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Tracking Down Fall Color Around San Diego

Quaking aspens in the San Gorgonio Wilderness (Photo: Mitch Barrie/Flickr)

Fall color in Southern California? Actually, yes!

OK, so we’re not New England or the Midwest: We don’t have huge tracts of hardwood forest that became fiery kaleidoscopes under the sunny days and crisp nights of northern autumn. (Then again, we also don’t have bone-chilling winters of piled-up snow. Just saying.)

But we do have some native deciduous trees and shrubs that put on their own seasonal spectacle, giving you the opportunity to do a little bit of modest “leaf-peeping” (as they call it up there in the Northeast) right here in warm, sunshiny San Diego.

Crimson (and More) Canopies

We’re talking golden cottonwoods and willows and pinkish sycamores in the canyon woods of the foothills, and, higher up in the mountains, brown and flame-colored black oaks, bright yellow and orange groves of quaking aspen, reddish dogwoods, golden bitter cherry, and more.

And, of course, you’ll find plenty of cultivated hardwoods from all over the world in and around the city that are proudly turning color alongside our stubbornly green palms, conifers, and manzanitas.

Track the Show

A great resource for keeping track of the fall-color wash across our San Diego hinterland is the website California Fall Color, which claims the delightful tagline: “Dude, autumn happens here, too.” The site posts regular updates and photos, and includes a map with leaf-report symbols clueing you in to the status of local foliage.

Fall Color Destinations

Where are some good regional leaf-peeping spots around greater San Diego? Los Penasquitos (“Little Cliffs”) Canyon Preserve has some marvelous riparian California sycamores and cottonwoods. The San Bernardino National Forest up in the Transverse Ranges east of the city, meanwhile, is an excellent place to cruise for the colors of the montane forests: You can find, for instance, California’s southernmost aspen groves near Big Bear Lake and along Fish Creek in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. And in the Peninsular Ranges, Laguna Mountain Recreation Area in the Cleveland National Forest has plentiful black-oak stands that can be mighty pretty this time of year—plus you’ve got the beauty of the Colorado Desert of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park sprawling to the east.

Come enjoy our own version of fall color down here in San Diego County, and make the Sofia Hotel your home-away-from-home while you do so! Happy autumn!