Where to Find Fall Colors in Calaveras

There is nothing like the expectation of fall colors and the trees starting to put on their autumn show. Some years the colors creep up mixing 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. With Calaveras’ moderate fall temperatures and clear skies, fall is always a sight to behold and the perfect time to do some hiking, mountain biking, or leisurely driving.

Suggested Drives:

  • Highway 4 from Copperopolis to Bear Valley: Drive Highway 4 all the way up to Bear Valley and enjoy beautiful fall colors all the way up. Weather permitting, drive up to Dorrington (just past Arnold), turn right at Boards Crossing and drive about 5 miles to Sourgrass Day Use.
  • Highway 49 from Angels Camp to Mokelumne Hill: Drive down the Golden Chain Highway (Highway 49) and you will see three of Calaveras’ four historic towns – Angels Camp, San Andreas, and Mokelumne Hill. Drive a little past Mokelumne Hill to the Middle Bar Bridge area and access the Mokelumne River. A nice place to get out, walk around a bit, and maybe have a picnic among the golden-hued trees.
  • Highway 12/26: Whether you’re coming from the SF Bay Area, Sacramento, or the San Joaquin Valley area, this gently winding drive to New Hogan Reservoir will be filled with autumn colors, beautiful farmlands, and maybe a pumpkin patch along the way!

High Sierra and Gold Country Corridor Fall Colors

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

Situated along Highway 4, running east through the High Sierra, the Ebbetts Pass corridor’s fall colors typically begin showing before moving towards the historic Gold Country towns.  If road conditions and weather 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 and breathtaking scenery in the Sierra Nevada mountain range unlike anything you’ll find in the big cities.  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.

Looking for dogwoods? The gorgeous dogwoods start showing their fall colors going from yellow to orange, to red, and then to a near translucent pink just before the leaves fall, and can be found anywhere from Avery to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The best trails to find dogwoods are at Big Trees State Park, on the Arnold Rim Trail and at White Pines Lake.  Choose the 1.5 or 3.5 mile North Grove loop trails at Calaveras Big Trees, perfect short trails for winter exercise.

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

Want to head to the high country? Ski resort and mountain adventure land 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 or hike up the Arnold Rim Trail to Cougar Rock.  The trails are dog-friendly, and remember to share the trail with other hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. Stop in Arnold for an Après drink at Hinterhaus Distilling. Owners Nate and Bonnie Randall source local ingredients and casks for their hand-crafted whiskey, vodka, gin and liqueurs. Dinner at the ever-bustling and cozy Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen with a bottle of local wine tops off a fall day of outdoor adventure!

Mountain Bike, Mountain Biking
Bear Valley Area Trail I Courtesy of Phil Jachowski Mountain Bike Project Review

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.

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

New Hogan Reservoir

New Hogan Reservoir hikes are great if you are looking for fall colors, but a little bit warmer temperatures. Below the dam at the Monte Vista Recreation area, you will find the River of Skulls trail, an easy, .9 mile loop hiking trail. There is also a staging area for an eight mile equestrian trail to enjoy a scenic loop that winds along the foothills and lake. The west side of the lake includes bicycle trails that can be enjoyed by beginners and advanced riders. Easy to moderate loop trails ranging 5 to 10 miles include Cameron, Coyote, and Hogan and are dog-friendly (just keep them on a leash). Great places to grab a bite to eat…Hawg Dawgs with great beer on tap, The Thai House (amazing Thai food right here in Calaveras!), or Fusion Grill Mongolian BBQ where you can order off the menu or assemble your own BBQ ingredients that they prepare right in front of you.

Stroll Historic Downtowns

Maximize Fall Fun: Whether getting cozy at a local lodging, 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. Step into any one of the unique shops in any Calaveras downtown, you will be warmly greeted and can find perfect, one-of-a-kind items. With an eclectic mix of antique, craft, and toy stores, olive oil tasting, restaurants, tasting rooms, and so much more, there is something for everyone. For some extra autumn inspiration, step into Posterity Ciderworks located in historic Mokelumne Hill for a delicious hard cider craftedmade with fruit from local trees or grab some apple cider donuts from the Red Apple Ranch just above Murphys.

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

Get Outside and Play!

These images from around the county may inspire you to get outside and take in the beauty of Calaveras. Get up-to-date information, outdoor equipment, rentals, supplies, and lots of great fall color viewing ideas from Gateway Adventure Company in Copperopolis, Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods, Sierra Nevada Adventure Co. in Arnold, or Bear Valley Adventure Company

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
New Hogan Lake, Bike ROute, Valley Springs, Road Bike, Cycling, Bike ROute, Cycling Route
New Hogan Bike Route I Courtesy of Instagrammer @will_on_2_wheels
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
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!