Catch fall foliage fever in Southern California this year. Although quite different from the New England version, Southern California’s autumn colors do not disappoint. Less than a few hours away from Los Angeles, forests of reds, golds and yellows are awaiting. Optimal viewing time is the first week in October, but the colorful season can last into November. Oak and aspen groves, maple trees and grape vines put on an annual show. Start planning now to visit any of the five best places near Los Angeles for fall foliage — by foot, horseback or hot air balloon. It will be worth the trip.
Big Sycamore Canyon
Point Mugu State Park
9000 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265
For beautiful vistas of fall leaves, Big Sycamore Canyon is a popular hiking trail. First and foremost, the monarch butterflies west of the Rockies come to California during October and November. This rare and beautiful sighting creates a forest filled with color, coupled with the changing of leaves fallen from the sycamore grove. The hike itself is an easy 6.5 mile loop, although many choose to park two cars at each end (in Malibu and in Newbury Park). There is known poison oak, so long pants and shirts are recommended. So are cameras!
Palomar Mountain State Park
19952 State Park Road
Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Palomar Mountain State Park mirrors the beautiful landscape of the Sierra Nevada trees. Here is where you can visit locally and breathe in forests, mountains and meadows. The chilly outdoor fall temperatures make this area a perfect environment for wildlife including southern mule deer, western gray squirrels, raccoons and striped skunks (beware!). Gray foxes, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions reside here, but hide from human visitors. The Doanne Valley Pond trail is an easier loop and great for family hikes. California live oak and black oak tree groves offer a pretty show with yellow, orange, red and scorched leaves. Be warned there is poison oak in the park. These shrubs grow along the oaks and its leaves are a fire red.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections And Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA 91108
Dedicated to research, education and beauty of art and botanical gardens, The Huntington, a private, nonprofit institution, was founded by local businessman Henry E. Huntington in 1919. The Gardens host more than 15,000 different species of plants, and is one of the best places to visit locally for fall foliage. In October and November there are a myriad of trees, shrubs and fall blooming plants on display. The Sweet Gum’s orange-red leaves are complimented by the orange Lion’s Tail/Ear and the deep red thorns of the Crataegus phaenopyrum and the golden yellow palette of ‘Mabel’s Milkman.’ All of the above will give visitors what they come for — the opportunity to experience Southern California nature and landscape up close.
Big Bear Lake
Big Bear, CA 92315
From mid-October to early November, Big Bear Lake is one of the more popular places to experience a real autumn season in Southern California. Hike the brilliant aspen grove area, where all the trees within the grove turn colors at the same time. Throughout the season these quaking aspens turn gold to yellow. Check out Baldwin Lake Stables for a horseback ride (group or private rides are available) as another way to witness So Cal’s fall foliage. Big Bear Village with shops and restaurants is an easy spot for every age to enjoy fall — the town is adorned with red maples and rust-colored ferns.
Europa Village Winery
33475 La Serena Way
Temecula, CA 92591
Vitis californica is a deciduous vine that covers much of Temecula Valley, which is home to vineyards, wineries and rolling hills. In autumn, these twisted and woody vines turn from green leaves to vast hues of oranges and yellows. Europa Village Winery is one of many in the area, and an interesting spot for fall foliage. Touring and wine tasting, or staying for the night at the winery’s inn, gives you the right opportunity to enjoy the season. A Grape Escape Hot Air Balloon Adventure might be in the plan, too. This company takes off and lands at Europa Village Winery touring passengers 3000 feet altitude.