Want to see some of the best fall foliage that Northern California has to offer?
Here are eight gorgeous spots to head to…
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Napa Valley Wine Vines Autumn. 🍂 Our last stop this past weekend did not disappoint. We ended up following the Silverado Trail towards Napa. This s is the only spot where we could see some of the fire damage up in the hills. #napavalleyfall #napavalleyfallcolors #autumnnapavalley #autumn #napavalley #napa #igtravel #igautumn #california #igtravel #photographerinfocus #photographersinfocus #citadelartsworkshops
Napa Valley is always a joy to visit, but fall makes this experience all the more special. This part of Northern California is home to a large number of both native and non-native trees, and every single one of these turns into a fiery shade each fall.
The vineyards that Napa Valley is famous for put on their own vibrant display. Once October rolls around, all of the leaves on the thousands of grapevines turn to a vivid amber color, providing stunning views all around.
While You’re There…
October happens to be quite a busy time for vineyards, and, if you plan things right, you may be able to take part in some of their seasonal activities, such as grape stomping.
San Francisco Botanical Garden
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You all appear to be enjoying the Garden this fall… and we love it 🍂 🤗 It is looking to be a pleasant weekend and in the 70s all next week—get out here and soak up our best weather of the year! Foliage is changing color more and more every day, cloud forest collections have lots of flowers, and more! 📸 @conloncreatives 🍁 @jarelens ☀️ @morgan_beatty 🎋 @vivianchenweddings 🌳 @conloncreatives ⚡️ @aaron.aubrey.nyc 🌸 @theartilleri 🌿 @modern_day_esther 🌴 @thehugoat 🌲 @sylvies.photoss 🍃 #sfbotanicalgarden #fall
Located in Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden features 55 acres of magnificent foliage each fall. Due to the vast array of different plants here, 9000 species from around the world to be specific, the range of colors is spectacular – from the purple/reds of the dogwoods to the striking gold of the gingko trees.
While 60-90 minute tours of the gardens are available, you can also opt to wander the grounds yourself to take in all of the incredible fall foliage. Each garden has a unique theme, whether this is related to a country or to something else, such as the Ancient Plants or the Garden of Fragrance, giving you something different to look at with each area that you visit.
Be sure to make some time to also take a look at the Japanese Tea Garden, which is located in Golden Gate Park too. This is the oldest public Japanese garden in the USA, and the Japanese maples here, with koi ponds and a zen garden serving as a serene backdrop, also transform into dazzling shades each fall.
Treat Your Skin
Once you have finished exploring the San Francisco Botanical Garden, take a stroll over to Market Street. In amongst the glitzy designer stores and branded boutiques here, you will also find the OROGOLD San Francisco store. Stop by for a free VIP facial, product demonstrations, and some of the best skin care advice you will have ever had.
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My favorite place to photograph Fall colors, Hope Valley, California, Highway 88. Where is your favorite place for Fall colors, please tell me in the comments!!!! #fall #fall2017 #autumn #autumn2017 #hopevalley #cabin #fallcolors #autumncolor #california #californiaadventure #tress #falltrees #hopevalleyfallcolor #highway88 #nikonartists #lovefall #visitcalifornia #main_vision
Fall falls upon Hope Valley in around mid September, so you’ll need to act fast if you were hoping for a fall getaway this year. Located in Alpine County, Hope Valley is considered to be a hidden gem – even many locals don’t know about this gorgeous spot.
In the fall, the dense willows and aspens here put on a vibrant display of bright gold foliage, making it look as though the hillsides and meadows are up in flames. There are plenty of outdoor activities to do here too, from fishing to hiking to camping.
Just south of Hope Valley, just before South Lake Tahoe, you’ll find a small creek, which is the site that thousands of salmon choose to spawn at this time of year. Time your visit right and you’ll be able to see their offspring make their way into the world for the first time.
Rancho San Antonio Preserve
Located in Cupertino, the Rancho San Antonio Preserve is a popular state park with just under 4000 acres of grounds to explore. With much of this being open space, not many people think of the preserve when it comes to fall foliage, but if you head on over to where the majestic oaks and maples are growing, you will be treated to quite the sight.
In addition to the gorgeous fall foliage here, you will also be able to see the persimmon trees full of flowers, adding a beautiful contrast to your surroundings.
To really explore the beauty of the Rancho San Antonio Preserve, you’ll need to make your way through some of the park’s trails. These snake through the landscape for 24 miles, and there are several options to choose from:
- Wildcat Loop Trail – this three mile trail will take you through fern-filled canyons and open meadows, before reaching a viewpoint that showcases both Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Hamilton
- Stephen E. Abbors Trail – this trail, which stretches out for just under four miles, is a little more challenging with its 1600 ft gain in elevation. It climbs up the Black Mountain for panoramic views of the bay area, before linking up with some of the other trails in the park
- Black Mountain Trail – this four mile trail also takes you up the Black Mountain, but with a different route that showcases views of the Santa Clara Valley and Stevens Creek Canyon
For those who like wildlife, there is plenty to be seen throughout the park. However, be aware that you may also end up sighting a mountain lion – if this happens, leave the area immediately and report this to a ranger.
Located just north-east of Sacramento, even the drive to Plumas County will impress, with Highway 70 being designated a National Scenic Byway. The entire road is lined with Black Oak, Mountain Dogwood, and Big Leaf Maple, treating you to huge swathes of crimsons, reds, and golds as you drive along.
Once you get there, follow the area’s Leaf Peeping Map so that you can figure out the best spots to head to. Some of these include:
- Feather River Canyon
- Indian Valley
- Lake Almanor
- Bucks Lake
When to Visit
Fall touches upon different areas at various times, but due to the diversity of nature in Plumas County, you have quite a long viewing season when it comes to fall foliage. Any time between September and mid November would work, although you would need to adjust your route depending on the day you are visiting.
Fortunately, Plumas County offers daily leaf peeping reports each fall, which should help you to plot the perfect route.
For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when fall is mentioned is apples, and this is exactly what you will find at Apple Hill. Located in El Dorado County, Apple Hill is packed with fruit orchards that really come to life each fall.
Of course, picking your own apples is a must-do activity here, and there are so many different varieties to choose from, including:
- Golden Delicious
- Rome Beauty
- Pink Lady
- Granny Smith
The farms in this area also grow a number of other fall crops too, from grapes and pumpkins to plums and persimmons. High Hill is known for its apple milkshakes, while Rainbow Orchards is famous for its apple cider donuts, making this trip a must for eager foodies.
If you can’t decide where to go, the Apple Hill Growers Association provides maps and routes to enable you to make the most of your visit.
One thing to keep in mind as you are driving around the area is that the roads here can sometimes be treacherous. There will likely be so much out of your window that will constantly be grabbing your attention, but the roads also feature quite sharp bends, so make sure that you keep your wits about you.
Getting Ready for Christmas
Once you have eaten your fill of fresh fall foods, make your way over to Indian Rock Tree Farm. Since this isn’t a part of the Apple Hill Growers Association, it’s considered to be quite the hidden gem, with many visitors not realizing that this little slice of Christmas sits just around the corner from them.
Indian Rock Tree Farm is known for being one of the oldest Christmas tree farms in the area, and they produce several different varieties that will soon be used as Christmas trees. From the Douglas fir to the Canaan fir to the Sequoia, these evergreens may not put on a colorful display of fall foliage, but they are still impressive enough to warrant a visit.
There aren’t many cities that offer the same level of fall foliage to compete with the many countryside options out there, but Sacramento is different. With its nickname being the City of Trees, the downtown area of Sacramento, along with parts of midtown, are covered with dense tree canopies that were designed to protect the city from the sweltering heat of the summer sun.
Come fall, these trees break out into a mind-boggling array of fall colors, which gently flutter to the ground whenever a strong wind blows. The contrast between city life around you and the beautiful foliage above also adds an ethereal appeal to fall in Sacramento, making this something that everyone should experience at least once.
Exploring the City
As you make your way around Sacramento to check out the fall foliage, you will likely come across some of the city’s most famous attractions. The Governor’s Mansion, Sutter’s Fort, and the California State Capitol Building are must-see spots for history buffs, while those into art and culture should check out the Crocker Art Museum, which is famous for being one of the first major art museums to open in the country.
Shopaholics will feel right at home in Sacramento too – there are several big shopping streets here where you can indulge in some retail therapy. In amongst the many different shopping centers sits the Arden Fair Mall, which is home to over 165 stores. Some of the most-loved brands in the country call this mall home, along with OROGOLD, where you will be able to enjoy free product demonstrations and luxury facials.
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The Japanese Maple trees are changing colors behind the Pool. #filoli 🍂✨💛⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #countryestate #historicsite #trustsites #siliconvalley #woodside #loveredwoodcity #bayarea #fall #autumn #fallcolors #autumncolor #autumninthegarden #mysignofautumn #autumniscoming #thisautumnlife #odetoautumn #aseasonalshift #embracetheseasons #publicgarden #gardensofinstagram #gardensoftheworld #gardenphotography #howdoesyourgardengrow #garden_styles #gardenview #gardentovisit #jardin #jardín
Located in Woodside, Filoli Gardens is recognized worldwide for its abundance of natural beauty and sheer diversity when it comes to trees and other plants. The fall foliage here is not to be missed, with the gardens inspired by a traditional English country estate.
The formal gardens here are usually what attract the most visitors, but, just beyond this, you will find the Filoli Nature Preserve. If you want to see fall foliage in a wilder setting, this is the area to head to, with redwood stands, oak forests, and so much more. Wildlife is plentiful in the area as well, whether this may be deer, lizards, or an amazing variety of birds.
There is a mile-long nature trail that visitors can explore here, which ends up at the Sally MacBridge Nature Center, another fascinating experience. There are several domestic animals that live in the nearby field, from turkeys to California quail, all of which look especially stunning with the fall foliage as their backdrop. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Once you’re done with all of that walking, head to the garden’s restaurant, called the Quail’s Nest Cafe. The focus here is on fresh, local, and sustainable food, with many of the ingredients used coming from the gardens themselves.
A Virtual Visit
With all that’s going on in the world right now due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Filoli Gardens understands that many people are going to be missing out on their fall foliage this year. Fortunately, the garden offers the opportunity for virtual visits, meaning that even those on the opposite side of the world will be able to appreciate the beauty that this garden offers throughout the year.
With so much color and beauty all around, many would consider fall to be the most spectacular time of year. Whether leaf peeping is something that you do annually, or you simply want to take some time out of your busy life this year to appreciate the magnificent fall foliage around you, these Northern California spots are guaranteed to not disappoint.