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Fall Colors in Mammoth

Aspen Trees on a color blazeThe transition between summer and winter in the Mammoth Lakes area transforms high alpine canyons and lake shores into blazing color. Aspens, willows, and cottonwoods unfold in brilliant hues of yellow, gold, orange and red. Light and color bathes the scenery from Rock Creek Canyon to the south of Mammoth to Conway Summit to the north.

The trees generally begin their annual change early in September offering the best viewing in late September and the first weeks of October. This is a popular time to travel as it is quite a site to see.

Get your free Mammoth Fall Color Guide so you can see the best autumn trees in the Eastern Sierra.

white birch in autumnThere are some great routes to take, including the canyon ride out to Rock Creek Lake and the Mosquito Flats Trailhead. The best place to check to see what is "on fire" is with the ranger station. Then tend to track where the colors are at their peak.

It is natural for trees at higher elevations to peak first. The same is true for those that are stuck in a canyon where the nighttime temperatures drop much lower than the flat lands. Some of the best viewing spots are Lundy Canyon, Parker and Walker Canyons and the Conway Summit area. You'll know when you arrive that something is going on as you drive through the small towns you'll be able to see off in the distance the hillsides all ablaze with color.

Fall Color Hikes

Lundy Lake in Autumn Before driving up, you might want to call Mt. Whitney Ranger District and see what they know. Mt. Whitney is in Lone Pine and at such an elevation that it may be an awesome photo opportunity to drive up to the trail portal to take a look. There is also a cafe up top for a cup of coffee or a soda, so do ask. Onion Valley and Horseshoe Meadows tend to be very beautiful. The drive up the Mt. Whitney Portal is also something spectacular in itself even if the trees aren't changing colors.

Mono Lake Hikes

Just north of Mammoth off of US HWY 395 and State Routes 120 (Tioga Pass) and 158 (June Lake Loop) are not to be missed. These are all opposite the Mono Lake area and hiking around here is quite beautiful with a feeling of being remote but not really.

Mammoth Lakes Fall Colors

Lundy Lake with Lemon Colored TreesThe road to town is State HWY 203 also called Main Street and Lake Mary Road depending on where you are on the road. Following the road leads you directly to the Mammoth Lakes Basin road and it's an easy walk around the lakes or drive through the area. Usually the trees change color here earlier in the season as the area is protected on all sides, so chilly sweeping winds don't effect the area as much as an open canyon or wider area. Still not to be missed, you'll find peaceful walks and so many photo opportunities that you won't want to miss this fall colors shows.

White Mountain Hikes

Bishop Creek and Rock Creek areas seem to peak early as the winds come down off the mountains. You will see them early during the seasonal change from HWY 395 as you drive on up toward Mammoth. In the middle of the town of Bishop, very close to famous Schatt's bakery is the Welcome Center in Bishop and you might make a quick pit stop to see what they have to say.

Fall colors in their golory October can bring snow to the higher elevations along with cooler temperatures to the entire region. Although a gradual warm-up might occur, temperatures will still be chilly at night and moderate during the day. Expect daytime temperatures in the 40s to 50s, depending on elevation, and night time temperatures in the teens to low 30s. Weather can change rapidly at this time of the year; be sure to bring warm clothes with you. Don’t forget to have your camera and binoculars with you for the best viewing. And don’t shy away from that occasional gust of wind: it could create a beautiful sight in the middle of an Aspen grove as hundreds or thousands of multi-colored leaves flutter to the ground.

Do you know why leaves change color in fall? Anne Halford, Botanist from the Bureau of Land Management explains

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