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Eastern Sierra Fall color updates

  
 
tsinsf
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


It almost that time! Let's start a thread to post new information about Eastern Sierra autumn color.

Here is my contribution. It's beginning...

https://www.californiafallcolor.com/2021/09/16/just-starting/



Sep 20, 2021 at 03:47 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


I'll be up there soon, but based on past drought years, expect a few strange quirks in the typical color change schedule.

By the end of September some of the smaller, high elevation trees will be changing. (And some change much easier in a few odd spots.) In the past decade or so, it seems to me that the color may have started appearing a bit earlier, perhaps a half a week or so. I used to think of prime time in places like the upper reaches of Bishop Canyon as about one week into October, but in the past few years I've seen color earlier — as early as a few days into October.

The color works its way down in elevation over the first three weeks of October or so, so if you miss the show at one elevation you may find it lower, perhaps in more sheltered canyons. (There are other timing variations that are specific to individual locations to many to mention here.)

In general, I'd still target about one week into October as a solid best guess time to be there.

For those who may not know, I have a book on the subject: ""California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra" from Heyday Books.

Dan

Edited on Sep 21, 2021 at 10:24 AM · View previous versions



Sep 20, 2021 at 11:00 PM
tsinsf
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


https://www.californiafallcolor.com/


Sep 21, 2021 at 12:07 AM
Orogeny
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


I'll be there the first week in October. I was worried about smoke, but hopefully that won't be a problem.

This will be my first trip there and I have been looking forward to this for a long time!

Tim



Sep 23, 2021 at 08:17 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


Orogeny wrote:
I'll be there the first week in October. I was worried about smoke, but hopefully that won't be a problem.

This will be my first trip there and I have been looking forward to this for a long time!

Tim


Enjoy your visit!

During most early-autumn seasons in the Eastern Sierra smoke is going to be a potential issue. Be hopeful that you won't run into bad smoke, but don't be surprised if you encounter some. The August-October time frame is the season of California wildfires, and whether you find yourself in the smoke or not depends on a lot of variables including where the current fires are and the wind direction.

If you do get caught in one of the wind-driven smoke plumes, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. You can often find better air by driving a ways north or south. In addition, the wind direction may change just enough to make a place smoky one day and clear the next.

Right now there are some fires in the Southern Sierra that are creating a bit of a smoke issue.

Dan



Sep 23, 2021 at 09:08 AM
Orogeny
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


gdanmitchell wrote:
Enjoy your visit!

During most early-autumn seasons in the Eastern Sierra smoke is going to be a potential issue. Be hopeful that you won't run into bad smoke, but don't be surprised if you encounter some. The August-October time frame is the season of California wildfires, and whether you find yourself in the smoke or not depends on a lot of variables including where the current fires are and the wind direction.

If you do get caught in one of the wind-driven smoke plumes, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. You can often find better air by driving
...Show more

Thanks Dan. You have been a big help and an inspiration.

Tim




Sep 23, 2021 at 11:56 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


I was in the Sierra briefly earlier this week, and I've seen a fair amount of photography coming back from others in the past day or two. The color is pretty good on the side right now — at peak in some places but with plenty of green in others that promises more color over the next week and a half or so.

I exited quickly on Thursday when the trans-Sierra passes south of Carson were all shut down "in anticipation of" the front that came through on Friday. (My schedule didn't permit me to be stuck over there if the up-to-six-inches of snow actually materialized.) I managed to get through the last of the high passes (Tioga) about 45 minutes before they closed it.

Wildfire smoke is still an issue. On this visit the air was pretty good from about Bridgeport north, but it became quite smoky south of there. I've seen much worse, but from Conway Summit south it was enough to make photography somewhat challenging and, for example, the far side of Mono Lake wasn't visible from 395. Be prepared to deal with this if you are over there.

It looks like I may be back over there briefly next week...

Dan



Oct 09, 2021 at 01:58 PM
tsinsf
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


I was desperate to get out and do some photography. I watched Purple Air for air quality in Bishop for a week, and after it was green (good) for four days in a row I decided to go and stayed in Bishop from Oct 23 to 29. Then the smoke from the Sequoia fire decided to blow into the area again and the entire area from Big Pine to Lee Vining was socked in with thick smoke. In Bishop you couldn’t even see Mt. Tom. Photography was impossible. It stayed that way for four days. The color in upper Bishop creek was good (not fabulous, but good), and the color was beginning to change in the June Lake loop and looked like it would be good as well in a week or so. So, the color is good but the air quality is a crap shoot.


Oct 09, 2021 at 06:45 PM
StephenS_CP
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


Just arrived in June Lake for my annual week long stay. Drove in from the north, up Green Creek, across to Virginia Lakes, and down to the loop.

The air is very clear. Best air quality conditions I've seen in several years. With the arrival of cold weather [especially on the Sequoia side of the mountains], the recent storm and the next storm passing through on Monday, I don't anticipate that smoke is likely to return. I was watching the Gull Lake webcam all through last week and saw the several days of smoke conditions. That has now cleared out.

There are areas with really good color, some areas have more of the red than I think is normal. In the loop, there is still a lot of green just starting to turn



Oct 10, 2021 at 11:52 AM
 


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bobby350z
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


Any recommendations for a first timer, who can't hike too much. I have 3-4 days available first week of October and would like to try my hands on shooting some fall color. I will be driving from Livermore, CA side.


Sep 22, 2022 at 11:40 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


bobby350z wrote:
Any recommendations for a first timer, who can't hike too much. I have 3-4 days available first week of October and would like to try my hands on shooting some fall color. I will be driving from Livermore, CA side.


One option that I use frequently is to travel over via Carson Pass and then Monitor Pass. There's a bit of low elevation color on before Kirkwood on the west side and quite a bit near the pass. There can be a lot of color on the east side of Carson in Hope Valley, and a lot of the trees are right next to the roadway. Trees in this area are often easily photographed from your parked car or along the roadway. There is a well-known grove of very colorful trees — if you arrive at the right time — right along the road near the old Sorenson's Resort, too.

Monitor Pass has some very extensive groves right near the summit — and more before you get there. One feature of this pass is that it is very broad, and it gets good light in both the morning and the evening. Because of how it climbs and because it is east of the actual crest, this route offers a great combination of close-up, intimate views of trees and longer views of more distant mountains and valleys... and there are plenty of places to pull over for both.

Once you hit US 395 there is color in lots of places along the route, much of it visible (sometimes in the distance) from the highway. I'll leave out a lot of the details here... and let folks explore on their own.

If the color is good when you get there — and early reports indicate at least a bit of change already — it is easy to pull over near (just a tiny bit to the north of) Conway summit before the road drops to Mono Lake. There are very large groves here that are easily photographable from 395. Depending upon your vehicle and level of comfort driving on varied roads (from paved to distinctly not-paved), there are other opportunities in this area. (The drive east to Bodie, which starts just north of here, is also quite interesting.)

Again skipping over a lot of things along the way...

There are a lot of quite accessible trees on the June Lakes loop a bit south of the turnoff to Yosemite. In general, I'd say that the best, most-accessible color is in the area roughly before and after Silver Lake, where there are quite a few trees close to the roadway, along with some impressive longer views.

Continuing on 395, you'll be able to spot more trees from this route as you head south. Bishop Creek above the town of Bishop (the North, South, and Sabrina Lakes area) has a lot of aspen potential... and is a very popular area. (Sometimes oppressively so on peak season weekends. If possible, I'd aim for a weekday in this area. )

Along this route you can stay around Bridgeport, Lee Vining (if reservations are still available on your dates), in the June Lakes are, at Mammoth Lakes, and in Bishop. Mammoth Lakes often seems to be a bit easier to reserve at this time of the year than I might expect. It is "between-seasons" there, as the summer season has wound down but the winter ski season hasn't yet ramped up. (Of interest, the road to Reds Meadow and Devils Postpone is less restricted this time of the year — though I think that there may be construction work this fall that may interfere with that. Check first.)

If things progress as usual, some good color should appear by (or a bit before) October 1 up high — for example at the upper end of the Bishop Creek area. It continues to increase over the first week or so of the month. By the second week it is starting to decline at the upper elevations but is still very good in the middle elevations and starting down low. By the third week a lot of the higher trees will be bare, but there is good color in some of the lowest, best protected groves. In general, it isn't a bad idea to target a time frame round one week into the month, plus or minus a few days.

Of course, the trees and the weather have the final say... and those things are not fully predictable.

Also, this is just a sort of quick overview and a lot of details have been omitted. If only there were a book about this. Oh, wait, there is! ;-)

Good luck.

Dan

Edited on Sep 25, 2022 at 10:12 AM · View previous versions



Sep 22, 2022 at 11:57 AM
Craig Gillette
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


I've had good results on the Virginia Lake Road (west from Conway Summit) and the Lundy Canyon area, just as you arrive to Mono Lake from the north. Lodging was plentiful in Mammoth as it wasn't close to ski season yet. We headed up to Tahoe one time and there was some color between Truckee and Kings Beach on 267 but it was much more plentiful along 89 as mentioned already at the same time.


Sep 22, 2022 at 10:44 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


I had quickly cranked out my earlier post focused on bobby350z's question about more accessible fall color in the Sierra. I had a bit more time to edit today, and I have updated that reply with some additional information.

Dan



Sep 23, 2022 at 08:47 AM
bobby350z
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


Thanks Dan and others, super helpful.


Sep 25, 2022 at 09:07 AM
bobby350z
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


Another quick one if you don't mind. Any preference between Bridgeport, Lee Vining or others for staying? Should I spend 2 days one place (Bridgeport) and 2 days another place (Mammoth lakes)? I will leave bay area on Wednesday and drive back Sunday.


Sep 25, 2022 at 10:38 AM
tsinsf
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


I prefer Lee Vining. You have options both north: Lundy Lakes, Virginia Lakes, Conway Summit, and south: Lee Vining canyon, June Lake Loop, Mammoth, McGee Creek, Lake Crowley, Bishop Creek, Big Pine, not to mention sitting right on top of Mono Lake.


Sep 25, 2022 at 11:02 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


bobby350z wrote:
Another quick one if you don't mind. Any preference between Bridgeport, Lee Vining or others for staying? Should I spend 2 days one place (Bridgeport) and 2 days another place (Mammoth lakes)? I will leave bay area on Wednesday and drive back Sunday.


I'd generally prefer the more southern location of Lee Vining. There can be a lot of color not far from Bridgeport, but a lot of it requires some rough road driving. There's more accessible stuff form Lee Vining south.

If I were to recommend one area to go to on a short trip it would probably be the Bishop Creek area that leads to road-ends at North, South, and Sabrina Lakes. Because of the large elevation variation here, it is a fairly reliable location for fall color — it starts high in the drainage and then works its way down over several weeks.

For this location, unless you book up in the mountains at a place like Parchers or Cardinal Resort, your best bet is to book a place in Bishop. The drive up to the color is not that long, and there are lots of places to stay and eat. Things do book up here during peak color, so I'd reserve right away... and consider a weekday if you can.

Dan



Sep 25, 2022 at 04:00 PM
bobby350z
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Eastern Sierra Fall color updates


Dan - thanks again.


Sep 25, 2022 at 04:31 PM







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