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Best Places to See Fall Foliage in California with Kids

Best Places to See California Fall Foliage

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.

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June Lake

Photo courtesy

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 Fall Color

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.

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Read all about family friendly lodging and activities in Yosemite.


Julian Fall Color

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.

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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.

Best Spots to View Fall Foliage with Kids in:

Northern and Central California | Southern California | Utah | Texas| Tennessee| New England | North Carolina | Ohio | Pennsylvania | Oregon | Washington



18 Responses to Best Places to See Fall Foliage in California with Kids

  1. Kim September 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    All great suggestions. Just note that Yosemite Falls doesn’t have any water this time of year. We went last year in September to show my mom, and we pointed to where the water ought to be.

  2. Amie O'Shaughnessy October 5, 2010 at 4:29 am #

    That June Lake photo is incredible. I’ve never been to the Eastern Sierras over the fall months but hear it is amazing … on my must-see list! Thanks for sharing the info.

  3. Lisa Bergren October 5, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    Mmm, good reminder that California has her own special brand of Autumn to glory in!

  4. Mara October 5, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    OK, I hadn’t ever thought about visiting California in the fall, but you’ve convinced me and my New England prejudices!

  5. Jennifer October 6, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    Okay, I live in Southern California, and all I see today (it’s October) are palm trees and chaparral. I miss fall foliage, though; guess I should head even further south to San Diego County like you recommended!

  6. Anna October 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Wow, June Lake looks AMAZING! These are great recommendations for California (somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit)

  7. Elizabeth October 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    You mention san diego but you don’t give the specific town…Do you mean Julian? Thanks!

  8. Sharon September 24, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Great pictures and places to visit. Please check-out Plumas County and Lassen Volcanic National Park. Fall colors are just starting. We have many different elevations so the colors last longer. Add on hiking in the park, fishing at Lake Almanor or Bucks Lake and the County wide Barn Quilt Tour. Lots of festivals scheduled for the fall. Come make your own apple cider.

  9. Sharon September 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm #
    Please check this video on Fall Colors in the Feather River Canyon and Plumas County.

  10. Malik Ashar Azeem October 21, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    An absolutely amazing blog post. One of the better ever.

  11. John Damiano November 5, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    If you are east coast homesick and live in SoCal I suggest going to big bear and staying at the golden bear cottages. It’s great.

  12. Michael's Woodcraft November 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Absolutely stunning pictures! Fall is the best time of year for me. I spotted the turkey in your picture!

    Check our my post on our fall colors here in SC, Rich Colors of Autumn

    I enjoyed browsing around your site, lots of beautiful pictures.


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