Fall in the Mammoth Lakes area is a glorious spectacular time of year.The Eastern Sierra region is laced with rugged canyons carved by rushing streams and is home to some of the finest fall color viewing anywhere.
Autumn displays of golden aspen mingle with pine forest and contrast with stark granite walls.
Cottonwood and willow line stream banks and border alpine meadows. Above it all looms the towering Sierra Nevada mountain range jutting into the azure sky.
When Will Fall Colors Peak in Mammoth Lakes?
With its crisp air, cool nights and shorter days, fall is a magical season. It is often difficult to predict precisely when the peak colors of autumn will occur. The season's most brilliant colors will appear when dry, warm, sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights.
Leaves display brilliant and intense colors. Aspens, willows and cottonwoods feature vibrant hues of orange, gold and red signaling the approach of winter.
Trees in this region generally begin their annual change in late-ish September, offering the best viewing in early to mid October.
Travel to Mammoth Lakes during this uncrowded, yet stunning, time of year and enjoy the brilliant, fiery colors that fall has to offer.
Why Do the Leaves Turn Color?
Every autumn, cottonwood, quaking aspen and willow are transformed into colorful hues of gold, orange and russet. Before long, their leaves will fall and again become part of another cycle that feeds the soil. What causes this yearly cycle, and what determines which color the leaves turn?
During Spring and summer, leaves actively produce foods necessary for plant growth. This food-making process takes place in numerous cells within the leaf. Within these cells are chloroplasts, which contain the chlorophyll pigments that are responsible for the green color of plants.The leaves also contain lesser amounts of other pigments, primarily xanthophylls (yellos) and carotenoids (yellows, oranges, and reds).
Most of the year, these other pigments are masked by the greater amounts of chlorophyll present in the leaves. But in the fall, when the changes in temperature and the period of daylight occur, the leaves stop tehir food-producing activity. Soon the chlorophyll begins to break down, the gree color disapears, and the yellows, oranges, and reds slowly begin to emerge, giving the leaves their fall spendor.
Fall is locals favorite for hiking, horseback riding, fishing and exploring the local national monuments and parks.
Late September is when the pack stations in Mammoth Lakes take their horses to warmer patures for teh winter. Saddle up for a multi-day horse drive with Reds Meadow Pack Station or Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit.
Yosemite National Park
Fall is the perfect time to visit neighboring Yosemite National Park to see the changing-leaves season, not often captured on camera. The Entrance to the park is only 45 minutes away and in the fall you'll practically have the park to yourself. PLease note: The Tioga Pass road entrance to the park (access from Mammoth Lakes) is open typically through October unless it's an early snow year. Please checkroad conditions prior to arrival.
On the Web
- CaliforniaFallColor.com: Updated fall color reports from across the state.
- Fall Colors Within 30 Minutes of Mammoth Lakes
Fall Color Guides
By Mail: The Eastern High Sierra Fall Color Guide provides twenty locations to view spectacular fall colors from Big Pine Canyon in the south to Walker River Canyon in the north. To request your free copy call 888-GO-Mammoth. Pick one up at the California Welcome Center - Mammoth Lakes located on Hwy 203 at the entrance to town.
Downloadable Fall Color Pocket Guide
Download this free, printable pockets guide with nine of the top viewing areas within a 30 minute drive from Mammoth Lakes. Just Dowload, print, fold, and put in you pocket.