Top 5 Lakes for Fall Colors in the Eastern Sierra

Aug 17, 2022

The only thing that is more photogenic than fall foliage changing from green to yellow, orange and red, is the reflection of fall colors on the water. Here are our favorite lakes for autumn walks and foliage viewing.


The canyon’s namesake lake is often overlooked for the Mosquito Flat Trailhead, but Rock Creek Lake is one of the more beautiful bodies of water in the Eastern Sierra. Situated at 9,698 feet, the aspen trees that surround Rock Creek Lake will start to show fall colors earlier than lower elevation lakes. And the drive to get here is scenic too. Bring your stand up paddleboard, or just enjoy the view from the shore.

If you are in the mood for a hike, check out the Tamarack Lakes Trail, which is one of our favorite hikes off the beaten path. And since you made the drive, be sure to swing by Rock Creek Resort for the famous Pie in the Sky.


With the geologically colorful volcanic rock as a backdrop, Convict Lake has more than just fall colors. It is one of the better stunning lakes you’ll find in the Sierra Nevada. The eastern shore has a picnic area and an easy 2-mile hiking trail loops around the lake.

The water sparkles under the towering Mount Morison and Laurel and Bloody Mountains and reflects the aspens along the shore. Pick up the trail at the end of the road on the southeast shore near the picnic area. The Convict Lake Resort Marina also has boat launching and rentals if you want to see the views from the water.


Located in the Red’s Meadow Valley, Sotcher is a glacial carved lake surrounded by tall wild grasses, aspens, and granite. A 1.5-mile nature trail loops around Sotcher Lake and climbs over a granite buttress that offers a bird’s eye perspective of the lake. There is a picnic area with benches and barbecues close to the parking area and a small sandy beach on the east side of the lake.

It’s a popular spot for sightseeing, as well as fly fishing. Bring your float tube or canoe to explore from the water. If you are going to make your way to Sotcher Lake for fall color viewing, you might as well spend the day in the valley and enjoy the area. Some of our favorite adventures in Red’s Meadow include hiking to Rainbow falls and Devil’s Postpile and having lunch at the Mule House Café.


The entire Mammoth Lakes Basin lights up in the autumn season, but our favorite for enjoying the colors is Lake George. At 9,026 feet, it is the highest road accessible lake in the basin. For that reason, the foliage might start to turn earlier than the lower lakes. Either way, George has a rugged alpine backdrop that is sure to inspire photographers.

A trail departs from the east side of the lake and eventually makes its way to TJ and Barrett Lakes. To loop around Lake George stay right at the trail junction and continue on the footpath path for a relatively easy stroll through the foliage. There is also a marina that rents boats.


The June Lake Loop is known for its dramatic beauty in the fall season and the region just north of Mammoth is worth a visit. With Carson Peak towering overhead, aspen trees and rugged mountains surround Silver Lake.

There are a few spots to picnic on the shore, but the best way to truly see the view is from a canoe on the water. Stop by the Silver Lake Resort for breakfast, lunch, or pie and rent a boat for the day.


Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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