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Fall Colors

Fall Colors

“The longest fall color show in North America,” ~ John Poimiroo,

Fall Colors in Bishop’s Big Backyard

Congratulations! This fall color guide will help you discover and monitor elusive and overlooked fall colors in the Eastern Sierra quickly and easily. Many visitors read the information below and tell us they benefit greatly from it. Like other fall leaf peepers, you can benefit as well.

>> Download to your phone & enjoy an on the go Color Guide to Fall

Basically, botanical experts will tell you that fall colors are difficult to predict any given year. Much depends on how low temperatures drop in the high country. Aspens have a biological clock geared toward day length and nighttime temperature. Typically, with the weather getting warmer, it seems that fall colors in the high country now begin in early September, maybe a bit earlier. Generally, the first week or two of October is a good bet to come up for high country colors but there are no guarantees with nature.

Also, fall colors are not necessarily uniform in the Eastern Sierra. For example, fall colors may be at or close to peak color at one geographic location while another spot elsewhere may be just beginning to change color. For example, a place like Rock Creek Lake may have brilliant peak color while South lake is just beginning to turn color. Commit yourself to consistently check the information below and you will find beautiful photogenic fall color.

Typically, the trees lose their leaves later in October as color moves down into the valley extending the fall colors season into November. But an Indian Summer can extend high country foliage longer. Wind plays a role as well in how fast the leaves drop.

Many fall leaf peepers read the fall color blog posts published on our website and find the area’s best color locations after reading them. These posts will enhance your experience greatly.

Most importantly, we recommend you monitor the progression of fall colors from the beginning by September on the many websites that provide updated reports for our area. Then when color looks good at locations you desire to visit, drive up to the area immediately before the color ends. Experienced fall foliage guests follow, our current color report below and Mono County fall color guide, all of which give you real time fall colors information so you can come up when the colors are best.

We recommend you stop at our chamber office when you come to town to pick up a complimentary fall color guide in print and treasure map. It can save you some time since we attempt to keep up with fall colors as they change. We are located at 690 N. Main, in the A-frame building across from Carl’s Junior Drive In. When you are here, take a few minutes to look at an awesome new book entitled California Fall Color. We have read it and it is outstanding! It guides you to the fall color locations along Highway 395, Yosemite, and around South Lake Tahoe. Fall color enthusiasts love this book. We have a display copy available for guests to review.

Everything You Need for a Fabulous Fall Color Experience

Click on each toggle bar below for details on what, where, how, why and more.

What & Why
Fall colors Bishop Creek South Fork

Bishop Creek South Fork. Photo: David Wolfe

Historically, fall was the season of the harvest, when farmers gathered crops to put in storage for the winter season. Festivals and celebrations often marked the harvest as a testament to the commitment and strength of those working the land and in gratitude to mother nature. Autumn was the season to celebrate achievement.

Autumn is now more commonly referred to as fall. It is characterized by the splendid visual display that precipitates the falling of the leaves from the trees. No matter how often we witness it, it is always remarkable for its beauty and significance to the passage of time.

When the air cools and summer turns to autumn the leaves begin to change color and an abundance of yellow, orange, red, russet and gold is presented in the forests near Bishop.

Why do leaves change color?

Leaves are the food producing parts of plants and the process by which they do this is called photosynthesis – meaning, “to put together with light.” The catalyst required for photosynthesis in all plants is the chemical chlorophyll. It is a green pigment most abundant in leaf cells.

In the presence of chlorophyll, the plant uses sunlight (or artificial light) to synthesize carbon dioxide and water to produce sugars. The sugars produced through photosynthesis are the food source for the plant that sustain it and allow it to grow.

During the summer growing season leaves appear green because of the high concentration of chlorophyll, which masks the other pigments also present within the leaf. As the hours of daylight decrease the production of chlorophyll slows and eventually stops. The other colors, predominantly yellow and orange, begin to emerge.

Plants produce far more food than they need to survive and the overabundance of sugars in the leaf are an additional factor that contributes to the color change. A good growing season in summer and the right balance and of light and temperature during autumn will result in the reds emerging with greater intensity.

Fall Colors

Golden Aspens

What trees grow and change color in the Eastern Sierra?

The principal players in this spectacular display of color are aspen, willow, and cottonwood trees. The mountain alder, a shrub belonging to the birch family, participates too. In a very few stands where it occurs, the California black oak adds a rich color to the palette.

When & Where
Fall colors Cardinal Village Bishop, CA

Cardinal Village near peak. Photo: Gigi de Jong

When does it happen and how long does it take?

The color change can begin a few days to a week or more before the autumnal equinox, on or about September 22nd each year.  Weather plays a large role throughout the year. The amount of sunlight and water and the temperature levels during the growing and slowing season are major factors that affect the hues, rate of change, intensity, and duration of color that occur during autumn.

When is the best time to visit?

From mid-September to well into November.

Fall is long in the Eastern Sierra. The topography of the region provides a slow shift into winter that starts first at the higher elevations and descends slowly over the open plains of the Owens Valley below. Temperatures cool quicker at the higher elevations and sunlight is further reduced as shadows are cast when the sun drops behind the crest of the Sierra Nevada earlier each day. The cooling begins in September as daytime temperatures decrease significantly up high, while summer still seems ever-present in the valley.

The color change begins high too – first in the canyons and alongside lakes and streams in the mountains high above Bishop. Then it flows down into the Owens Valley many weeks later as the nights grow shorter and temperatures colder.

Fall Colors in Bishop Creek Canyon. Photo: @alexfitchphoto

Where is the best place to see fall colors?

Bishop Creek Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in the state, if not the country, to witness this magnificent display. A short drive west from Bishop on State Route 168 (W. Line Street) will take you up into the canyon where there are innumerable places to see the changing colors of the forest.

The entire canyon comprises three forks of Bishop Creek – north, middle and south fork. A large lake marks the head of each fork, North Lake on north fork; Lake Sabrina on middle fork; and South Lake on south fork, with numerous other smaller lakes along the creeks.

The road winds up through the groves of aspen and willow with ever changing views as you drive. Exploration on foot from any of the turnouts and trailheads will take you deep into the explosion of color.

Who & How

Fall photographer near Lake Sabrina

Fall color spotting is accessible and magical for folks of all ages and abilities. Good paved roads wind up into the mountains of the Eastern Sierra, where deciduous trees line the roadway and large groves spread out along the mountainside. Trails add an opportunity to get up close and personal with the foliage of the forests. Some are easy and others require a little more time and effort, but all are greatly rewarding.

A few tips when driving in the area during this season:

  • Drivers of all types of vehicles should use low gears when descending down the mountain. Use brakes intermittently. All road users must obey speed limits and posted signage, as well as mandated vehicle and driver regulations.
  • Stay in your lane at all times as there are many blind corners. Be aware of slow-moving vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and animals – especially during sunrise and sunset when the latter are often on the roadway.
  • Always use an obvious turnout when stopping and pull completely off the roadway
  • Attempt to stop or park in a space that is out of the line of photography for yourself and other photographers.

Some things to think about when hiking here:

  • Dress in layers, carry plenty of water and snacks, wear sunscreen and a hat, and take insect repellent – especially during sunset hours.
  • Please always stay on trails where designated and do not cut switchbacks. If some cross-country is necessary (hiking where no trail exists) please don’t crush the brush.
  • Uphill hikers have right of way.
  • Pack out everything you pack in.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
Links & Things

Monitor the progression of fall colors on these great websites to plan your fall color trip perfectly:

Download our fall color guide which has tons of info and may answer many of your questions:

Take a look at this informative video about fall colors:

Before you decide to take a drive up to North Lake, take a look at this video to see if this experience is for you.

Fall colors South Lake Road above Mountain Glen campground

South Lake Road above Mountain Glen campground near peak. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Current Color Report

The following areas are updated weekly for color in the general vicinity of each area. Check this report weekly to choose a time and destination for fall color spotting.

Color Guide:

  • Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Patchy (10-50-%)
  • Near Peak (50-75%)
  • Peak (75-100%)
  • Past Peak

As soon as the first reports of color change come in we will keep this page updated for a broad overview of what’s turning where. For detailed information on specific locations within these areas visit

The Bishop area from up in the Bishop Creek Canyon down along Rock Creek and Pine Creek canyons, across Round Valley, throughout the City of Bishop, and along the Owens River and canals had a marvelous 2019 Fall Color season. We had a week of peak from 9,100′ down to 4,100′.

“That’s 5,000′ of PEAK along Bishop Creek!” said John Poimiroo,

Plan your visit for Eastern Sierra Fall Colors by reviewing all the information on this page and be ready for next season!

Fall Color Hotspot Map

Hover over each leaf to see a representative image, then click to jump to the full description.

Click here to download Fall Color hotspot map PDF.

South Lake

South Lake dam

South Lake Rd.

Near Parchers Resort

South Lake Rd.

Near Tyee Lakes Trailhead

Lake Sabrina

Early Fall Aspens below dam

Cardinal Village

View from overlook

Intake II

Early Fall

Grass Lake

Late Fall

North Lake

Early Fall

Pine Creek Canyon

Fall Cottonwoods

Lower Rock Creek

Hike and bike trail


Recreation Area

Round Valley

Rural fall countryside

Izaak Walton Park

Green & gold late afternoon


Old growth forest

Owens River

Fields of gold

Fall Color Hotspot Map

Click image to download the Fall Color Hotspot Map PDF.
Scroll down for details about Fall Colors in each area.

Early September to Early October: Above 8,000′

Bishop Creek Canyon is one of the most spectacular places for fall colors in California – if not the country. It is a large area of about 30 square miles where the North, Middle, and South Forks of Bishop Creek drain down toward the Owens Valley. At the head of each fork is a large lake, North Lake, Lake Sabrina at middle, and South Lake. Numerous other smaller lakes lie along the creeks.

A short journey of no more than 20 miles west of Bishop on CA Highway 168 will take you well into the rugged high country. This is the place to start your fall color spotting. From a few days to a week or more before the autumnal equinox, which occurs every year on September 22nd or 23rd and occasionally on either the 21st or 24th, the color change can begin.

Witness the spread of color that begins high above the lakes in the upper reaches of the canyon. The views at each lake basin are mesmerizing for the sheer magnitude of the surrounding crags and the swaths of brilliant color that appear to flow out of the rock toward the deep blue water like lava.

A fall afternoon in Bishop Creek Canyon is a riot of color. The air is clear and refreshing. Soft clouds might sweep across the sky. Cumulus might build with the late afternoon heat then dissipated as the cool winds aloft scatter them about. A sudden thunderstorm might deliver flashes of lightning and a quick, cooling downpour. Often these end as quickly as they start, but sometimes they can be fierce and sustained. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather.

Visit each of the lakes from mid-September to early October. As the days shorten spend time in the groves that line the roads to these lakes and on the paths into the adjacent wilderness. Exploration on foot from any of the turnouts and trailheads will take you deep into the explosion of color.

Overhanging branch Bishop Creek near Parchers.

Overhanging branch Bishop Creek near Parchers. Photo: Gigi de Jong

South Lake road near Tyee trailhead, late afternoon early fall.

South Lake road near Tyee trailhead, late afternoon early fall. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Tyee Lakes trailhead to Parchers Resort hike map

Tyee Lakes trailhead to Parchers Resort hike

Wildflower trail at South Lake map

Wildflower trail at South Lake

South Lake

In early fall, mid- to late-September, the swathes of color are almost uniformly yellow with hints of orange and red. The deep green forest of pines alongside the road appears to glow from within – as if the forest floor is lit from beneath. At South Lake the gray granite rises up stark and craggy in contrast to the bright yellow that sparkles like sweet lemon drops offered by gently waving branches. As the season continues the color deepens in the ravines and tree branches overhanging the creeks look like they’re testing the water and have seared to warm orange and crimson. Near the season’s end the leaves begin to show signs of decay with brown spots scattered about. The deepest fall colors may materialize in abundance if the growing season has been good. The approach of wintery weather patterns is heralded by high wispy cirrus clouds overhead.

Head west on CA Highway 168 W (W. Line St.) for 15 miles and turn left on South Lake Rd. In 7-miles you will reach the parking area for the lake and trailheads. Along the way numerous turnouts and parking areas will provide incredible views of the canyons that will be awash with fall color.

Turnouts near these locations are some of the best spots for viewing and photographing fall colors along S. Lake Rd.: Bishop Creek Lodge area, Mountain Glen campground, Tyee Lakes trailhead, Willow campground, Weir Pond, Parchers Resort, S. Lake parking lot.

A couple of short, easy hikes in this area will get you into the forest or higher up for more great perspectives on the changing colors.

Hike: Tyee Lakes trailhead to Parchers Resort
  • Rating: moderate
  • Length: 1 mile one way
  • Elevation change: +300 ft

Park at Tyee Lakes trailhead, then carefully cross the road to begin the hike at the entrance to Willow campground. This one-mile hike traverses the mountainside, near the creek, and through the groves of aspen on the east side of the road. There’s about 50 ft of elevation gain in the first half mile, then it climbs another 250 ft for the remaining half mile as it follows the contour of the river. Return to your vehicle back down this trail, or walk single file facing oncoming traffic along the edge of the roadway, or perhaps designate a driver for a pick-up near Parchers Resort. Two small turnouts near the resort entrance provide limited parking for hikers. Considerate fall leaf peepers do not park in the resort or block the entrance.

This picturesque mountain retreat is open during summer from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October. The fall colors are a magnificent backdrop behind the rustic archway and well-appointed cabins.

Hike: Wildflower trail
  • Rating: easy
  • Length: .55 mile loop
  • Elevation change: +227ft, -227ft

A half-mile loop hike above South Lake begins at the north side and highest point of the parking area. This easy hike can even be shorter, just ¼ mile, without the out-and-back stem. There’s a super sweet spot for an early evening, fall picnic at a rustic picnic table set in a clearing under a large pine tree. This clearing is just 200 feet from the trailhead and has a grand view of the lake and craggy Sierra crest opposite. If you hike the extra ¼ mile cherry stem, you’ll have an even grander view of the area and a bird’s eye view of the dam and spillway. Then loop back around the edge of the parking area for a little more forest time.

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Cardinal Village

Toward the end of September and into early October the spill of yellow, orange and crimson descend further down the canyon. The large groves of aspen surrounding Cardinal Village Resort and the tiny settlement of Aspendell seem to herald the holiday season. Every view and image are picture postcard perfect.

On CA Highway 168 W. (W. Line St.) the small town of Aspendell and Cardinal Village Resort are just 17 miles from Bishop. Along the way a few picturesque spots are at Intake II and Bishop Creek campground.

Hike: Intake II loop
  • Rating: easy
  • Length: .86 mile loop
  • Elevation change: +120ft, -120ft

A turn off on the left on the way up CA-168, one mile beyond the S. Lake Rd. turn off and one mile before Aspendell, is the access to the parking area for Intake II. This popular fishing lake is fed by the middle fork of Bishop Creek. A loop hike of a under 1-mile, with only 120 feet of elevation change, skirts the water’s edge and crosses the dam at the lowest point.

Where the creek tumbles down the steep ravine the moister, riparian corridor creates a perfect environment for deciduous and evergreen trees. The color combinations of leaves, rock, water and sky create perfect vistas for viewing and photography.

Hike: Cardinal Mine & Falls
  • Rating: moderate (plus technical scramble)
  • Length: 1.25 miles out and back to the mine, or 1.5 miles out and back to the mine plus a scramble to the waterfall
  • Elevation change: 198” to the mine, or 316” to the mine and waterfall

One mile beyond Intake II is Cardinal Rd. that will take you to Cardinal Village Resort nestled in this deep, colorful valley. The resort and the now-abandoned mine have a long and interesting history. The Cardinal Café is a sweet spot for breakfast, coffee or lunch and hike out to the mine or nearby waterfall will show you scenes that can hardly be matched.

Begin at the resort parking lot and walk between the restored old buildings and out into the trees that line the creek. About 1/3 mile cross the stream at your own risk. Follow the trail alongside the stream to the old Cardinal Mine site. On the way back take little detour higher up the scree field and into the trees that hug the steep canyon where the water cascades down from North Lake above. There is some rock scrambling along this section to get up close to the falls. Read more about this waterfall and many others in our region here.

About 120 feet on the roadway above the valley and the resort is a panoramic view from a large turnout with ample safe parking.

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Fall colors Cardinal Village Bishop, CA

Cardinal Village near peak. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Intake II loop map

Intake II loop

Cardinal Mine and Falls hike map

Cardinal Mine & Falls hike

North Lake in early fall.


Grass Lake. Bishop, CA.

Grass Lake. Photo: Julie Faber

North Lake Rim trail map

North Lake Rim trail

Grass Lake hike map

Grass Lake hike

North Lake

A late afternoon drive to North Lake is sublime. A further 1.2-miles from Cardinal Rd. on CA-168 is North Lake Rd. The road crosses a narrow bridge then dips through a grove of willow and aspen that shake and shimmer like suspended gold confetti.  Continuing steeply up the mountainside it rounds a bend and levels out along a gravelly traverse with an impressive view down into the canyon below that is not for the faint of heart.

Then with one more short sweeping turn you’ll find yourself enclosed under a shining arbor of fall colored aspens. It feels quite ceremonious to drive through this glowing tree tunnel and emerge from this short passage with your heart lightened and spirit uplifted.

Photographers will stake out their places hours in advance for the perfect sunrise or sunset shot at North Lake. Do you or have you used Mac OS High Sierra? Have you ever wondered where the software wallpaper image was taken? This is the spot! North Lake in fall colors. Come see it for yourself.

Before you decide to drive up take a look at this video of the drive to North Lake to see if this experience is for you.

Hike: North side rim trail out and back
  • Rating: easy – moderate
  • Length: .38 mile one way
  • Elevation change: +167ft, -170ft

There are two parking areas near the lake and by the pack station. If you plan to hike the rim of the lake, park in the second lot. A trail flanks the last section of road for .15 mile then meanders up into the trees that border the edge of the lake for another .25 mile. A short section of about 200 ft long climbs steeply up a rocky scree and around the trees that border the lake thickly. A anglers’ trail may be navigable along the water’s edge depending on the lake level. The last bit drops down toward the natural dam where the water flows out, onward, then plunges down the ravine into Cardinal Village. Depending on the foliage you could be rewarded with intense close ups or immense scenes or both.

Hike: Grass Lake
  • Rating: moderate – strenuous
  • Length: 1.68 mile one way
  • Elevation change: +744ft, -147ft

This hike begins with an approach from the hiker parking area to the campground of just over ½-mile. It is just as beautiful walking along the road in this impressive locale as it is hiking in the deep forest. In fact, the walk along the roadways here is often all anyone needs to see to enjoy the fall splendor. One mile further and about 750 feet of elevation gain will take you through the deep forest and to a splendid small, high Sierra lake named Grass Lake. There will be sights, sounds, and smells of the changing of the season that will delight all your senses.

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Lake Sabrina

At end of the road, CA Highway 168 W., sits the beautiful Lake Sabrina. Locals pronounce the name ‘Suh-BRY-nuh.’ The lake was named after Mrs. Sabrina (suh-BREE-nuh) Hobbs, wife of C.M. Hobbs first General Manager of California Nevada Power Company, which built the dam. When and why the pronunciation morphed to Suh-BRY-nuh in later years is unknown, but saying it the local way will give you some clout with locals.

Many sweet spots along the road offer moments of magic where colors blend and pop to highlight the natural landscape. Reflections on rippling ponds create impressionist effects worthy of Claude Monet. The grandeur of the lake and the contours of the craggy mountains are accentuated by the patches of color where trees cling to the rocky mountainside in colorful defiance of gravity.

When the shadows play over the landscape the colors seem to change from within. Sunlight brightens the yellows and shade deepens the oranges and reds. Every vista has something magical about it. When you really stop to look around you may find something you’ve never seen before.

Whether you take a leisurely walk across the dam or hike the lakeside trail, step inside the Lake Sabrina Café and get a treat of homemade pie, ice cream, and hot cocoa.

Hike: Sabrina Lakeside
  • Rating: moderate – strenuous
  • Length: 1.36 mile one way
  • Elevation change: +619ft, -255ft

This is one of the best fall color hikes in this area. It offers epic views of a deep blue lake surrounded by rugged mountains and tall granite spires that rise steeply into a soft blue sky. The trail climbs well above the water level as it weaves in and out of evergreen and deciduous forest. It crosses small streams that may still be carrying meltwater from above into the lake below. At a stream crossing where the trail begins to climb up and away from the lake, at the southern end, is a good place to turn around and head back down. A few vantage points along this hike may provide a long look across the lake to the large cascade opposite. Wildlife is abundant in the region. Perhaps you’ll see a marmot or two, a bald eagle or perhaps even a nesting pair, and many birds and pollinators. Mosquitos season should have abated, but bring an insect repellent along just in case.

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Sabrina Lakeside trail map

Sabrina Lakeside trail

Late September to Late October: 6,000′ – 8,000′

Lower Rock Creek is iridescent in fall.

Lower Rock Creek is iridescent in fall. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Riding Lower Rock Creek trail.

Riding Lower Rock Creek trail. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Lower Rock Creek trail map

Lower Rock Creek trail

Lower Rock Creek Canyon

Fall color spills abundantly down all the canyons of the Eastern Sierra. As the season progresses, around mid-October, Lower Rock Creek canyon north of Bishop is the place to go for a scenic drive. For a more adventurous view of the changing season here, hike or bike the trail alongside the creek in this colorful canyon.

This is a lovely auto tour loop from the Bishop Visitor Center and back. It’s 46 miles and about 1-hour drive time. From Bishop drive north on US Highway 395 to the upper junction of Lower Rock Creek Rd. Turn left and follow the winding road down alongside Lower Rock Creek, then up and over Sherwin Summit on the Old Sherwin Grade. Descend down the sweeping old grade road that presents an expansive vista of the basin, Mt. Tom, and Wheeler ridge. Stop often and step out of your car to take in all the sensations of a sweet fall morning or afternoon. Return to Bishop south along US-395. Later in October you could extend your drive up into Pine Creek Canyon and out through Round Valley. More on these below.

Hike or Bike: Lower Rock Creek trail – Top

  • Rating: easy one way, or moderate to strenuous as an out and back or with return along the road
  • Length: 2.15 miles one way down
  • Elevation change: +134ft, -593ft
  • Time to hike or bike: About 1.5 – 2 hours whatever way you choose

Lower Rock Creek is the golden trail. When the aspens near the top of the trail turn yellow, early in the season, parts of the trail may appear luminous. During late afternoon, the last rays of the setting sun drop like liquid gold through the canopy of leaves leaving traces of iridescent color on the ripples of water in the creek beneath. Willows and water birch stand out in hues of deep gold and burnt orange.

Begin a hike or bike ride from the top of Lower Rock Creek Rd. near the junction of US-395. Park in the clearing on the west side, carefully cross the road, and step down onto the trail where it cuts though the bushes. This single-track trail is popular with mountain bikers and has a few technical spots for bikes, but it can be a high-speed ride. It’s an easy hike, with a few rocky steps here and there. Hikers should remain vigilant for sounds of bikers, especially around blind corners. Whether you go for the mountain bike challenge or just an easy walk, Lower Rock Creek will leave you breathless for its beauty.

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Pine Creek Canyon

Pine Creek canyon is a spectacular example of a deep glacial canyon. The canyon walls rise high and steeply on either side and the mouth is bordered by glacial moraines. A drive up this canyon near late October is a fabulous fall adventure. From Bishop head north on US-395 for 10.3-miles to the junction of Pine Creek Rd. Turn left and follow the road for 9.5-mies to its end at the Pine Creek Trailhead.

Mid-afternoon in Pine Creek Canyon in early fall is still warm and green. The sky is deep blue above the towering walls of the canyon. The sound of the burbling creek flowing below is quiet and soothing. A few cottonwood trees begin to show their changing colors, but it the sunshine-yellow rabbitbrush that is in full bloom in early fall. The road is lined with thick bushes of brilliant yellow flowers. Driving up toward the head of this impressive glacial canyon feels quite triumphant with a fall color guard lining the street.

At its peak in late fall, Pine Creek Canyon hosts one of the best displays of the changing colors of the large cottonwood trees that grow abundantly in large groves alongside the creek. The two primary colors, yellow and blue, dominate this canyon in the bright sunshine of a late fall day. At the head of the canyon, higher up on the steep-sided, rock-scoured slopes, small knots of young aspen hold onto their color as tightly as they hold onto the mountainside.

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Pine Creek Canyon.

Pine Creek Canyon. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Late October – Early November: Below 6,000′

Round Valley old barn

Round Valley old barn. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Round Valley

Lower down, where the canyons opens up to the broad Owens Valley below, the trees are sparse, but the color creeps relentlessly through the ubiquitous high desert scrub. Take a lazy afternoon drive around Round Valley and visit the Millpond Recreation Area. Experience a magical blend of autumnal color with other aspects of this rural community. There are lovely stands of large cottonwoods in picturesque spots and the yellow rabbit brush in full bloom at this time of year complements the trees beautifully. There are counterpoints such as bulrushes along the creeks, an apple tree here and there, a few farm animals dotted about, and some old structures with exquisite patina. The huge Sierra Nevada fills the background like a staged setting for an epic drama.

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City of Bishop

Well into October, all through the city of Bishop, large individual trees in yards and fields become an iridescent yellow and slowly turn to deep orange and brilliant red. Trees full of color poke out from above rooftops and gather in front yards, like neighbors catching up on the latest gossip.  A slow drive, easy bike ride, or leisurely walk along West Line St. (the route that takes you up to Bishop Creek Canyon) will show off an assortment of fall color. Izaak Walton Park is lovely any time of day and the ‘mini’ forest on the corner at Reata Road has a wonderful radiance in the early morning and late afternoon. Every neighborhood street is glowing with color. They all seem adamant to outshine one another.

By late-October the color has permeated the town and seeped into the large cottonwood trees that dot the emerald green grounds of the Bishop Country Club. It is where the luscious green of the fairways meets the lustrous yellow of the trees. Soon the beautiful grounds of this country club will blend the last colors of summer with the riotous color of fall. Then, if we’re lucky, a blanket of white will soften everything into the monochromatic colors of winter. Get ready for the most beautiful round of golf – anywhere!

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Izaak Walton Park

Izaak Walton Park. Photo: Gigi de Jong

City of Bishop, W. Line St.

City of Bishop, W. Line St. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Large cottonwood grove near the Owens River.

Large cottonwood grove near the Owens River. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Owens Valley. Old silo in a wild field.

Owens Valley. Old silo in a wild field. Photo: Gigi de Jong

Owens River & Canals

By late October the magnificent cottonwood trees scattered all across the Owens Valley floor are adorned with yellow crowns. They cluster in groups and stand in lines like partygoers, dressed in their golden finery, at an Autumn Harvest Ball. Every open field, where water courses along canals or spreads out in marshy tracts, hosts these radiant trees. The old, abandoned grain silos, that rise like ghosts from a forgotten era seem to stand like sentinels over fields of pure sunshine. The golden California grasses mixed with blossoming yellow rabbitbrush and cottonwoods swathed in cloaks of yellow are filled with the sounds of birds and bees.

On the east side of Bishop, in the wide-open spaces near the Owens River, are where the larger groups congregate. These groves are wild and wonderful and really show the passage time. Younger trees stand shoulder to shoulder with mature trees, showing off their strength and resilience. The big, old trunks that have lost their limbs and their shimmering coats, still play a part in the cycle of life out here.

In early November the foliage will show the telltale signs of winter approaching, ranging from fully yellow with burnished orange tips to an overall bronzed orange. Thick creeping vines turn a deep fiery red where they curl around gnarled old wooden fence posts and dead trees.

A high point along Eastside Rd. that runs along the base of the White Mountains provides a panoramic view of the Owens River valley and the Sierra Nevada beyond. Early morning and sunset are magnificent out here. The creek, marshes and ponds along Buckley Ponds Rd. have abundant birdlife and the reeds are a shimmering copper color. 

There are signs and sounds of life everywhere. There are deer in the canyon and birds in the trees. Stand quietly and feel the energy of life as is shifts from one season to the next. 

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Be sure to add #VISITBISHOP and #RECREATERESPONSIBLY to your Eastern Sierra Fall Color treasure hunts so we can find them!!