As the page turns on another month and lemonade gives way to pumpkin spice lattes, autumn is officially knocking on the door.
One of the most obvious signs of the shifting season is the literal changing of the colors that paint our landscape. And even though California isn’t the first state most people think of when they think of fall colors, there are still plenty of places that look more like a Hallmark Movie than you might expect.
While many trees that line residential neighborhoods and some that live in city parks might offer a nice taste of the fall transition, the California Department of Parks and Recreation has a full list of state parks that offer some of the best views of fall colors, including several in Southern California.
Cooler temperatures and the return of the school year also means many of these parks are slower and less busy, providing ample opportunity for visitors to take everything at their own pace either for a daytrip or an entire weekend.
Some of the Northern California State Parks that will provide abundant fall foliage include:
Annadel State Park in Sonoma County, which features large maple trees that produce the iconic leaves that change from a soft green to a stark red.
Ed Z’berg – Sugar Pine Point State Park south of Tahoe City, which offers “some of the best color in the Tahoe area” along Highway 89.
Henry W. Coe State Park in Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties has forests on the north-facing slopes and big maple leafs that turn bright yellow and black oaks that have leaves that can turn red. October is usually the best month to enjoy the colors in this park, Parks and Rec officials say.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park south of Eureka has big leaf maples, Oregon ash, dogwood, black oaks, red alder, white alder, cottonwood – and poison oak, which has vines that change from “green to red leaves and can look beautiful climbing up a tree trunk,” officials say.
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park northeast of Redding in Shasta County is home to big leaf maple, various deciduous oaks, redbud, California black oak, Oregon white oak, white alder, Pacific dogwood, Oregon ash, vine maple, buck brush, deer brush, red flowering currant, and squaw bush, officials say. Mid-October is when the colors are most vibrant.
Fall Colors in Southern California
While Southern California is known more for its palms and Joshua trees rather than big leafy oaks and maples, there are a few good places to catch the changing colors.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park northeast of San Diego is home to black oak with leaves that turn a “nice golden yellow.”
Mount San Jacinto State Park in Idyllwild is a relatively short drive for L.A. residents, but prepared for high altitude with the possibility of some snow on the ground.
Palomar Mountain State Park in San Diego County features a “nice autumn vista of bracken fern in the meadows turning a rich golden brown against the dark green of adjacent forests.”
Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area in San Bernardino County boasts an autumn vista of black oaks nestled in pines. The best place to see changing colors is off Interstate 15, east Highway 138, past Highway 143 out of Hesperia.
For a longer list of Fall Color spotting locations at California’s state parks, click here.