When families think of great destinations to view fall foliage, California is not typically the first state that comes to mind. More often than not, people head to the eastern half of the country to witness New England’s dramatic color, or The Great Smokey Mountains ablaze with reds, oranges, and browns. Lucky for us west coasters, there are still plenty of great places to experience autumn’s splendor without hopping a plane and battling the “leafer” crowds. Here are a few of my favorite spots for seeing California fall foliage in the Golden State.
There are few places in California more beautiful than the Eastern Sierra in the fall. Quaking aspens flanking June Lake seem to glow as the sunlight penetrates their leaves. There is just something about the granite covered mountainside reflecting in the lake with fiery trees highlighting the foreground that keeps drawing people back to June Lake year after year. Come early in the season before the snowfall begins and the area around the lake loses its flashiness and takes on its winter coat.
Read more about where to stay and what to do while visiting the Eastern Sierra with Kids.
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
Seeing the fall colors in Napa Valley is an experience unto itself. Wineries are just finished celebrating “the crush” and the night air is distinctively crisp. In between stops at wineries (yes, there are plenty of family friendly wineries out there), be sure to walk a trail or two in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. The big leafed maple are gorgeous and sound so wonderful crunching underfoot.
Read about all the activities and lodging suggestions in Wine Country with kids on Trekaroo.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is like the prom queen. She never had a bad hair day and always looks picture perfect. No matter what the season is, Yosemite never stops short of wowing whoever graces her presence. While many of the trees in the park are evergreen, there are still maples, oaks, and dogwoods to spice up the scenery come mid-October. The fall weather makes for nice mid-afternoon strolls on the parks hiking trails.
Read all about family friendly lodging and activities in Yosemite.
Yes, there really is fall color in San Diego County! At 4,000 feet in elevation, palm trees and sandy beaches give way to Julian‘s mountain air, apple orchards, and some wonderful opportunities for leaf peeping. This historic mining town is a great place for Southern California natives to get a taste of fall without having to hop on a plane. Grab a cup of hot apple cider and enjoy the view before heading back on down the mountain and into the land of endless summers.
California’s capital is filled with more than high rises and legislature. It is also a city with over 110,000 city-owned trees (and many more privately owned), which makes for quite a vibrant spectacle come fall. When I lived in Sacramento, I absolutely loved taking the bridge over the river and gazing down at the beautiful trees below. My kids loved jumping in piles of leaves in city parks and searching for the biggest maple leaves bigger than their tiny faces. If you can pick any season to visit the City of Trees, make it the autumn.
Read all about where to go and where to stay while in Sacramento with kids.
Samuel P Taylor State Park
15 miles west of San Rafael, the Bay Area crowds are non-existent and coastal redwoods intermingle with oaks and firs to create a lovely fall spectacle come late October. Samuel P Taylor State Park in Marin County is a great place to hike, bike, and enjoy the golds and browns popping against the evergreens. Pt Reyes National Seashore is just down the road and an especially nice place to take in the sunset this time of year.
Interested in visiting the North Bay? Then be sure to check out all of our suggestions for family friendly lodging and activities in the Bay Area.