Updated for 2023
Here in Southern California we may not experience fall quite like the rest of the country, but that doesn’t mean we are completely absent of slightly cooler weather and the changing color of leaves. As the days become shorter, trees respond to the decreasing amount of light by producing less chlorophyll — let all the science nerds know you know.
The green color disappears and the yellow and orange colors become visible in the leaves as part of their fall splendor. So grab your coat and your camera because we’ve gathered up a list of the best places to experience fall in Southern California!
The Best Places to See Fall Colors in Los Angeles
1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
Descanso Gardens is a gorgeous place to visit any time during the year; however, during the fall it becomes a fall foliage wonderland. Plan a day to explore at a leisurely pace and take in all the gardens have to offer. During the autumn months, you’ll find roses, camellias, ginkgo, toyon berries, and more in bloom.
Malibu Creek State Park
1925 Las Virgenes Rd., Calabasas, CA 91302
Just 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles, Malibu Creek State Park has over 4,000 acres to experience fall. The park features hiking, fishing, bird watching, and horseback riding opportunities. There are 15 miles of gorgeous streamside trails through oak and sycamore woodlands and chaparral-covered slopes. As of August 18th, 2022, the campground is fully open and taking reservations. Reservations may be made online or over the phone. Check the website for details.
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, CA 91007
The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden consists of “127 acres of plants, natural landscapes, wildlife, and historic buildings.” Families can view plants and trees from around the world as well as see a variety of birds, including the famous peacocks, in this official wildlife sanctuary. Be sure to visit the Meadowbrook Garden which not only provides views of the San Gabriel Mountains but also trees bathed in glorious fall colors.
Whittier Narrows Recreation Area
750 S. Santa Anita Ave., South El Monte, CA 91733
Whittier Narrows, a 1,492-acre park located in the City of South El Monte, is one of Los Angeles County’s largest and most popular recreation areas. With nearly every ecosystem naturally represented at the Whittier Narrows Recreational Facility, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the fall weather.
Idyllwild Nature Center
25225 Hwy. 243, Idyllwild, CA 92549
Nestled in the San Jacinto mountains in the Inland Empire, Idyllwild is set among tall pines, sweet-smelling cedars, and large legendary rock formations. The town has kept its locally owned shops and restaurants in a small town atmosphere and spending a day in peace and quiet is the perfect alternative to a bustling LA city day. Idyllwild is perfect for day trips and weekend hikes.
12261 Oak Glen Rd., Yucaipa, CA 92399
Nestled in the apple-growing foothills of historic Oak Glen you’ll find farms and orchards to help you create a perfect day trip to experience fall in SoCal. Many farms in the mile-high destination offer apple and pumpkin picking through Thanksgiving.
Town of Julian
Julian Mining Company, 4444 State Hwy. 78, Julian, CA 92036
Julian is a historic gold mining town located approximately one hour east of San Diego. It is a quaint mountain retreat with four distinct seasons: Spring brings the blossoming of many flowers including daffodils and lilacs; Summer is perfect for hiking and star-gazing; Fall is famous for the apple harvest and fall colors; Winter brings snowfall and bright, crisp days. Specialty shops line the historic streets, and there are tons of picnic areas.
Big Bear Lake
The Village — Village Dr. and Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
From mid-October to early November, Big Bear Lake transforms into a fall wonderland of gold, crimson, amber, and yellow. Thousands of evergreen trees bring out the bright fall colors of other trees like aspens, cottonwoods, and oaks. The ground is covered with rust-colored ferns, and Big Bear Village is brilliant with vibrant red maples.
Some of the best spots in Big Bear Lake include Mill Creek Road, The Pine Knot Trail, and Castle Rock Trail. The location that stands out the most for its amazing fall foliage is The Aspen Grove. Be sure to check the website for information about special seasonal events including the Big Bear Village Scarecrow Festival and Big Bear Scare.
Lake Arrowhead Village, Dockside
Lake Arrowhead is a scenic mountain resort within the San Bernardino National Forest. Although there are plenty of opportunities to experience fall in and around Lake Arrowhead, may we suggest a tour of the Lake aboard the Lake Arrowhead Queen? It’s a must if you’ll be visiting, the tour is approximately one hour long and floats along the perimeter of the lake, perfect for viewing fall colors.
Palomar Mountain State Park
19952 State Park Dr., Palomar Mountain, CA 92060
Palomar Mountain State Park is unique in that families will find a “Sierra Nevada-like atmosphere” here in southern California. Explore the area’s forest and mountain meadows and marvel at the vistas as panoramic views extend “westerly toward the ocean and inland toward the desert.”
Throughout Calaveras County visitors can track fall colors and enjoy the season. Annual events like the Blues and Bones Festival, Grape Stomp, Lumberjack Days, and the famous American Frog Day bring tourists and locals alike out for fun and make it worth the trip.
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