Mother Nature puts on some pretty amazing shows throughout the year — welcome back fall. Not just limited to New England, autumn salutes with reds, oranges and golden colors in California, too. With the vast terrain throughout Southern California, there are many opportunities to take in the new season’s beauty. On a hike, a picnic, in the mountains or in LA’s own backyard, mid-September through mid-November is showtime. Get out of the 405 vicinity, take a breath of fresh air and visit the five most beautiful places for fall foliage in Southern Cal.
The Grassy Hollow
701 N Santa Anita Ave
Arcadia, CA 91006
Grassy Hollow, just 100 feet from the famous Pacific Crest Trail, is a favorite site among OC residents for its canopy of oak and poplar trees, rustic mountain area and proximity to the city (just under 90 minutes). Grassy Hollow is a perfect weekend spot for an autumn picnic and nature walk on the Lightning Ridge Trail, highlighted by fallen acorns and pine cones. This self-guided walk (pick up a brochure at the trailhead) takes you through the forest where visitors will see reds, yellows and oranges shimmering on the mountainside. With a slight chill in the air, expect pleasant daytime temperatures in October and moderate (60s) in November. Wrightwood turns into a ski resort in the winter months.
Related: Best Ski Resorts Near Orange County
Oak Glen 5-Mile Loop
Oak Glen Road Loop
Yucaipa, CA 92399
Known as the “mile high” mountain town, Oak Glen draws day trippers for apple picking and the scenic beauty of the San Bernardino Mountains. The loop is comprised of apple growers and local farmers, shops, restaurants and family activities such as a horse drawn wagon ride and nature trail walks. One and a half hours from Orange County, Oak Glen’s fall season is most popular for apple, raspberry and pumpkin harvests, but its native oaks and sycamores steal the show with colorful brilliance, accented by the red apples hanging from the trees. Fresh cider is made daily in the Oak Glen Village, and is a wonderful way to enhance the overall experience.
Caspers Wilderness Park
33401 Ortega Highway
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Caspers Wilderness Park
Caspers Wilderness Park preserve is located in a span of 8,000 acres in the Santa Ana Mountains and is the perfect place to see beautiful fall foliage, including the woodsy trails carpeted by California sycamore orange leaves. Prickly pear cacti groves neighbor the Coastal Live oaks and sycamores, where deer and other wildlife make their homes. The grassy savannas and wildflowers are magical, too. Ranger guided walks and talks are available, which appeal to all ages. The park features three campgrounds with one catering to equestrians – all three are popular, and advance reservations are recommended.
North Shore National Recreational Trail
Cedar Glen, CA 92321
Lake Arrowhead’s fall foliage season is magical, featuring some of the most exquisite colors of the year. Just about 90 minutes outside of the OC, the North Shore National Recreational Trail and Campground is an ideal mountain vista for an overnight stay or a day trip amid the stunning San Bernardino National Forest. Witness the glorious fall colors atop pine, cedar and dogwood trees on foot, mountain bike or horse. Afterwards, take a drive into Lake Arrowhead’s village, which offers several restaurants overlooking the majestic lake.
1418 Descanso Drive
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
You don’t have to go very far to catch a glimpse of nature’s wonders. Under 60 miles from Orange County, Descanso Gardens is a top choice for welcoming the fall season. The botanical garden’s Japanese Garden and Camellia Forest celebrate seasonal blooms in October (Sasanqua camellias, roses) and November (camellias, bright red toyon berries, annuals and gingko). Stroll throughout the landscape to take in the canopies of maples, liquidambars, river birch, Eastern redbud and crepe myrtles. While enjoying the Descanso Gardens Café’s “nature’s table” menu, guests can enjoy the golden, russet and “flame” colors of the season.