Hit the Road, Jack: California Colors

yosemite

All this month, we’re taking you on a road trip. Bid your city and your stresses adieu. Grab some friends, jump in the car and take the scenic route with us. Find brilliant little stops, surprises tucked away, and tips to make the road trip experience complete. Do you already have a favorite road trip that you took? Let us know!

Hard to believe it but fall is here! Hot and steamy summer nights make way for colorful days and cozy evenings.

Fall follows summer, meaning beach memories and tan lines remain fresh, but you’re ready for vineyard tours, bonfires, and foliage drives with your special someone. Now’s the perfect time to plan a long weekend or week — you deserve it! — exploring a gay-friendly city and its surrounding Technicolor countryside towns.

Destination:

California dreamin’ in color.

Directions:

Wind along California’s roads and trails to leaf peep throughout the state. The itinerary below is arranged according to peak times, from earliest to latest.

The Itinerary:

Every autumn, diminishing daylight hours and cooler temperatures send a message to California’s broad-leaf trees: Unfurl those colors—it’s showtime!

Fall’s show is fleeting, so timing matters. Autumn colors travel with the elevations, starting in the highest mountains and descending to the foothills.

Check out these leaf-viewing sites, arranged according to peak times, from earliest to latest:

  • Mammoth/June Lakes:Nature’s autumnal fire burns bright on the eastern side of the Sierra, where glaciers have chiseled stream-fed canyons deep into the mountainsides. Starting in mid-September, drive any road heading west off US 395 near June Lakes and Mammoth Lakes to find dense groves of quaking aspens and willows.
  • Yosemite National Park :In Yosemite Valley’s grassy meadows, the black oaks turn a soft, burnished gold, a subtle contrast to the scene-stealing school bus yellow of the cottonwoods. One of Yosemite Valley’s most photographed autumn trees is a non-native—a stately sugar maple planted near Yosemite Chapel that turns a brilliant red.
  • Nevada City & Grass Valley: Nevada Street in downtown Nevada City is decorated with century-old sugar maples and American sweetgums (liquidambars) that turn stoplight red in autumn. In Grass Valley’s downtown, Neal Street is the nexus for Vermont-style leaf color, but a more expansive display of the early settlers’ tree planting lies just a mile away at Empire Mine State Park.
  • Julian: It’s not all palm trees and sandy beaches in San Diego. The county has its share of premium foliage viewing, too—all you have to do is head inland and uphill. In Julian, a historic mining town at 4,200 feet in elevation, autumn is the grandstand season. Discover the region’s black oaks’ color-changing trick at Lake Cuyamaca in Rancho Cuyamaca State Park, or by hiking the Five Oaks Trail at Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve.
RELATED LINKS:

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Drive Out of Your Comfort Zone: Road Trip Through New England

Drive Out of Your Comfort Zone: Road Trip Through Northern California

Drive Out of Your Comfort Zone: If Dolly Can do It, So Can We!

Hit the Road, Jack: Road Trip Through Midwest

Drive Out of Your Comfort Zone: Road Trip Through the Mid-Atlantic

Hit the Road, Jack: Making a Run from the Border to the Desert

Delaware North at Yosemite Photo courtesy of Development Counsellors International