Fall In Love With June Lake Fall Colors – What, Where, When, & Why

Lundy Lake Road in fall colors with the Eastern Sierra behind it Photo by: Alicia Vennos - Image appears courtesy: Mono County Tourism

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There’s something about autumn that brings a sense of urgency. It could be that the days are getting much shorter. Summer’s heat is but a distant memory. Mornings are crisp letting us know that winter is coming. And when it comes to the Western US for leaf peeping, June Lake Fall Colors is a great option. From the festivals to keep you entertained to weather perfection, you can’t go wrong.

Autumn Means Celebration

Did you know that the word harvest comes from the Old English word hærfest, meaning “Autumn”? In fact, for centuries (or longer) people have celebrated harvest festivals this time of year. To feast on fresh food drawn from crops. A moment to bring the community together to sing, dance, bring merriment, and of course, enjoy craft beer.

June Lake’s Got You Covered

June Lake fall colors on June Lake Loop
Photo by: Sarah Walsh – Image appears courtesy: Visit June Lake Loop

And for June Lake, this rings especially true with the warm days and cool nights making for the perfect time to sip beer at the June Lake Autumn Beer Festival. Typically held the last Saturday in September, tickets to this normally sell out a year in advance. Not a beer drinker but still want to enjoy the June Lake Fall Colors? Consider the June Lake Leaves in the Loop held in mid-October.

When To Go

When it comes to June Lake Fall Colors, it’s a timing thing. To ensure you enjoy the brightest canary yellows and rosy reds, be sure to visit Mono County’s Economic Development & Tourism fall colors report. Typically, the higher elevations begin to peak around mid-to-late September and descend downward to the valleys into October.

Take In Nature’s Bounty

If there is one place that captures fall at its peak, it is the Eastern Sierra. Within a very small area the elevations and terrain vary greatly providing visitors a longer season for capturing the season’s colors. And while the Sierra is known for pines, its nooks and crannies surrounding streams, rivers, and high alpine lakes play home to aspens, willows, and cottonwoods. Set amongst the dramatic granite backdrop of this area, it’s no wonder that many consider it one of the best regions on the West Coast to take in the colors. Here’s just a small sampling of where to find them.

Early Season (Mid-to-Late September)

The following regions “typically” start to turn color first due to their higher elevation and locations. Be very aware that this is just a rule of thumb. As we stated above, be sure to visit Mono County’s website with the most up-to-date information on which area is peaking.

So High You Can Touch The Sky

fall foliage on Rock Creek Lake California
A glimpse of the fall foliage on Rock Creek Road – Photo by: Jeff Simpson – Image appears courtesy: Mono County Tourism

Tioga might be the highest highway summit, but there’s a few roads that go even higher such as Rock Creek Road. The route follows a dramatic glacier carved landscape to the same named lake – Rock Creek Lake located at 10,320’ feet above sea level. Gaining in more than 3,000 vertical feet in under twelve miles, nearly nine of them are lined with dense aspen groves. Due to its high elevation, it’s one of the first to turn orange and yellow.

Some Mark Twain History Along With The Colors

Green Creek Fall Foliage
The well-traveled Green Creek Road – Photo by: Jeff Simpson – Image appears courtesy: Mono County Tourism

About a forty-five minute straight shot on Highway 395 you’ll find the historic town of Bridgeport. History buffs will enjoy taking in the historical buildings such as California’s 2nd oldest courthouse in continuous use. Or having dinner at the Bridgeport Inn where Mark Twain stayed a night on his way to Bodie. For nature’s fireworks, head a bit south of town to Green Creek Road. The well-traveled dirt road combines a bit of off-road travel along with vivid fall colors as you make your way to Summers Meadow Road or even go for a hike on the Green Creek trail.

Catch Some Fish AND Fall Colors

fall foliage at Virginia Lakes California
One of the dozen Virginia Lakes adorned in fall’s gold – Photo by: Jeff Simpson – Image appears courtesy: Mono County Tourism

Halfway between Lee Vining and Bridgeport at the top of Conway Summit you’ll find another great spot to take in the colors. Along the five mile tour, the road majestically is aglow with aspens on both sides. Over a dozen lakes each with their own personality, provide you an opportunity to capture unique shots of the display. And last but not least, these lakes are also well stocked with rainbow trout.

Mid-Season (Late September)

Sonora Pass

Sonora Pass fall colors
Photo by: Jeff Simpson – Image appears courtesy: Mono County Tourism

Although it’s a few hundred feet shorter than Tioga Pass at its summit, it also plays host to dramatic scenery that is well worth the drive. You’ll find on this curvy road pines, willows, and century old cottonwoods lining the West Walker River. The biggest bounty of autumn goodness along the drive are the pull offs at Sardine Meadow or Leavitt Falls.

Note: Sonora Pass is unplowed in winter so be VERY aware of the weather. Once the road closes for the season, it won’t open until early summer.

Late Season (1st to 3rd Week of October)

Yosemite-Bound

If you’re thinking about heading into Yosemite National Park, Tioga Pass is a must do. At a whopping summit elevation of 9,943 feet above sea level, it’s the highest highway pass in California. Winding its way through Lee Vining Canyon, you’ll find plenty of “gold” on the road that connects the Great Basin to Yosemite’s high country. Although there’s plenty to see on the road itself, Lee Vining Creek off of Poore Power Plant Road is a fall foliage adventure. You’ll find a display of red, gold, and green with views of the 13,000-foot Mount Gibbs and Mount Dana towering overhead.

Note: Tioga Pass is unplowed in winter so be VERY aware of the weather. Once the road closes for the season, it won’t open until early summer.

Loop To It Via An Easy Drive

June Lake fall colors on June Lake Loop
Photo by: Sarah Walsh – Image appears courtesy: Visit June Lake Loop

Don’t feel like heading out that far? No problem. The June Lake Loop itself is home to some pretty spectacular June Lake fall colors. As you take in what is so affectionally nicknamed the “Swiss Alps of California”, the road is lined with plenty of gorgeous aspen. You’ll also find four lakes and the cozy village to saddle up at.

Hike To California’s Biggest Color Fest

Lundy Canyon Fall Foliage
One of the many lakes, streams, and creeks to see in fall in Lundy Canyon – Photo by: Jeff Simpson – Image appears courtesy: Mono County Tourism

Like a classical song… the fall foliage fest begins slowly on your way up to the Lundy Canyon trailhead. As the road ascends, it winds its way around Lundy Lake. This body of water is surrounded by groves of color. Continuing on, you’ll see numerous stands of aspen as well as beaver dams painting the landscape in reds, oranges, and yellow. The jewel though is the canyon itself. In the spring and early summer, it’s home to arguably the highest concentration of waterfalls in the country. But this time of year, you’ll find what might be the biggest abundance of color in the state of California. Depending on when you visit, there are two huge groves. If the lower is in full bloom then most likely the upper grove will be bare. The good news though is if there isn’t a full bounty in the upper grove the alpine views will more than make up for anything lost in its color beauty.

If you’re looking for “best in show” for this season’s color on the West Coast, you won’t go wrong with June Lakes fall colors. Combine it with a relaxed atmosphere, great beer, and an assortment of good cuisine, you’ll be happy you set aside to just soak in the good life. As the fall colors transition to snowflakes, here’s 5 Reasons To Visit June Mountain this upcoming winter.

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