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Where to find fall colors close to L.A.: Big Bear is almost at peak

Fall colors 2019 in Big Bear Lake
Fall colors are almost at peak in Big Bear Lake, two hours northeast of downtown L.A.
(Dan McKernan)

Fall colors came to Big Bear Lake about a week earlier than last year, bringing a gold tinge to the village and forest trails. Aspen, cottonwood, oak and birch leaves turn from green to yellow or gold in the mountain town about two hours northeast of L.A. Non-native maple trees in the mountain resort’s Village add bright reds.

Fall colors Big Bear lake in 2019
Maples, which are not native to the area, turn flaming red.
(Dan McKernan)

Unless you go soon, you’ll miss the show.

Big Bear fall colors 2019
The Village in the downtown area of Big Bear Lake provides easy access to some of the town’s fall color spots.
(Eddie Kirsch / Visit Big Bear)

“We’ll have pretty good fall color through the end of October, with peak being early next week,” says Eddie Kirsch, marketing director for Visit Big Bear. Fall colors are most prominent on the south side of the lake.

Good places to start your color quest in the forest: Pineknot Trail, park at the Aspen Glen Picnic Area south of the town; Towne Trail on the south side of the lake; and the Castle Rock Trail, which begins about a mile east of the dam on California Highway 18.

Big Bear Lake fall colors 2019
Autumn foliage is expected to last until the end of October, with peak being right around now.
(Eddie Kirsch / Visit Big Bear)
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“Drive up here into the mountains, and you’re going to see the fall colors everywhere,” Kirsch says.

The popular aspen grove, an oasis of gold in the forest, is now open. Access on forest roads to the Aspen Grove Trail had been closed because of damage from the 2015 Lake fire.

Fall colors 2019 in Big Bear Lake
Yellows and gold, shown in a recent photo, are the most common colors at Big Bear Lake.
(Dan McKernan)

The California Fall Color website also recommends these “go now” locations in or near the San Bernardino Mountains: Running Springs, Lake Gregory, Lake Arrowhead and Grass Valley Lake.

Make sure you dress warmly and are prepared for cold nights, as temperatures drop into the 30s, Kirsch says.

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Moving north to the Eastern Sierra, fall colors in the Bishop Creek area continue to chug along, particularly at North and South lakes. “Of all the years that CaliforniaFallColor.com has reported fall color from Bishop Creek Canyon, 2019 sets a record for lasting to mid-October with NO ‘past peak’ areas,” the website says.


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