Now I know this list is by no mean definitive and there are others who may chronicle this better than me in the references at the end but I have traveled around California a decent amount and have seen a lot of epic fallscapes. For me, it doesn’t get better than the list below. Feel free to comment your favorites at the end.
This small area of apple orchards in Southern California is one of the best places in the South for fall colors. The Oak Glen Conservancy hike is utterly beautiful all year around but especially in the fall.
Bishops Creek – South Lake
This area got split on my list into two as the Bishops Creek area as a whole is one of my favorite places in California. It is stunning in every season but even more so when the greens, yellows and even the whites (snow) mix to create a palette that looks like God himself painted it. The South Lake area has the incredible vista of South Lake as well as the road lined with changing trees.
I also love to take photos near the waterfall that you see on the left-hand side as you drive into the South Lake area. Plus, if you take the trailhead into the backcountry who knows how much fabulous fall you will see!
Bishops Creek – Lake Sabrina and North Lake
Lake Sabrina is a destination in and of itself. In the last couple of years, the lake has not been entirely full, but that does not make this area less amazing. After that head up to North Lake to see the fall colors reflecting off the lake.
Pro tip – about halfway down the road that leads to North Lake there is a turnoff that you can stop at (if no one else is there) and you can climb that small mountain in the center for a 360 vista of the area around you, this is where the above photo was taken.
Big Pine North Fork
The hike along the North Fork of Big Pine is one of the best you can do in all of California. When the fall colors are going though it is even better. Here is a post I wrote about hiking in the area.
I love this location just because the mountains create an unusual background for the lake below. When fall is setting in you can get some great colors right in this basin that will make you forget that California doesn’t have seasons.
I recommend the 3-mile loop around the lake as it will give you a bunch of opportunities to take in the colors deep yellows with the blue water and gray granite mountains
Devils Postpile National Monument
While Mammoth as a whole can have some awesome colors, I love going back into the Devils Postpile and just picking a trail and heading out. There is a lot of beautiful colors on the Rainbow Falls trail especially. It is great to see the vivid fall colors coming up from the ground in the massive barren area where the fire rolled through years earlier. Plus, there is so much to see in this park that going to the falls is a perfect way to do it. Just don’t be there for the first snow like we were if you only have a Toyota Matrix.
Hope Valley in Lake Tahoe
If you head further North from the Sierras, you can experience a fantastic fall in Hope Valley. This beautiful area is a photographers dream and is also a great place to watch the Salmon run.