Best places to see fall colors in California is more than just a list—it’s a journey through the Golden State’s mesmerizing autumnal tapestry.

As the sun-soaked days of summer give way to the cooler, crisp air of autumn, California bursts into a riot of reds, oranges, and yellows.

While many praise California for its pristine beaches and towering redwoods, its fall foliage remains one of its most enchanting yet lesser-known spectacles.

From the fiery aspens of the Eastern Sierra to the sunlit vineyards of Napa and the rustic hues of the Central Coast, every corner of the state has its own unique autumn story to tell.

In this guide, we unveil the top 20 destinations that capture the essence of California’s autumn magic.

Whether you’re a photographer seeking the perfect shot or a traveler yearning for scenic drives, these destinations promise unforgettable fall experiences.

Dive in and let’s embrace the magic of California’s fall foliage!

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Fall Colors in and Around the San Francisco Bay Area

1.  San Francisco Botanical Garden : California’s Urban Autumn Retreat

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Situated in the heart of Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is not only a highlight for those seeking out Bay Area gardens during spring but also transforms into an autumnal wonderland from late October to mid-November.

The diverse flora showcases Japanese maples, ginkgo trees, and sweetgum trees, each glowing in shades of red, gold, and amber against the garden’s evergreens.

Specifically, the Moon Viewing Garden offers a serene ambiance with a pond surrounded by radiant Japanese maples.

Also, don’t miss the golden glow of Ginko biloba trees in the Temperate Asia collection.

Additional splashes of color brighten areas like the Great Meadow and Redwood Grove, making a visit this fall a visual treat.

Travel Tip: While soaking in the fall beauty around the Bay Area, why not plan ahead for a festive experience? The Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden, just a few hours’ drive from San Francisco, hosts its 13th annual Festival of Lights every weekend from November 24 to December 17. A weekend getaway to Mendocino can be the perfect blend of vibrant fall colors and enchanting evening lights. Don’t miss out!

2. Japanese Tea Garden : California’s Zen Fall Spectacle

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Nestled within Golden Gate Park, the Japanese Tea Garden provides a captivating escape, especially from late October to late November when autumnal hues adorn its landscape.

The garden boasts iconic Japanese maples, which turn brilliant shades of red and orange during the fall.

A highlight is the serene koi ponds, framed by colorful leaves and punctuated by the gentle ripples of water.

Meandering pathways, intricate stone bridges, and the garden’s traditional structures offer visitors a picturesque journey.

Amidst the vibrant colors, the garden’s zen atmosphere invites introspection and appreciation of nature’s transient beauty.

3. Samuel P Taylor State Park

Tucked away in Marin County, Samuel P. Taylor State Park stands out as one of the premier California State Parks near San Francisco.

It becomes a haven for fall color enthusiasts between late October and late-November.

The park’s mixed forests present a harmonious blend of deciduous and evergreen trees, each contributing to the autumn canvas.

Visitors can expect to see the big-leaf maples transitioning to golden yellows and warm oranges, creating a striking contrast against the deep greens of the towering redwoods.

The park’s numerous trails, like the Cross Marin Trail, become corridors of color during this time, ideal for hiking and leisurely walks.

The babbling Lagunitas Creek adds to the allure, reflecting the fall foliage in its clear waters. A visit to this park during the fall months promises nature’s spectacle at its finest.

4. Santa Theresa Boulevard in San Jose

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Stretching through the southern parts of San Jose, Santa Theresa Boulevard is a scenic drive, especially between late October and mid-November.

The boulevard becomes an urban canvas for autumn’s hues during these months. The street trees and those in the neighboring gardens burst into a palette of reds, oranges, and golds.

The various ornamental trees, including maples and liquidambars, become the stars of the season, displaying vibrant colors that transform this urban stretch into a picturesque scene.

Driving or walking down Santa Theresa Boulevard during the fall feels like moving through an ever-changing gallery of autumnal art.

It’s a reminder that one doesn’t always need to venture far from the city to witness the beauty of the changing seasons

5. Hakone Gardens, in Saratoga

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

One of the oldest Japanese gardens in the Western Hemisphere, Hakone Gardens in Saratoga transforms into a tranquil tapestry of autumn colors between early October and late November.

As a reflection of traditional Japanese landscape design, the garden showcases an array of plants that reveal the essence of the season.

The koi-filled ponds mirror the fiery reds and bright yellows of Japanese maples, creating a serene and picturesque scene.

The bamboo garden, with its towering green stalks, provides a gentle contrast to the vibrant colors around.

Stroll through the Moon Bridge, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the hues of gingko trees and Japanese persimmons.

Whether you’re exploring the Zen garden, the tea house, or just meandering through its pathways, Hakone Gardens offers visitors an immersive experience of the beauty of autumn in a traditional Japanese setting.

6. Henry W. Coe State Park 

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

As the largest state park in Northern California, Henry W. Coe State Park stands out not just for its expansive size but also for its autumnal splendor.

Located in the rolling hills of Morgan Hill, from late October to mid-November, this park becomes a kaleidoscope of warm hues, making it a must-visit destination, especially if you’re exploring the South Bay State Parks in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The oak woodlands, with blue oaks, valley oaks, and black oaks, adorn themselves in rustic golds and deep ambers, creating a mesmerizing contrast against the evergreen surroundings.

For trekkers, the Pine Ridge Trail is particularly rewarding during this season, offering changing elevations with diverse vistas of the fall colors.

Alders and willows by the creeks add a dash of gleaming yellow to the park’s color palette.

Various lookout points in the park provide panoramic views of the undulating hills bathed in autumn shades.

A visit to Henry W. Coe State Park in the fall guarantees an intimate experience with California’s vibrant autumnal tapestry.

7. University of California Botanical Garden

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Located in Berkeley, the University of California Botanical Garden is a living museum that elegantly bridges the worlds of botany and artistry.

Between late October and mid-November, this botanical haven undergoes a captivating transformation.

Home to an array of global plant collections, the garden’s deciduous members, especially from North America and Asia, truly stand out during the fall.

The vibrant Japanese maples shimmer in hues of crimson and gold, while the Chinese pistache trees flaunt their deep reds.

Meanwhile, oaks, both native and from afar, provide a harmonious backdrop of bronze and amber tones.

One of the highlights of the fall season here is the Garden of Old Roses. Although traditionally a spring spectacle, the surrounding trees in this area enhance the atmosphere with a soft autumnal glow, offering a contrasting beauty.

With pathways winding through various continents, each turn in this garden feels like a new discovery.

A visit during autumn not only introduces visitors to the incredible diversity of plant life but also the ephemeral beauty of fall colors that the garden displays with grace.

8. Tilden Regional Park : California’s East Bay Autumn Delight

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Nestled in the East Bay hills, Tilden Regional Park is an oasis that bursts into a myriad of autumn hues between late October and mid-November.

The park’s expansive landscapes are home to a variety of deciduous trees, including oaks and maples, that shed their green attire for vibrant shades of crimson, gold, and amber.

The park’s scenic trails offer unparalleled views of the autumn foliage set against the backdrop of San Francisco Bay.

Activities abound here, from riding the historic merry-go-round and taking a nostalgic journey on the miniature steam train to embarking on a nature walk or simply picnicking amidst the fall colors.

For those seeking the best views, a leisurely drive or hike along the Nimitz Way is highly recommended, offering panoramic vistas of changing leaves, rolling hills, and the distant city skyline.

9. Napa Valley: Wine Enthusiast’s Autumn Retreat

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Synonymous with world-class wines, Napa Valley also offers an intoxicating display of fall colors that rival its famed vineyards.

From late October to mid-November, the valley turns into a painter’s palette, with rows of grapevines transitioning from vibrant greens to deep purples, russets, and golds.

One of the best ways to soak in this autumnal splendor is along the Silverado Trail. This scenic route stretches from Napa to Calistoga and is lined with numerous vineyards and wineries.

As you drive or cycle through, you’ll be treated to uninterrupted views of vineyards awash with fall colors, framed by golden hills and dotted with elegant estates.

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

While the wine tastings are a must-do in the region, during the fall season, they become even more special as you sip on your favorite varietal with a backdrop of the valley’s seasonal hues.

Whether you’re a wine aficionado or a nature lover, Napa Valley in the fall offers an experience that’s truly unmatched.

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10. Healdsburg (Sonoma County)

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Nestled in the heart of Sonoma County’s wine country, Healdsburg is a charming town that epitomizes the allure of Northern California’s fall.

As the autumn months roll in, this quaint locale is painted in a medley of oranges, yellows, and reds, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking the quintessential fall experience.

Healdsburg’s historic plaza, with its boutique shops, gourmet eateries, and artisanal tasting rooms, is surrounded by mature trees showcasing brilliant autumn hues.

The surrounding vineyards, similar to its neighboring Napa Valley, offer a visual treat as the grapevines undergo their seasonal transformation.

A drive or a leisurely bike ride through the countryside will introduce visitors to a landscape dotted with vineyards, orchards, and farmlands—all bathed in the warm tones of the season.

Pair this with a wine-tasting session at one of the local wineries, and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect fall day in California’s wine country.

11. Overfelt Gardens, San Jose

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Tucked away in the bustling city of San Jose, Overfelt Gardens is a peaceful oasis that offers visitors a chance to escape the urban hustle and bask in the beauty of nature, especially during the fall months.

Spanning 33 acres, this park is not only a botanical garden but also a tribute to the ancient art of Chinese landscape design. During the fall, the gardens come alive with vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow.

The trees, including maples and sweetgums, transform the landscape into a painterly scene, offering an ideal backdrop for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

The reflective ponds magnify the beauty, casting reflections of the colorful trees and making for picturesque views.

The park’s Chinese Cultural Garden, with its traditional architecture and sculptures, further enhances the experience by adding an element of cultural intrigue.

Walking paths meander through the gardens, allowing visitors to take a leisurely stroll while soaking in the colors of the season.

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

With its combination of natural beauty and cultural richness, Overfelt Gardens in the fall is truly a hidden gem in the heart of San Jose.

12. Rancho San Antonio Preserve

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Located near Cupertino, Rancho San Antonio Preserve stands as a testament to the untouched beauty of the Bay Area’s natural landscape.

Stretching over 3,800 acres, the preserve promises a delightful mix of open grasslands, dense oak woodlands, and chaparral vegetation, making it a prime spot to witness the dynamic change of seasons.

In the fall, the preserve reveals a palette of earthy browns, rustic reds, and golden yellows.

The deciduous trees, like the valley and blue oaks, shed their green facade, adopting warmer tones that mirror the essence of autumn.

These rich hues interplay beautifully with the park’s permanent residents: the evergreens, offering a layered visual experience.

But the colors aren’t the only draw. The preserve also boasts over 20 miles of trails suitable for hiking, jogging, and even horseback riding.

As you navigate these paths, keep an eye out for local wildlife, including deer, bobcats, and the occasional soaring bird of prey.

Additionally, the Deer Hollow Farm within the preserve offers an educational experience, introducing visitors to various farm animals and the area’s agricultural history.

In essence, a trip to Rancho San Antonio Preserve in the fall is not just about embracing the colors, but also about connecting with nature on multiple levels.

Autumn Hues Beyond the Bay

13. Sacramento & Surrounding : California’s Capital in Autumn

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Sacramento, fondly known as the “City of Trees,” undergoes a mesmerizing transformation during the fall season.

Thanks to the city’s rich history, many exotic trees were planted during its formative years, which today serve as vibrant testimonials to the past.

In the neighborhoods of Land Park, Midtown, and East Sacramento, the streets are lined with a stunning array of trees like ginkgo, Chinese pistache, liquid amber, and scarlet oak.

These trees dazzle with shades ranging from fiery reds to golden yellows, providing a stunning visual treat for both locals and visitors.

Venturing a bit beyond the city limits, nearby towns such as Auburn, Placerville, and Folsom further elevate the fall color experience.

Each town, with its unique landscape and tree variety, complements Sacramento’s autumn display, making the entire region a must-visit during this time of year.

With its urban streets and neighboring towns showcasing nature’s artwork so beautifully, Sacramento and its surroundings stand out as an autumnal paradise in the heart of California.

Fall Colors in Sierra Nevada Foothills & Gold Country

14. Nevada City : California’s Historic Town in Fall

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations
Photo by  Kial James

Nestled amidst the dense forests of the Sierra Nevada Foothills, Nevada City, a prominent Gold Rush town, boasts an impressive autumn display.

Its historic streets are lined with deciduous trees, including native oaks and imported maples, that shed hues of amber, scarlet, and gold.

As you stroll around, the preserved Victorian architecture blends seamlessly with the colorful backdrop, making it a perfect autumn retreat.

Travel Tip: Before heading to Nevada City, download a fall color brochure that highlights the best spots for leaf-peeping. Enhance your experience by taking a driving tour along the Yuba-Donner Scenic Byway where red maples and quaking aspens further enrich the vibrant fall landscape.

15. Grass Valley

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

A neighbor to Nevada City, Grass Valley not only shares a similar gold rush history but also a rich tradition of celebrating autumn.

Its tree-lined streets and historic downtown burst with colors from maples, oaks, and dogwoods. Wander the unique shops offering handmade crafts or indulge in seasonal treats like a slice of fresh apple pie.

The city hosts fall-themed festivals such as the Draft Horse Classic and Harvest Fair. For wine enthusiasts, the surrounding wineries offer tastings paired with autumn activities like pumpkin patch hunts.

The blend of crisp air and rustling leaves underfoot makes Grass Valley an embodiment of fall in the Gold Country.

Read More: 21 Best Ghost Towns in California: A Journey from Gold Rush Settlements to Abandoned Cities 

16. Sonora : Fall in California’s Historic Heart

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Sonora, affectionately known as the “Queen of the Southern Mines,” harmoniously merges historical charm with the captivating beauty of nature.

As the autumnal season sweeps through the region, the undulating hills and meandering roads become a canvas of brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds, painted by the oak, maple, and sweetgum trees.

A standout amidst this panorama is the iconic Red Church of Sonora. St. James Episcopal Church, with its striking red facade and towering spire, becomes even more enchanting set against the backdrop of fall colors.

A walk through historic Downtown Sonora offers not only a glimpse into the Gold Rush era but also a visual feast of architectural and natural beauty combined.

Exploring Sonora in the fall feels like stepping into a classic painting, where history and nature dance in perfect harmony.

17. Murphys : Autumn Gold in California’s Interior

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Often referred to as the “Queen of the Sierra,” Murphys is a gem in the heart of Gold Country.

As autumn arrives, the town’s vineyards, streets, and surrounding areas are bathed in a sea of colors, ranging from deep purples and reds to bright yellows.

The town’s historic charm combined with the fall palette makes it a favorite for many seeking a tranquil autumn escape.

These four towns, steeped in history and natural beauty, offer some of the most breathtaking fall vistas in California, making the Sierra Nevada Foothills & Gold Country a must-visit region during the season.

Sierra Nevada Fall Foliage

18. Yosemite National Park : California’s National Park in Fall Glory

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

One of the nation’s most iconic national parks, Yosemite isn’t just a summer haven; it’s a spectacular canvas of fall colors.

As autumn descends, Yosemite Valley comes alive with the hues of bigleaf maples, black oaks, and dogwoods, each offering shades of gold, amber, and crimson against the backdrop of granite cliffs.

The crisp autumn air adds a touch of serenity, making it a prime time to witness the iconic vistas, from the majestic El Capitan to the cascading Yosemite Falls.

Meadows turn into a golden sea, bordered by trees adorned with colorful leaves. Higher elevations like Tuolumne Meadows offer a unique blend of bare granite peaks alongside vibrant willows and grasses.

While the summer crowds have thinned, the beauty of Yosemite in the fall stands undiminished, offering a more peaceful and contemplative experience of this timeless landscape.

Whether you’re taking scenic drives, engaging in leisurely walks, or embarking on more strenuous hikes, Yosemite in the autumn is nothing short of magical.

19. Bishop, CA : California’s Eastern Sierra Fall Canvas

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Set in the heart of the Eastern Sierra, Bishop is not just a town, but an invitation to nature’s most awe-inspiring seasonal performance.

A haven for those looking for a genuine connection with the outdoors, Bishop unlocks the door to California’s most breathtaking fall foliage.

The town, with its charming eateries, eclectic shops, and vibrant art galleries, serves as a delightful introduction.

However, it’s the mesmerizing natural theater outside that captures the heart. Bishop’s broad valley, with its groves of aspen trees, undergoes a transformation every autumn.

The trees turn a brilliant gold, interspersed with hues of orange and red, making the landscape seem like it’s painted with a golden brush.

This captivating tableau is magnified when you venture to Bishop Creek Canyon.

As one of the country’s most spectacular places for fall colors, the Canyon spans about 30 square miles, cradling the North, Middle, and South Forks of Bishop Creek.

At the pinnacle of each fork, you’ll find a serene lake – North Lake, Lake Sabrina, and South Lake.

As you drive towards these lakes, groves of bright yellow aspen trees frame the roads, inviting visitors to step out and explore. Each step taken on the trails here immerses you further into this explosion of color.

Beyond the canyon, areas like Sabrina Basin offer hikes through dense aspen forests, where shimmering lakes and meandering streams play hide and seek amidst the fall foliage.

The tranquil ambiance of these trails, heightened by the backdrop of rugged, snow-tipped mountains, promises an autumn experience that stays with you long after you’ve left.

Whether it’s the allure of fishing in the Owens River, the ancient whispers of the bristlecone pine forest, or the panoramic vistas along Highway 395, Bishop ensures every autumn day spent here becomes a cherished memory, all under the watchful eyes of the majestic Sierras.

20. Mammoth Lakes

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Nestled high in the Eastern Sierras, Mammoth Lakes is often celebrated for its winter sports and summer hiking trails.

However, come fall, this alpine oasis transforms into a riot of colors, making it a must-visit destination for those chasing California’s autumn hues.

The region is dotted with numerous lakes, each reflecting the fiery tones of aspens, willows, and cottonwoods that line their shores.

The drive along Lake Mary Road, in particular, offers panoramic views of crystal-clear waters framed by forests awash in golds, oranges, and reds.

For those keen on hiking, the trek to Crystal Lake provides not only an opportunity to witness the fall foliage up close but also offers stunning vistas of the Mammoth Crest.

Another popular trail, the Duck Pass Trail, takes hikers through dense groves of turning aspens and past several alpine lakes.

But it’s not just the lakes that capture attention. The Mammoth Scenic Loop, a short drive away from the town, is a winding route through groves of aspens and Jeffrey pines.

In autumn, this loop becomes a mesmerizing corridor of color, with the bright foliage juxtaposed against the dark, rugged trunks of the evergreens.

And after a day of exploring, there’s nothing like returning to the town of Mammoth Lakes, where cozy lodges, local breweries, and warm eateries await, offering the perfect end to a colorful autumn day in the Sierras.

21. Lake Sabrina : Reflecting California’s Fall Splendor

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Nestled within the Inyo National Forest and surrounded by the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, Lake Sabrina offers an idyllic autumnal setting.

The shimmering blue waters of the lake contrast beautifully with the golden hues of the aspen trees that surround it.

As you venture around the lake, you’ll be treated to a 360-degree panorama of vibrant foliage against the backdrop of rugged mountain peaks, some of which might already have a dusting of early snow.

For those seeking a bit of adventure, several hiking trails originate from the lake, leading you into the heart of the fall colors.

The trails range from easy strolls to more strenuous hikes, catering to all levels of outdoor enthusiasts.

While here, consider renting a boat or simply enjoying a picnic by the water’s edge, soaking in the magnificent views.

22. June Lake Loop : California’s Scenic Autumn Drive

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

June Lake Loop, also known as Highway 158, is a scenic byway that encompasses a series of stunning alpine lakes, including June Lake, Gull Lake, Silver Lake, and Grant Lake.

In the fall, this loop transforms into a wonderland of colors, with aspens, willows, and cottonwoods showcasing their autumn best.

Each lake along the loop has its unique charm. While June Lake is known for its sandy beaches and clear waters, Silver Lake offers rustic cabin vibes and is a popular spot for fishing.

As you traverse this picturesque circuit, it’s easy to see why these are considered among the best lakes in Northern California.

As you drive, make sure to stop at the various viewpoints and trailheads – the Parker Lake trail, in particular, is a favorite for its breathtaking vistas and dense aspen groves.

Whether you’re camping, fishing, hiking, or just driving, the June Lake Loop is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking the quintessential fall experience in the Sierra Nevada.

23. Sonora Pass

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

The Sonora Pass, or Highway 108, is one of the highest and most scenic mountain passes in California.

In the fall, it becomes a dramatic display of nature’s artistry, as the high-elevation aspens and cottonwoods change colors against a backdrop of jagged granite peaks.

The drive itself is an adventure, winding through dense forests, open meadows, and past roaring rivers. Along the way, you’ll encounter numerous spots to pull over, explore, and take photos.

One highlight is the Leavitt Meadows Trailhead, which offers access to several hiking trails leading to alpine lakes and meadows surrounded by fall colors.

Given its high elevation, Sonora Pass is often one of the first places in the region to receive snowfall.

This can add an extra layer of beauty, as the golden and red foliage gets contrasted with the pristine white of early snow.

However, it also means the pass can close early due to snow, so it’s essential to check road conditions if visiting late in the season.

24. Lake Tahoe : California’s Alpine Fall Paradise

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Perched at an elevation of over 6,000 feet, Lake Tahoe isn’t just a popular winter destination but also a fall foliage haven.

This vast, crystalline blue lake is ringed by the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is straddled between California and Nevada.

During autumn, the shores and surrounding landscapes of Lake Tahoe are painted in a myriad of yellows, oranges, and reds.

Around the lake, aspen groves become golden sanctuaries of tranquility. The best areas for leaf-peeping include Taylor Creek, where the Fall Fish Fest celebrates the annual spawning run of the Kokanee salmon.

The trail around the creek offers not only vibrant fall colors but also interpretive signs about the fascinating lifecycle of these fish.

For a bird’s-eye view of the fall scenery, consider taking the Heavenly Mountain Gondola. As you ascend, you’re rewarded with panoramic views of Lake Tahoe framed by a patchwork of autumn hues.

If you’re an adventurer at heart, explore some of Tahoe’s vast network of hiking trails, such as the Mount Rose Trail or the Tahoe Rim Trail, both offering sweeping vistas and close-up encounters with fall foliage.

Tahoe’s shoreline is dotted with sandy beaches, each providing a unique perspective of the lake and its autumnal beauty. Emerald Bay, in particular, is a favorite spot.

This bay boasts a historic island teahouse and a Scandinavian mansion, Vikingsholm, set amidst a backdrop of cascading colors.

To make your experience even more memorable, explore some of the quaint towns around Lake Tahoe, like Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, or Tahoe City.

Here, you can indulge in local eateries, shop for souvenirs, and immerse yourself in local events and festivals celebrating the season.

In essence, Lake Tahoe in the fall is a fusion of natural beauty and recreational activities, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking the perfect autumn getaway.

25. Truckee

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Lake Tahoe is the historic town of Truckee. Known for its rich railroad legacy, Truckee is especially captivating in the fall, with landscapes awash in vivid hues.

Downtown Truckee is a mix of past and present, where wooden sidewalks and rustic exteriors meet contemporary boutiques and cafes.

As autumn arrives, the ambiance becomes even more festive with decorative pumpkins and hay bales adorning the streets.

Outside the town, nature enthusiasts can marvel at aspen and cottonwood trees that transform into brilliant yellows and oranges, beautifully mirrored on the surface of Donner Lake.

Hikers can explore trails like Sawtooth and Emigrant to immerse themselves in the fall colors.

The season also brings a flurry of events to Truckee, from farmers’ markets brimming with fresh harvests to lively Oktoberfest celebrations. All in all, an autumn visit to Truckee promises a rich blend of history, nature, and vibrant seasonal festivities.

26. Grover Hot Springs State Park

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, south of the famed Lake Tahoe and picturesque Hope Valley, Grover Hot Springs State Park is a destination of dual delights.

Beyond its therapeutic geothermal waters, the park becomes an artist’s muse in autumn.

Alpine meadows interlace with forests of pine, fir, and especially the golden aspens that seem to set the world aflame with their fall colors.

This mosaic of hues against the backdrop of evergreens makes it a haven for photographers and nature aficionados.

While the park’s hot springs promise relaxation, trails like the Burnside Lake Trail offer adventurous souls panoramic vistas and potential wildlife encounters.

Campers can soak in the warmth of the 102-degree hot spring pools, feeling the stress melt away.

And if your heart yearns for more of California’s fall canvas, a short drive to Hope Valley will satiate your desires.

27. Hope Valley

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Hope Valley, situated south of Lake Tahoe, is a scenic paradise, especially during the fall season.

With its sprawling meadows surrounded by the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the valley comes alive with a riot of colors, thanks to the dense groves of aspen trees.

The brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds of the foliage contrast strikingly against the deep blue of the sky, making it a favorite spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.

A drive or hike through this valley offers tranquil moments of reflection, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

28. Convict Lake

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Named after an incident involving escaped convicts in the late 1800s, Convict Lake is a gem of the Eastern Sierra.

With crystal-clear waters reflecting the surrounding majestic mountains, it provides a serene backdrop for relaxation and recreation.

In autumn, the shores are lined with trees showcasing vibrant fall colors, complementing the lake’s stunning beauty.

Popular for fishing and boating, this lake is also surrounded by hiking trails that offer panoramic views of the landscape.

29. Conway Summit

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

One of the highest drivable passes in the Eastern Sierra, Conway Summit offers breathtaking vistas at every turn.

In the fall, it becomes even more picturesque as the vast groves of aspen trees turn into golden hues, interspersed with splashes of red and orange.

The elevated viewpoint from the summit ensures a panoramic display of the Sierra Nevada range, the valleys below, and Mono Lake in the distance.

For those seeking an unforgettable autumnal experience, a drive or stop at Conway Summit is a must.

30. Plumas County: Feather River Canyon’s Fall Brilliance

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Plumas County, particularly the scenic Feather River Canyon, is a hidden gem for fall foliage enthusiasts.

As you drive along Highway 70 through the canyon, the sight of the Feather River meandering alongside the road, with its banks adorned with black oak, big leaf maple, and mountain dogwood, is truly mesmerizing.

These trees drape the landscape in shades of crimson and gold, making the journey a visual treat. The town of Quincy serves as a perfect base for exploring the area.

To get the most out of your trip, grab an “Awesome Autumn” map and head out for some leaf-peeping.

For those looking to venture further, the Plumas-Eureka State Park, located near the quaint town of Graeagle, is another must-visit spot, offering a deeper dive into the region’s vibrant fall colors.

31. Virginia Lakes

Tucked away just six miles off Highway 395 near Conway Summit, Virginia Lakes basin emerges as a splendid haven for witnessing Eastern Sierra’s fall foliage.

Situated between Lee Vining and Bridgeport, this scenic expanse boasts nearly a dozen alpine lakes, ranging in elevation from 9,000 to over 11,000 feet.

The vibrant tapestry of autumnal hues set against the backdrop of the majestic Sierra makes Virginia Lakes a captivating destination.

Whether it’s hiking amidst colorful groves, fishing in serene waters, or simply soaking in nature’s splendor, visiting this area in the fall is an unparalleled experience for outdoor enthusiasts.

Fall Foliage in Central Coast, California

32. Santa Ynez Valley

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Nestled between misty coastal mountains and rolling inland hills, just north of Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley is a tapestry of vineyards, horse ranches, and charming small towns.

As fall arrives, the valley dons a colorful cloak. Vineyards turn into a mosaic of gold, crimson, and amber, reflecting the changing seasons and the upcoming harvest.

The Valley, known for its wineries and the historic town of Solvang with its Danish heritage, becomes even more enchanting during autumn.

The oak-lined country roads, dotted with wineries and tasting rooms, offer a picturesque drive or cycling route.

Whether sipping on a glass of pinot noir or exploring local boutiques and art galleries, Santa Ynez Valley offers a delightful autumnal experience.

33. Paso Robles

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Situated in San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles is a wine lover’s paradise, famed for its premium wines and sprawling vineyards.

Additionally, the fall colors in Paso Robles are spectacular, making it a perfect getaway from the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles.

Come fall, and the region transforms into an artist’s palette of warm hues. The vineyards, heavy with ripening grapes, showcase a riot of colors, from deep purples to fiery reds.

The mild temperatures and crisp air make it the perfect time to embark on wine tasting tours or to attend the numerous wine festivals and events that celebrate the season’s bounty.

The town square, with its historic buildings, boutique shops, and gourmet restaurants, adds to the charm, making Paso Robles a must-visit destination for those seeking a blend of culture, wine, and fall beauty in the Central Coast.

Northern California [Far North & the North Coast]

34. Anderson Valley

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Anderson Valley, located in Mendocino County, is a hidden gem renowned for its vineyards, apple orchards, and serene landscapes.

As the cool breezes of fall roll in, the valley is painted with a multitude of autumn colors. The vine leaves shift to golden yellows and deep reds, while apple orchards become a bustling scene of harvest.

Pair this scenic beauty with a taste of the region’s famed Pinot Noirs or crisp apple ciders.

Along the way, quaint towns like Boonville offer boutique shopping, artisanal eateries, and a glimpse into the valley’s unique culture and history.

35. Humboldt Redwoods State Park

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

A crown jewel of Northern California, Humboldt Redwoods State Park houses the world’s largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coast redwoods.

While these majestic trees remain evergreen, the understory foliage erupts in autumn colors. Ferns, huckleberries, and maples paint the forest floor with splashes of gold, orange, and crimson.

The park’s scenic drive, the Avenue of the Giants, offers an unparalleled experience, weaving through towering redwoods and providing glimpses of the Eel River’s shimmering waters.

Fall also brings fewer crowds, making it an ideal time for tranquil hikes and picnics amidst nature’s giants.

36. McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Home to the stunning Burney Falls, this state park offers more than just its famous cascade.

In autumn, the park’s mixed forests come alive with color, with Pacific dogwoods, bigleaf maples, and black oaks stealing the show.

The falls cascading over basalt cliffs from underground springs provide a mesmerizing backdrop to the fall foliage.

Numerous trails offer different perspectives of the falls and the surrounding beauty, making it a prime location for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

37. Mount Shasta

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Dominating the skyline of Northern California, Mount Shasta is not just a towering peak but also a spiritual beacon for many.

Come fall, the alpine landscapes surrounding this dormant volcano offer a spectrum of colors.

Lower elevations see meadows turning golden, while higher altitudes witness the bright hues of mountain ash and dwarf bilberry against the backdrop of snow-dusted peaks.

The town of Mount Shasta, at the mountain’s base, becomes a hub of activity, with fall festivals, craft fairs, and spiritual retreats.

Whether you’re drawn to its hiking trails, crystal-clear lakes, or spiritual energy, Mount Shasta in the fall is nothing short of magical.

Southern California

38. Julian

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

A historic gold-mining town nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains, Julian offers a unique Southern Californian fall experience.

As the temperatures dip, the town’s apple orchards come alive with activity, celebrating the annual apple harvest.

Streets lined with charming boutiques and eateries fill with the scent of freshly baked apple pies, a Julian specialty.

The surrounding oak and maple forests showcase a mix of red, orange, and gold, making Julian a favorite spot for autumn photography and scenic drives.

39. Big Bear Lake

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Perched high in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake offers a refreshing escape from the hustle of city life. In the fall, the area is transformed into a vibrant palette of colors.

Aspens, oaks, and maples surrounding the lake turn brilliant shades, reflecting beautifully on the water’s surface.

Popular activities include lakeside picnics, hiking amidst the fall foliage, and visiting the Big Bear Alpine Zoo.

The village, with its rustic charm, hosts several fall events, including Oktoberfest, providing a blend of nature, culture, and celebration.

40. Lake Arrowhead

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Another jewel in the San Bernardino Mountains, Lake Arrowhead boasts an alpine setting combined with the luxuries of a resort town.

The lake, with its deep blue waters, serves as a stunning contrast to the surrounding forests’ autumn hues.

The Lake Arrowhead Village offers a mix of boutique shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Fall boat tours on the lake are particularly popular, offering panoramic views of the changing colors.

Numerous trails, such as the Heaps Peak Arboretum Trail, provide opportunities to delve deep into the autumnal beauty.

41. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

Located just south of Julian, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a vast expanse of meadows, forests, and peaks.

In the fall, the park is a spectacle of colors, with oak woodlands, grassy meadows, and coniferous forests showcasing their seasonal best.

The park’s 100+ miles of hiking trails, including the popular Stonewall Peak and Cuyamaca Peak trails, offer varied landscapes and challenges.

The park is also home to the beautiful Lake Cuyamaca, which provides fishing, boating, and birdwatching opportunities.

For those looking for a true wilderness experience combined with mesmerizing fall colors, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a top pick in Southern California.

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Golden hues, crisp air, and scenic drives – fall in California is magical. Discover the 41 best places to experience it 🍁🍂 #Travel #California #Fall Click To Tweet

Travel Realizations

41 Best places to see fall colors in California, Travel Realizations

In the vast and diverse expanse of California, autumn unveils its magic in hues of amber, crimson, and gold.

From the coastal edges of San Francisco Bay to the alpine heights of the Sierra Nevada, the state offers a myriad of spots where fall weaves its colorful tapestry.

These 41 destinations capture the essence of California’s autumnal beauty, inviting wanderers, photographers, and nature lovers to bask in its splendor.

As the leaves change and the air grows crisp, there’s no better time to embrace California’s enchanting fall journey.


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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.