Photography By: Jeremy Swanson
Photography By: Jeremy Swanson

A West-Coaster’s Guide to Fall Foliage

5 Places Californians Can Travel to See the Changing Leaves This Autumn

The transition from summer to fall welcomes in cooler days, feelings of comfort and the stunning scene of changing leaves. While most California locals don’t experience a true “fall” season, there’s a select few west-coast destinations we can easily travel to in order to get the most out of fall. With tones ranging from bright yellow to burnt orange, you truly have to see it to believe it. Whether you’re hopping on a quick flight or planning a road trip to these destinations, pack your plaid coat, get ready to sip your warm cider and prepare to experience the best autumn views that aren’t on the east coast. Fall Weekend Trips

 

1 | Snowmass, CO 

Where to Stay: Limelight Hotel Snowmass, Viceroy Snowmass
Where to Eat: The Edge at the Timberline Condominiums, The Stew Pot, The Crepe Shack
What to Do: Explore the Lost Forest, go rafting on the Roaring Fork River, downhill mountain bike on the Snowmass’ IMBA Gold-Level ride center and attend the Snowmass Balloon Festival. 

Californians can experience a true fall by heading directly to colorful Colorado. Only about a two-hour flight from LAX to ASE (Aspen/Pitkin County Airport), you’re able to maximize your time here—even if you just have a weekend to explore! Snowmass is a mountain paradise where you can catch a glistening glimpse of fall if you plan it right. Head here from mid-September to early October to see the golden tones of the changing leaves. With the crisp mountain air, you’re transported to a magical fall escape filled with hiking, biking, reimagined hotels and great restaurants. Don’t miss out on the famous Maroon Bells hike, which is one of the most photographed mountains in all of North America, and visiting at this time of year is a must. While summer and winter are both popular times to visit this charming mountain town, autumn offers a secret season where the crowds are at a minimum. Not to mention, Aspen is only a 20-minute bus ride away—and the public transportation here is fast, clean and so convenient. 

Fall Weekend Trips

2 | Hope Valley, CA

Where to Stay: Wylder Hope Valley
Where to Eat: Sorensen’s Cafe, Kirkwood Inn and Saloon
What to Do: Fly fish, stargaze, hike and explore Lake Tahoe.

In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, about 20 minutes from South Lake Tahoe, exists the town of Hope Valley. Plan to visit in October for some of the best fall foliage California has to offer. With aspen trees that will transition to golden, orange and crimson colors, connect with nature and take in the beautiful views with a stay at Wylder Hope Valley. Choose among staying in a cozy, Nordic-designed cabin, a spacious yurt or a reimagined Airstream. Disconnect before the madness of the upcoming holiday season and immerse yourself in this beautiful destination. 

EXP 11/8

 

3 | Healdsburg, CA 

Where to Stay: Montage Healdsburg, Healdsburg Inn
Where to Eat: Little Saint, The Matheson, Hazel Hill
What to Do: Kayak down the Russian River, go hiking and attend the Wine & Food Affair.

Need an excuse to visit wine country? Head to Healdsburg in Sonoma County to go leaf peeping with a glass of wine in hand. The small-town charm mixed with the bright, changing leaves transports you to an east-coast autumn. Harvest season is from September through mid-November, where wineries like Jordan Vineyard and Winery will be pairing garden-fresh snacks with their prestigious wines. Make the drive up the coast or hop on a quick flight to have a relaxing weekend away this fall season.

EXP 11/14

Fall Weekend Trips

4 | Yosemite National Park, CA 

Where to Stay: The Ahwahnee, Rush Creek Lodge, various campsites
Where to Eat: The Ahwahnee Dining Room, Mountain Room Lodge
What to Do: Hike, bike, horseback ride and rock climb.

Photography By: John Ruddock on Unsplash

Take one more epic road trip this year by heading to Yosemite National Park. The stunning yellow and orange colors will take your breath away as you hike through this California National Park. With summer crowds gone, it’s another secret-season destination that will leave you in awe! Yosemite National Park has so much to explore—make sure you always have a plan, a map and extra water. 

EXP 11/7

 

5 | Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico

Where to Stay: Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, Bishop’s Lodge
Where to Eat: Modern General Feed and Seed, Shundine’s Frybread Stand, Radish & Rye 
What to Do: Explore Canyon Road, shop at Santa Fe Vintage, hike and horseback ride.

Photography By: Maddy Baker on Unsplash

Head south to New Mexico for unexpected fall foliage views. The Santa Fe National Forest is an ideal way to see the changing aspen trees turn golden. Stop at the Vista Grande Overlook to take in the Rio Grande Valley. The scenic drive takes you through Santa Fe’s downtown area with gorgeous scenery along the way. Pack your hat and get ready for a wild-west adventure! 

About the author

Taylor is a graduate from the University of Southern California with a degree in journalism. She is our Los Angeles and Orange County editor. You can find her dining at a new restaurant, in the ocean or planning her next adventure. Say hello!

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