Website offers up-to-date information on the best autumn foliage viewing throughout the Golden State
In 2005, Mono County publicist John Poimiroo launched californiafallcolor.com – a website for finding fall color in California – to draw attention to the eastern Sierra’s colorful foliage. Poimiroo points out that most Californians and visitors consider the Golden State as being “without seasons” seeing as there is so little autumn color throughout the vast Central Valley and along the coast. He seeks to dispell that notion, reasoning that “California is huge and within it are large pockets of fall color that are truly breathtaking to behold. You just have to know where to see it and when to go.”
Volunteer “color spotters” submit photos and status of the fall color in their area. For instance, in Inyo County, where the state’s first burst of explosive fall color is found, they keep an eye on popular leaf-peeping spots as Bishop Creek, South Lake and Sabrina, and Aspendale. This local knowledge ensures up-to-date information on how quickly or slowly colors are turning, and also provides insights and tips about where the best color-viewing areas are located.
What makes autumn so long-lasting in California is the state’s topography, which varies from foliage at 10,000 ft. in elevation down to sea level. “In New England, the color shows by latitude, descending from Canada through the northeast. Whereas in California, it drops by elevation,” Poimiroo explained.
The first signs of autumn are seen at the higher elevations in the Eastern Sierra. Poimiroo noted that this year the color is coming early to Inyo and Mono counties, with trees already starting to turn in Rock Creek and the Bishop Creek drainage. Typically, ground cover turns crimson in early September, while wildflowers are still blooming, providing a colorful show of orange-red Indian Paintbrush, purple fireweed and lupine, lavender columbine, swaying over a bed of tiny yellow wildflowers. Then, above 9,000 ft. in elevation, quaking aspen begin to show color, turning from green to lime to yellow to orange and fiery red along the grey, granitic slopes of the Eastern Sierra. This quivering, flaming show is kicking off at North, South and Sabrina lakes west of Bishop, and in June Lake and the Sherwins, in Mono County, color spotters have reported.
Foliage in the Inyo National Forest, which stretches the length of the Eastern Sierra, bolsters the claim to fall color fame. The Inyo beat out national forests in New England, the Allegheny and Green Mountains in a listing of the top ten fall forests evaluated for The Weather Channel by GORP.com, a national outdoor recreation website. What they discovered is what Poimiroo and his legion of California color spotters report each autumn – Inyo’s combination of stunning vistas and delicate color that continues for weeks on end.
Updates post as late as December. Inyo County helps sponsor the effort, along with other counties and fall color destinations across the state. To see the latest fall color reports, or to find out how to become a “color spotter,” visit californiafallcolor.com.