get your autumn refreshment!