Where to Find Fall Colors in Calaveras

Tracking fall colors is an art that locals know well. But to find fall colors takes patience. Some years fall colors creep up on you like a playful scamp and take you by surprise, ruffling green leaves with a dusting of yellow as early as late August. Other times, fall colors explode on the scene in unison, as if by plan. However fall unfolds in Calaveras and the Ebbetts Pass corridor, it is always a sight to behold. 

High Sierra and Gold Country Corridor Fall Colors

Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway
Beautiful fall colors on the byway | Laurie Ahlberg

Situated in the westernmost region in the Gold Country corridor and Highway 4 running East through the High Sierra Ebbetts Pass corridor, fall colors typically begin showing in higher elevations before moving towards our historic Gold Country towns.  If weather permits, the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway is a breathtaking drive unlike anything you’ll find in the big cities or the main thoroughfares of Highways 80, 50, or even 88.  The website states “At both ends of the byway (between Arnold and Lake Alpine to the west and between Markleeville and Silver Creek to the east), the road is a modern, full-width, two-lane State Highway that is maintained for year-round travel, with a double yellow center line, shoulders and passing lanes. Visitors travel through seemingly endless miles of pristine scenery, interjected only occasionally by welcoming communities. However, in the middle portion between Lake Alpine and Silver Creek, the road and the travel experience changes dramatically, becoming a narrow two-lane road with no center line and no shoulders as it slowly winds its way up and over the Sierra crest.”  Watch this video produced by (around the four-minute mark) for a sample of what this incredible fall drive is like.

Ski resort and mountain adventureland Bear Valley soars with 360 degree stunning vistas of the Stanislaus National Forest. This is the perfect spot for fall color viewing, hiking for all levels of activity, and mountain biking.  Hike around Lake Alpine, then head back down to Arnold for an Après drink at Hinterhaus Distilling in Arnold. Nate and Bonnie Randall source local ingredients and casks for their hand-crafted whiskey, vodka, gin and liqueurs.

: Arnold Black Bear Inn
Arnold Black Bear Inn -Cheese, wine and charcuterie plate

If you can stay a while, reserve a cozy, comfortable room in the heart of Arnold at the Arnold Timberline Lodge with a freestanding gas fireplace, or at the Meadowmont Lodge, or find your perfect home base for recreation at the Arnold Black Bear Inn. Built in 2002, the Black Bear Inn is perfectly suited for guests seeking a casual atmosphere with first class service and accommodations. Five guest rooms are ideal for intimate getaways, girls’ weekends, ski vacations, fishing expeditions, or just for escaping for a little while.

The Red Apple I Courtesy of Instagrammer @onekieltravelz

Stop by The Red Apple, located on Highway 4, just four miles east of the quaint little town of Murphys, California. Nestled in the beautiful Sierra Nevada at an elevation of 3200 feet, The Red Apple is home to crisp, mountain grown apples, as well as homemade pies and pastries, freshly pressed sweet cider, and of course, the famous apple cider donuts.  Locally produced honey, and syrups, jams and jellies made from their own fresh fruit can also be found.  The Red Apple is open for business year-round and has been a landmark for both tourists and locals since the early 1900‘s.  This family owned and operated business takes pride in it’s old fashioned bakery, homegrown fruits and vegetables, and it’s apple orchard boasting numerous heirloom apple varieties.

Fall colors at Calaveras Big Trees | Jason B Smith

Looking for dogwoods? Find the gorgeous fall color dogwoods show from yellow to orange, to red, and then to a near translucent pink (as pictured above) just before the leaves fall, anywhere from Avery to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The best trails to find dogwoods are at Big Trees, on the Arnold Rim Trail and at White Pines Lake.  The 1.5 North Grove trail and the 3.5 mile loop at Calaveras Big Trees are out the park road and back through the campground and perfect short trails for winter exercise. The North Grove is also great for snow play. After lunch, if road conditions allow, take a drive along the upper scenic Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway, one of just seven nationally designated byways in California. This 61-mile stretch of Highways 4 and 89 winds through glacially carved valleys and deep river canyons, stands of Giant Sequoia, granite outcroppings and even hot mineral pools. It’s some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and will leave you yearning to return.

Calaveras Fall Colors, Find Fall Colors
Calaveras Big Trees State Park Fall Colors I Courtesy of Instagrammer @susantaylorphotography

The secret to experiencing the changing hues in this part of the country is to slow down and be ready for the unexpected. Among the evergreen conifers of the Arnold Rim Trail and Calaveras Big Trees State Park, you’ll find bursts of color in the dogwood trees, and swathes of lemon yellow at the higher elevations around Big Meadow and Bear Valley among the aspen groves. Stop in for a warm beverage or meal at the oldest Chevron in California at the Camp Connell General Store.

Stroll Historic Downtowns

Maximize Fall Fun: Whether getting cozy at a local winery or restaurant between fall color expeditions, make sure to explore Calaveras’ biggest fall events such as the Grape Stomp and Gold Rush Street Faire, Lumber Jack Day, All Hallows Faire, Halloween events, and Murphys Day of the Dead (1st Saturday in November).

Historic Angels Camp glowing gorgeous in the fall. I Courtesy of Instagrammer @ctlight

Why not take a leisurely stroll through one of our charming historic downtowns? Soak up the rich history from California’s Gold Rush era and see what those hopeful 49ers saw when they first arrived in search of wealth and different way of life. With an eclectic mix of antique stores, craft stores, olive oil, toy stores, restaurants, tasting rooms, and so much more, there is bound to be something for everyone. For some fall inspiration, step into one of the newest additions to Calaveras in historic Mokelumne Hill, Posterity Ciderworks.  This young, family-owned and operated small scale cidery and orchard “produces estate and small batch heritage apple, pear and quince alcoholic ciders. Sustainability and regenerative agriculture are central to our mission, as is allowing fruit varietal character to shine through.”  So yummy.

Angel Camp I Copperopolis I Mokelumne Hill I Murphys  I Valley Springs Area

Let’s Get Physical

Looking to get creative outdoors? Let these images from around the county and Ebbetts Pass corridor inspire you to capture your own. Check out Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods, Sierra Nevada Adventure Co., and Bear Valley Adventure Company for rentals, supplies, and lots of great ideas of how to enjoy the incredible fall weather in Calaveras. Spicer Reservoir and the Sourgrass Day Use Recreation Area are great places to really get out in nature to hike or bike and bring your furry friends along, too! Keep in mind the swift running river and use extreme caution whenever recreating near water.

Fall Colors on the Arnold Rim Trail | Jason B Smith
Dogwood leaves carpet the forest floor on a morning bike ride on the Arnold Rim Trail | Jason B Smith
Fall colors: meadow | Jason B Smith
A cold fall morning brings the steam off a meadow in Avery, highlighting the golden tones of the grass. | Jason B Smith
Fall colors: Big Meadow bouldering | Jason B Smith
An afternoon workout framed by golden aspen trees in Big Meadow, near Spicer Road in eastern Calaveras County. | Jason B Smith
Sourgrass Day Use Photo Courtesy of Outdoor Project

Rather than the huge forests of color that are found in the northeast, here fall colors change the familiar sights and smells of otherwise evergreen trails, adding visual depth and dimension that leaves you asking yourself if you’ve ever visited these trails and roads before. Each year the visual nuances change in subtle waves, making it all the more fun to plan to hunt fall colors at least twice in the season to notice the gentle season changes first hand. But don’t take our word for it, go out and discover the subtle magic of these shifting colors for yourself.

Frog Jump Hop of Fame, Frog Hop of Fame, Angels Camp, Frog Jump
Frog Jump Hop of Fame in Historic Downtown Angels Camp I Courtesy of Instagrammer @hereincalaveras

Want to stay a few days? We’d love to have you! Click here for where to stay, where to eat, and things to do throughout Calaveras! Or, give us a call at 209-736-0049 at the Calaveras Visitors Bureau for help planning your next visit to Calaveras.  We look forward to seeing you!

Happy travels!