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A Guide to Fall Adventure in California

09.26.18

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A Guide to Fall Adventure in California

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  • Overlooking the old Highway 49 bridge.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Golden autumn light along the Kortum Trail.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Kortum Trail Sunset.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Fern Canyon Trail.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Trails run parallel to the shoreline near Gerstle Cove.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Typical Mendecino County sunset.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • A view of Emerald Bay and the peaks of Desolation Wilderness beyond from Emerald Point.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • The main entrance to Sorensen's Resort.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • The bridge to Sorenson's Sierra House.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Aspens in fall above Sorensen's Resort.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Sorensen's Resort.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Picturesque views of the lake and the Desolation Wilderness.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Fall colors at the Diggins.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • The Diggins.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • The historic mining town of North Bloomfield, Malakoff Diggins State Park.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Aspen grove on the left side of the path.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Aspen grove on the left side of the path.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Backyard of the cabin.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • North Grove Trail.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City is backed by the rugged coastal cliffs of Redwood National and State Parks. - A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Surfer heading to Kellogg Beach near Redwood National and State Parks.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Damnation Creek Trail, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Beautiful fall foliage along the Point Defiance Loop Trail.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • A mixture of grey pine (Pinus sabiniana), black oak (Quercus kelloggii) and interior live oak (Quercus wislizeni) cover this Yuba River Canyon slope.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • The Barn at the South Yuba River State Park Visitor Center.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Historic Bridgeport Covered Bridge from the Point Defiance Loop Trail.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides) showing off their fall colors in Mineral King Valley, Sequoia National Park.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Sawtooth Peak's serrated summit (12,343 ft) stands watch over Mineral King.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Aspen trees at Silver Lake.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • The scenic drive of June Lake Loop.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Lassen Peak rises above the Lassen Loop Road/Highway 89.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • A full moon rises over Lassen's summit caldera.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • The main fall at Chambers Creek Falls. - A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Autumn in Soda Springs.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Soda Springs.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Feather Falls.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • A beautiful walk through blooming fields of flowers.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Light rays beam through the trees.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
  • Panoramic view of the sunset and Crescent Beach.- A Guide to Fall Adventure in California
Article
Contributor

Northern California comes alive in the fall. Sometimes it's a subtle muting of hues as shadows deepen, the grasses growing redder as they shrink back, browns and grays blending together in dry landscapes. Or it's the golden light that hits a cliff pounded by wave after wave from the Pacific Ocean. Or sometimes fall in Northern California happens in a brilliant explosion of yellow aspen leaves contrasting against a paper-white trunk and the violent maroon leaves of a liquid amber that deepen as the season slips into winter. 

Sure, the state sees its fair share of rolling brown hills, long Indian Summers that never seem to end, and a history of drought that fuel anxieties about winter, but autumn is the state’s most underrated season. Visitors can cruise right into parks that are crowded throughout the summer and bundle up on trails and in campgrounds before it gets too cold and things close down for the winter. There’s plenty of golden leaves to see if you know where to look, and if you are up for a less traditional take on fall, the coast and the redwoods are there for the exploring.

National park leaf-peepin’

Redwoods: While you might not see fall’s signature display of orange and reds among these towering evergreens, autumn is an amazing time to explore the redwoods. There are fewer crowds, and the chilly coastline will put you in the mood for hot drinks and cozy sweaters.

Lassen: One of California’s least visited and most remote national parks, Lassen is always a good idea. It gets pretty chilly here, which means that it’s time to bust out your heaviest down jackets, wool socks, and sleeping bags if you plan to camp out in the fall.

Brave the high elevation chills

When in doubt, head for the hills…and head for the Sierra specifically. The aspens, cottonwoods, and other brightly hued trees that are scattered through the pine forests surrounding Tahoe are a guaranteed showstopper, you just have to know where to look.

The land of liquid gold...and plenty of pastries

Local Northern Californians are likely familiar with hearing the phrase “liquid gold” to describe the bounty of wine coming out of this region. This is because many areas that were once mining hotspots also make for great grape growing—what was once known as the "motherlode" or "gold country" is now synonymous with wineries, craft beer, and farm-to-fork eateries. And rural beauty abounds in the Sierra foothills of Placer, El Dorado, and Amador counties, not to mention the more well-known vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties, as well.

What's a better pairing for adventure than local treats to drink and eat? Fall is the harvest season, after all! 

Gold Country

Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Areas

Not quite Northern California highlights

Even though these places aren’t technically in Northern California, they fall in the ambiguous central California/Eastern Sierra Zone. And, more importantly, they are beautiful places to visit—especially in the fall. Picture the crisp white of aspen trunks popping against yellow leaves, dazzling azure lakes, and cool mountain forests.

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