As a native of Northern California, I truly miss the seasons up north. Especially in the fall, when the weather is crisp, and the leaves are turning gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow.
Now as a resident of Southern California, I have to travel a bit further to see the autumn leaves and take in the cooler weather, but it is still humanly possible! With most So Cal locals living near the coast, we have to travel to a leaf peeping area at just the right time of year or we miss the foliage. Luckily for us though, fall color starts in August at around 10,000 feet and drops elevation by elevation at a rate of 500. So by late October, early November, fall foliage is peak in Southern California.
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Where To See Fall Leaves in Southern California
Here is a list of Southern California’s favorite leaf peeping spots which vary in elevation, time of peak and when colors are at their most intense.
Fall Foliage in Los Angeles
Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, Los Angeles
At the LA County Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, sour gum, chinaberry, Jerusalem thorn, eastern redbud and maples fill with yellow, golden, orange and crimson colors in late October, early November.
Whittier Narrows Recreational Facility, South El Monte
Nearly every ecosystem, from swamps, to forest, to desert, is naturally represented at the Whittier Narrows Recreational Facility, where the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo Rivers diverge. Stop by the ranger station any day from sunrise to sunset for information on the plant and animal life that inhabit this nature reserve.
Stoddar Peak, Near Mount Baldy
If you’re looking for fall colors in Southern California and some nice views on a clear day without a ton of work, one great choice is Stoddard Peak located right below Mount Baldy. The hike itself is just over 6 miles and just under 1,000 feet in elevation. Mount Baldy is located off the 210 freeway at Baseline exit. You do need to purchase a National Forest Adventure Pass to park anywhere.
Fall Foliage in Riverside / San Bernardino Counties
Aspen Grove in San Gorgonio Wilderness, Near Big Bear (currently closed)
Per SoCalHiker.net, “Just a short distance from Big Bear we found the southernmost aspen grove in California. The quaking aspen (populus tremoloids) are readily identified by the disc-like leaves about the size of a silver dollar. The slightest breeze sets these leaves in motion, leading to that ‘quaking’ effect. It’s beautiful to see and a delight to the ears.”