Category: Trip Summary

(North) Eastern Sierra Fall Colors 2013 ~ Trip Report 2013-Oct-13

After a drive and a few shots in Hope Valley (CA) area along Hwy 88, the next part of the trip involved making it down to Mono Lake by late afternoon, early evening.  This meant drives past areas of Fall Colors along Hwy 395.

Weather: Cold. Evening temperatures were low-30s with the wind chill dropping the temperatures down to the 20s at night with daytime temperatures between 50-60 in the Lee Vining area.  Light dusting of snow at the higher elevations (Tioga Pass, Mammoth) earlier in the week on and on the Sunday morning I was there.

From north to south, here is what I saw:

Topaz, Coleville, and Walker: 75%. Mostly yellows, very few green.  Good to shoot now, though most photogs bypass this area as the trees are spread about and don’t lend to those wide-angle photogenic shots.  But if you happen to stop in one of these towns for a bite to eat (Walker has popular burger and BBQ joints), you might as well shoot.  The Walker River along 395 has yellows with the added bonus of a trickling river.  Most of these campsites and day use areas are closed due to the government shutdown, but there are enough areas along the side of the road to stop and shoot.

Devil’s Gate Pass (Hwy 395): 100%.  Yellows, some orange. A bit of an unappreciated area since most of us are speeding by at 65-75 mph and are busy passing slower cars in one of the few 4-lane stretches of Hwy 395.  But if you can figure out where to stop, there are aspen trees set against the granite formations that comprise the Devil’s Gate.

Bridgeport Courthouse: Past peak. Too late. Burned leaves, dropping.

Conway Summit: 75-100% to Peak to Past, Go now!! A bit of a mixed bag here, but given the expanse of the Summit, there is enough to satisfy everyone.  There are stands of yellow, orange, and red ,ixed in with trees with no leaves.  The usual throngs of photogs parked along Hwy 395 at the turnouts were present.  Remember to watch your speed as I always seem to see the Sheriff SUV zooming back and forth along this stretch of road.

Lundy Canyon/LakeNot checked.

June Lake Loop: 75-100%, Go now!!!. This area has the best show of Fall Color in the areas that I had a chance to see this weekend.  Details as I remember them from north to south along the Loop (Hwy 158).

  • North of Grant Lake: 75-100%. The one prominent stand has all turned or started turning. Yellows with a bit of green on some trees
  • Grant Lake: 100%. Trees along the side of the road have all turned.
  • Aerie Crag: 75-100%.  Great area.  Trees along the road and lines of trees up the mountain.
  • Silver Lake: 100%. Yellows along the lake make for great reflection shots. There is also a stretch of road just south of the lake that creates a nice tree tunnel effect.
  • June Lake: 75-100% Yellows along the lake.


Hope Valley Fall Colors 2013 ~ Trip Report 2013-Oct-12

So here is the quick and dirty on the Fall Colors in the Hope Valley (CA) area along Hwy 88.  Posting from “the road” (in a Starbucks) from the Nevada side before heading down Hwy 395 towards Bridgeport, Lee Vining, Mono Lake late this afternoon.

I report from west to east along Hwy 88 using landmarks or mile markers whenever possible.

Amador Mile Marker 67 to Carson Spur: Peak, Go now! Mostly yellows

Kirkwood to Caples Lake: 50%-Down.  Very inconsistent in this area with some areas at 50% while other are almost completely down.

Woods Lake Fishing Entrance: 75%-100%. Lots of yellows.  Lots of brown spots (burns) on the leaves from the cold front that moved into the area midweek.

Woods Lake Rec Area: Past peak. Too late.

Red Lake: Peak, Go now!! Yellow and orange colors.

Iconic Cabin: Past peak. Too late. Although the trees on the ridges high above the cabin are at peak.

Unmarked Old Emigrant Trail to Alpine Mile Marker 10: Peak, Go Now!!  Lots of yellows framed in the background by the mountains behind.  Parking is along the road one very small turnoff area.  Be careful when entering, crossing roadway, exiting vehicle.

Blue Lake Road: Not checked.

Hope Valley Corral (northside of highway): Past peak. Too late.

Hope Valley Campground (northside of highway)Past peak. Too late.

Hope Valley Campground (eastern side)/Hwy 89 Jct: 75%. Go now. Yellows, oranges, and reds with some greens here and there.

Sorensen’s Resort: Peak. Go now. Yellows.

West Fork Carson River (and down the eastern side): 75-100% Go now!! Lots of color, still some water in the river.

Post Trip Report: Hope Valley Fall Colors 2012-Oct-05

Hope Valley, CA

In the one and only trip out for the Fall Colors in the Eastern Sierras (specifically Hope Valley), I spent a little bit of time to experiment with what the people in the know call Light Impressions.  It gives a photograph the appearance of an Impressionist painting.  Maybe mine is a crude example, but it was definitely fun to try.

As for the trip itself, I sent off a quick summary to Carol Leigh at CalPhoto, but will also post it here.  I estimate Hope Valley as a whole will be in “peak” in 2 weeks (10/19 weekend).  The areas right around Sorensen’s will be peak a little sooner.

Update 10/19: As I had mentioned previously, I was estimating the 10/19 weekend to be the peak color time for Hope Valley, minus Sorensen’s which should be past peak now.  Dave Henry from the Sacramento Bee published an article overnight (HERE) confirming this is the week to hit Hope Valley this year.  If you figure the incoming storm set to arrive by Tuesday (10/23), the leaves will be down by then.  So if you are thinking of going, do it this weekend!!

The weather in Northern California has cooler considerably since Thursday (10/4) and looks to remain that way for the next 10 days.  Daytime highs in the 60’s with overnight lows into the 20’s.  Thunderstorms are forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

(As of 10/5) Starting from west to east along Hwy 88:

  • Woods Lake Road (right past Caples Lake) – everything you need to see is within the first 1/4 mile, mostly around the old cow corrals
  • Carson Pass/Red Lake heading east – 10-15%, lots of green occasional stands of yellow
  • Iconic cabin – 10-15%, barely any color, but in case you’re wondering, cabin is for sale!
  • Area around the 2nd unmarked, unused Emigrant Road, midway between Blue Lakes and 89 Junction – 50%, yellows
  • Hope Valley pre-campground (northside) at the corrals (couple of heavy machinery parked nearby right now, easy to spot) – 50%, good variation of color, walk across the meadow to the trees, everyone else does.
  • Hope Valley campground (northside) – 25-30%, 2 specific stands that require driving into the campground – 1st stand yellow, green, 2nd stand yellow, green, some orange
  • Sorensen’s – 50-60% yellows
  • Sorensen’s Fire Trail – 75%, yellows, some trees past peak, not worth walking beyond the stream (4th turn?)
  • West Fork Carson River, heading downhill – 10-15% scattered throughout

Along Hwy 89 to Tahoe:

  • Luther Pass – 20%, all along the road
  • Christmas Valley – 10-15%, interspersed among homes

As is always the case, check out these sites for the latest on the rest of the Eastern Sierra, where many locations are coming into peak as I type:

Unless you live up in the Eastern Sierras or have the ability to drive to the area every few days, your best bet is to visit the following sites for the latest color information:

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, 130mm, ISO 200, 30 sec, f/9

Aspens, Colors, Light Impression.  Hope Valley, California. October 05, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Trip Report – Hope Valley 2011-Oct-24

After passing the Hope Valley area last weekend on the way home from a couple of days in the Eastern Sierra and seeing how many of the aspens had started to turn or were at peak, I knew there would be maybe a week or two left before the leaves would be down.   Yep, that was probably a run-on sentence too!  Anyhow, after seeing the forecast for potential rain/snow midweek, I didn’t want to take the chance of a storm coming through and taking down the remaining leaves.  I left at noon and was in the midst of lots of cars parked along the highway and folks snapping photographs.

Sorensen’s Resort & Fire Road

Sorensen's - Fire Road
Sorensen's - Fire Road

So while I completed neglected to take a photograph of the fall colors at highway level, I will report the aspens along the road near the resort are at peak.  It might last until the next weekend, but most likely not beyond that.  If you can make a midweek trip, that would be the best bet.

Instead, I started hiking up the fire road/trail immediately to the west of the resort.  It was immediately noticeable that the leaves are completely down from the start of the fire road and up to the 5 turn.  There is nothing left except for a few trees here and there and is not worth the uphill hike if the intent is for aspens.  On the other hand, between the 3rd and 4th turns on the trail and just past the downed tree across the trail, there is a rather large section of, what I believe are, bright yellow Broad Leaf Maples.  Some compositions can be made from the trail itself, while other can be made by going trailblazing up the side of the hill.

East Fork Carson River

East Fork Carson River

Just east of Sorensen’s Resort and starting down the east side of the Sierras on Hwy 88 are various turnoffs to explore the East Fork of the Carson River.  The colors here are at peak and may last for another week or so.  The area I explored is the first large turnoff area across the road from Horsethief Trail.  Since there are picnic benches and fire pits for families, access to the river itself very easy unlike locations in this area.  While I was here around 3pm and the sun was still rather high, I was able to take a few photographs of the colors, but most of my compositions were of close-ups of the leaves, branches, and boulders.  I’ll post those photographs in the coming days and weeks.  The fun part for me was hopping from boulder to boulder while carrying my camera equipment.  Ok, maybe that was the best idea, but it sure was fun!

Hope Valley

Ok, I’m obviously having formatting issues while using WordPress.  I have pictures all over the place.  And yes, I’ve worked with HTML in the past, but apparently not all the usual HTML rules are followed here.

Anyway, the centerpiece of this area is Hope Valley itself.  Most everything you need to see is visible from the main highway (Hwy 88).  Throughout this area this weekend were cars parked all along the road with photogs with all sorts of equipment, from cell phones, point-and-shoot cameras, and digital SLR cameras.  There is one official parking area with facilities and it is just west of the Hwy 88 and Hwy 89 (to Lake Tahoe) junction.  Most of the fall foliage is on the north side of the highway with most of the area accessible because it’s public campground.  Some of the area to the west is private grazing land but they barbed wire fence is down and hikers and photogs were walking in the area.  Just avoid the cow patties.  The color in this main area of Hope Valley is at peak and past peak.  We’ll be lucky if the leaves last into the next weekend.  Just beyond initial stand of aspens seen from the road at this location are trees with no leaves.  There will most likely still be large pockets of trees at peak by next weekend, but the area will be in decline by then.

Hope Valley, Hwy 88
Hope Valley, Hwy 88
Hope Valley - Hwy 88

Red Lake

The final area I was able to visit in Hope Valley as it was becoming dark was Red Lake.  This is the lake you see as your descending east from Carson Pass and the current one-lane stoplight as work is being done to remove and secure the hillside at the pass.  Due to the blasting of the granite and heavy equipment needed to remove debris, there may be up to a 2-hour delay during the weekdays until October 31st.

By the time I arrived at Red Lake, the light was fading fast as Carson Pass looms high over the lake.  While there are some trees around the lake, it’s nothing like the lakes in the Bishop Creek area where thousands of trees surround the lakes.  This area is at and past peak.  The photographs I took were from the areas away from the lake.  There is a nice composition with a red barn amongst the trees by taking the road to the left as you enter the Red Lake area from Hwy 88.  And no, I didn’t take a shot as it was becoming way too dark and I would have need to park in a mud pit on the dirt road.

Hope Valley, Red Lake
Red Lake, Hope Valley

All photos.  © Copyright 2011 Steven Tze – all rights reserved.