Discovering our World

Travel, beauty, fashion, style and lifestyle blog by Ashley Liddle

Fall in California – best places for fall foliage, pumpkins, apples and more

Crisp air, crunchy leaves, brightly colored foliage, pumpkins and apples – I love little things about autumn. In this post I will take you thru my favorite fall destinations in California; from apple picking to leaf peeping here’s where to go to experience fall in California, and everything you need to know about when to plan your trip for maximum autumn vibes.

Is there fall in California?

Yes. Only it’s not when you’d expect it to be, and it varies wildly depending on where you are. For instance, September and October are essentially summer months, when an Indian Summer heatwave rolls through and gives us the warmest months of the year.

The fall season is fast and short: leaves turn and fall in November and December, only to immediately grow back again and start flowering in January as the annual winter rains roll through the state and turn everything into a brilliant, verdant green.

But in the mountains and foothills, California is truly seasonal and stunning.

When is fall in California?

Fall in California is like a wave: it begins in October at the highest elevations, in the mountains, then rolls outwards across the rest of the state, hitting the coast around late November/December as the mountains are covered with snow.

Is fall cold in California?

The answer to this depends entirely on where you are, but generally speaking: not really. It gets chilly at night – but keep in mind that to Californians, anything under 60F is considered chilly.

On the coast, it’s hot in September & October, cools down in November, and gets cold in December.

However, up in higher elevations and the mountains, the air will be cooler. Temperatures follow a more traditional seasonal pattern, with snowfall beginning in November and cold weather settling in throughout the month. But during the day, chances are that you’ll probably still feel warm and breezy in the sun.

Are there fall activities in California?

Yes. You can go apple picking, pumpkin picking, corn-mazing, and even leaf-peeping in California, and we’ve included our favorite suggestions below.

But, if it’s fall weather you’re craving, you’ll need to head into the mountains, where you’ll find plenty of crisp mountain air and brightly colored foliage.

The best places to experience fall in California

Apple Hill

Located near Placerville Apple Hill is an area which includes over 50 farms. From September through December, you can visit for fall activities like apple picking, visiting pumpkin patches, wine tasting, leaf-peeping, and, of course, eating and drinking all the apple-related delicacies. Apple Hill is a pretty popular place during the fall season. Expect crowds during the weekend and the roads are usually one lane so they can get quite congested. Expect to wait in line to enter some of the most popular farms.

Here’s where we suggest to make the most of a day trip

  • Apple Picking at Denver Dan’s Apple Patch. Make sure to call ahead to find out what apples are in season, as well as check on the status of U-Pick apples as they can run out quickly, and are typically gone by the end of September. They also sell Apple Crisp Sundae as well as other apple-related desserts and goods. Don’t forget to go to the back of the shop for an apple peeler demo – they’ll slice an apple so you can eat it off your thumb, free of charge.
  • Hard Apple Cider & Hot Apple Cider Donuts at Rainbow Orchards. In addition to the hard stuff, they also sell apple cider without alcohol. I can vouch that both versions are delicious. You’ll also find various apple-related products for sale, like pies, cobblers, crisps, tarts, jams, wine, fresh fruit, and more.
  • Pumpkin Patch & More at Delfino Farms. If you visit before Halloween, Delfino Farms has a cute pumpkin patch and corn maze. They also sell lots of fall gourds and mini pumpkins, in addition to desserts from their bake shop, Joan’s Apple Bakery. The farm’s location is stunning and set right in the middle of nature – don’t miss taking a short walk around the property.
  • High Hill Ranch has a cute market full of stalls selling handicrafts, plus apple cider donuts and regular apple cider, a farm market selling farmhouse specialties, and a lot of different types of homemade pie.

Yosemite National Park

While Yosemite National Park is beautiful at any time of the year, attracting millions of visitors who come to see its towering granite monoliths and majestic waterfalls, the fall season in the park is truly spectacular.

Yosemite Valley becomes transformed into breathtaking shades of red, orange, and yellow. The weather also remains relatively mild, perfect for doing one of Yosemite’s many amazing hikes. Because of this, the fall season is perhaps the best time of year to visit the park.

Here are some of the best ways to experience fall in Yosemite

  • Yosemite Valley. This is where you will find the most spectacular fall foliage. Higher elevations have evergreens, so you won’t see the fall colors the higher you go in elevation. The leaves on the oak, maple, and dogwood trees here transform into vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red.
  • Valley Loop Trail. Trail is a relatively flat and quiet and it takes you through beautiful meadows at the base of giant granite cliffs. The trail also runs near the Merced River, and you will pass along some beautiful streams. The entire trail is 11.5 miles long, but there are many entry points so you can choose to do as little or as much of it as you wish.
  • Cook’s Meadow Loop. It’s an easy 1-mile hike that is suitable for all ages and ability levels – and one with some of the best fall views in Yosemite. You will encounter plenty of red, yellow, and orange trees here, set against several of Yosemite’s most iconic sights, including Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. A side trail will also lead you to the charming Yosemite Valley Chapel.

Oak Glen

Just 90 miles from Los Angeles, there are a whole host of orchards to choose for apple picking in Oak Glen, a small, mountain community nestled in the foothills of Yucaipa. The Oak Glen farms usually open around 10 AM and there will be lines to enter. Be sure to check the dates you want to visit because u-pick typically only happens on weekends. However, there are also great nighttime events at some of the farms should you wish to do things a bit differently.

Below are some of the best activities to do for fall in Oak Glen

  • Willowbrook Apple Farm offers U-Pick Apples and U-Press Apple Cider. The orchard was planted in 1910 making their famed Stayman-Winesap apples over 100 years old.
  • At Riley’s Farm you can attend a historical reenactment dinner. The fall show is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. You can watch the three-act play, do some apple bobbing, and even participate in a pie-eating contest. 
  • Los Rios Rancho offers a hayride and a corn maze before enjoying some delicious tri-tip bbq sandwiches.


Located a few hours north of San Francisco, the charming little college town of Chico, also called the City of Trees, is close enough to the mountains to get a wonderful blanket of fall color and never be too far from snow in the winter. Starting in September the oaks and sycamores begin to turn.

In the foothills near Chico, you’ll also find sprawling pumpkin farms complete with corn mazes and fresh pumpkin pie. Chico’s nearby pumpkin farms are far less crowded than more popular pumpkin picking destinations like Apple Hill or Half Moon Bay, where you’ll often have to wait for an hour just to enter the parking lot at any October weekend.

One thing Chico does not have, however, is fall weather, it’s 80+ degrees and sunny.

On Saturday mornings in downtown Chico, you’ll find a fantastic farmers market selling fresh produce grown nearby mixed with seasonal fall handicrafts and goodies. Make the most of a fall morning by picking up a hot drink and strolling around downtown and Bidwell Park admiring the fall foliage.

Here’s how to make the most of a trip to Chico in the fall

Country Pumpkins is one of the best pumpkin patches in California. Free of crowds and with sprawling land to spare, the farm packs in fall activities: there’s a corn maze and a limited-run 10-acre haunted maze, a hay pyramid, a petting zoo, a country store, and a pumpkin patch. 


Temecula is Southern California’s largest wine region, located about half way between San Diego and Los Angeles and the perfect weekend getaway from either city.  Fall in Temecula means grape harvest time, cooler temperatures, and lots of things to do. 

De Portola Wine Trail Harvest Fest usually takes place in the beginning of November. In 2019, 10 local wineries participated in the event to celebrate the end of harvest season. Each winery offers a special wine tasting paired with delicious local treats, live music and other special events.

Here are the ones you should not miss

  • Vitagliano Vineyards, the largest wine region in Southern California, has a stunning property to hang out at, pretend you are in Italy, and enjoy some incredible wines.
  • Akash Winery is a perfect place if you like a more modern winery. As a bonus, during the harvest season Temecula offers a unique fall activity: grape stomping. This traditional wine making activity is done just like centuries ago. You’ll hop in a barrel with grapes and stomp the grapes to juice – with bare feet. Many wineries put on a special event for this, including live music, wine tastings, and dinner.  
  • Peltzer Pumpkin Farm and Winery will make you fell like you have been transported to pumpkin heaven and this 5th generation family farmers will make your day extra special. 
  • Refuge Brewery is a fantastic craft brewery serving up Belgian-style ales located near Old Town Temecula.
  • Devilicious – a Gastropub and Speakeasy offers some of the best food in town.

Half Moon Bay

The coastal town is actually known as the “pumpkin capital of the world”. There’s pumpkin picking, corn mazes, pumpkin beer, and much more.

Autumn is the most pleasant time of year in terms of weather to visit Half Moon Bay. The summer fog has typically dissipated, the beaches are a bit warmer, and the coast is at it’s clearest.

Below are some of the best activities to do for fall in Half Moon Bay

  • Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. Check some large pumpkins at the World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, admire the intricate carvings of the expert pumpkin carvers, sample pumpkin beer, and pumpkin mac’n’cheese. There’s arts and crafts stations, pumpkin pie, haunted houses, and of course pumpkin picking.
  • Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. The brewery holds a few of their own annual festivals, including the Coastside Brewfest, Harvest Dinner, and Oktoberfest.
  • Lemos Farms , Bob’s Pumpkin Patch, and Arata’s Pumpkin Farm are best places for one of the most popular fall activities – pumpkin picking.


A historic gold mining town located about an hour east of San Diego is worth visiting in the fall for two reasons: apple pie and the chance for a bit of a chill in the air.

Located at the base of the Cuyamaca mountains, Julian is a charming little town with a walkable Main Street. The town is best known for its apples, and you’ll find restaurants, cafes, and designated pie shops all along Main Street serving up an assortment of apple pies and cider. 

Here are the best things to do in Julian in the fall

  • Julian Pie Company and Moms Pie Shop are two of the most popular pie shops.
  • Julian Cafe offers delicious apple-pumpkin pie. They even have a window along the sidewalk where you can order a pie to go. 
  • Calico Ranch & Cidery is the best place for apple picking & cider.
  • Julian Farm & Orchard is where you can go for apple picking, pumpkin picking, and hayrides
  • Visit Julian Station or the Miner’s Saloon to sample Julian Hard Cider flavors like Apple Pie and Cherry Bomb.

June Lake

Crisp mountain air, shimmering lakes, scenic drives, colorful fall foliage – welcome to June Lake, a rustic little mountain town in the high Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains packed with scenic trails to explore, breathtaking mountain views to admire, and brightly colored aspens to frolic in.

Here’s what to do on a cozy mountain getaway to June Lake

  • June Lake Loop is a 16-mile scenic drive through towering aspens, rugged mountains, and glacial lakes. Just two miles and 20 minutes off Highway 395, the June Lake Loop starts in town loops through Lee Vining, at the entrance of Yosemite National Park, and the outdoor paradise of Mammoth Lakes. The loop will take about an hour or two to drive.
  • Silver Lake: take in shimmering mirrored lake views, crisp foggy air, and brightly colored foliage from a kayak in a beautiful mountain-ringed lake. You can rent a kayak, paddles and life jackets right on the shore of the lake from Silver Lake Resort, conveniently located directly across the street from the best breakfast in town.
  • Parker Lake is a 3.8 mile hike around one of the smaller lakes that takes about 2.5 hours to complete. This trail kicks off with a steep incline but quickly offers breathtaking views of Mono Lake and summits in the distance.

Mammoth Lakes

Located in the eastern Sierra mountains best known as a winter ski resort. But during the fall the weather is perfectly mild and just right to enjoy Mammoth’s many outdoor activities.

While there is lots to do within Mammoth Lakes itself, it also makes for the perfect base from which to explore up and down the CA Highway 395 corridor. There are so many beautiful, scenic places to explore and adventure in the eastern Sierras, and Mammoth is the perfect place to plant yourself for a fall trip.

Here are the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes during the fall

  • The Heart Lake trail. An uphill path to the alpine lake on the 2.4-mile out-and-back moderate trail offers beautiful views, but at the summit your efforts pay off with sweeping scenery of the mountains and Lake Mary far below.
  • Convict Lake. Just two miles south of town, is one of the most scenic and iconic lakes in the Eastern Sierra. Convict Lake is ideal for boating or for walking the shore, lined with bright orange willows drooping over the water and colorful fall foliage ringing the lake at the foot of the mountains. To take it all in, wake up early with a hot mug of coffee and enjoy the perfect autumn sunrise.
  • Highway 395. Go at least for a short trip. If you visit earlier in fall, go south about 30 minutes to Bishop, where three lakes sit on the three forks of Bishop Creek and offer stunning fall color. You can boat and fish at these lakes as well. Take a picnic along to enjoy by the shore for the perfect fall day.

Napa Valley

Although you can enjoy the beauty – and delicious wine – of Napa Valley throughout the year, there is something magical during the fall months when the vineyards change colors from green to gold and drop their heavy grape harvest. The crunchy yellow-red leaves, cool dining, crisp air in a fantastic ambiance made Napa Valley one of the best fall destinations in California.

Here are the best ways to experience fall in Napa Valley

  • Far Niente Winery in Oakville is highly recommended. The drive features a tree-lined drive with picturesque fall foliage. 
  • Napa Valley Wine Train runs through some of Napa Valley’s most scenic stretches. Enjoy the surrounding views with a four-course meal and a glass of wine – it’s the quintessential fabulous, luxurious, and romantic Napa Valley experience.


If you want to experience some fall vibes while in California, Sonoma County — and in particular, the Russian River Valley — is a phenomenal area to choose. The vineyards all turn beautiful shades of rust and orange after the end-of-summer harvest, and the colors are exquisite.

There are many places to base yourself by the Russian River area, but my favorite is Sebastopol. It’s a very small charming town, full of amazing restaurants and shops, while still close to wineries and apple orchards perfect for soaking up some autumn sunshine.

The wines produced in the Russian River Valley are just as good as in Napa and Sonoma – and some varietals are actually better due to the special microclimates. The Russian River is known for its crisp Chardonnays and delicately fruity Pinot noirs.

Wineries near Sebastopol include

  • Iron Horse Vineyards, which specialize in sparkling wines
  • Dutton-Goldfield Winery, very dog-friendly 
  • Halleck, book a tasting at $55 per person – they’re fairly pricey, but a tasting includes meeting the winemaker at his house, delicious pairings and phenomenal wines.

Other places worth visiting while in Sebastopol include

  • At Apple a Day Ranch located off Occidental Road, you’ll get your own bag to pick apples and pay by the pound at the end. Be sure to try the local apple for which Sebastopol is famous, the Gravenstein.
  • The Barlow. Everyone in Sebastopol’s favorite place to chill is a cool urban hangout featuring tons of restaurants, tasting rooms, and storefronts all converted from apple factories.
  • Golden State Cider. Crisp apple cider.
  • Two Dog Night Creamery. Tasty ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.  

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe offers diverse experience. In summer, clear blue waters and enchanting forests; in winter, some of the best slopes and ski-resorts in the country for winter fun.

To capture the spectacle at its peak, it’s best to visit the Lake Tahoe area around October, when the region’s foliage will be on full display and the crowds will be the smallest. There’s endless hiking trails, local festivals, and plenty of places to get your fall on.

Here are three things to put on your Lake Tahoe fall to-do list

  • Fallen Leaf Lake is ringed with aspens blazing with bright color in autumn, is easily accessible off Highway 89, and it offers different levels of hiking trails.
  • Attend Oktoberfest. With many festivals & events that occur throughout the month Camp Richardson serves up a unique take on a tradition that highlights Lake Tahoe’s rich German heritage. 
  • Take a sunset cruise: Lake Tahoe cruises are available from daytime to sunset offering majestic views of Emerald Bay, one of the most picturesque spots in Lake Tahoe. These narrated sightseeing cruises are the best way to soak in the beauty of fall colors in the Sierra Nevada.

Nevada City

Located in the foothills of the northern Sierra Nevada mountains, the area – including nearby Grass Valley – has a fascinating Gold Rush history, stunning Victorian homes and a well-preserved historic downtown.

Its easy to find fall foliage sprinkled throughout downtown Nevada City and nearby Grass Valley: there’s a map of the best trees.

Best things to do in Nevada City are

  • The self-guided fall foliage tour of Nevada City follows narrow streets lined with Victorian homes – which are typically well decorated for the season – and colorful trees. For maximum coziness, pick up a hot drink from City Council downtown before you start, and treat yourself to a caramel apple from the Chocolate Shoppe afterwards. 
  • Take a scenic drive: the 160-mile Yuba-Donner Scenic Byway is a looped route showcasing colorful fall foliage ranging from old trees and vines in historic mining villages to the groves of quaking aspens at the higher elevations of Yuba and Donner summits.
  • Visit a pumpkin patch: Bierwagen’s Pumpkin Patch has pumpkins, and autumnal sweet treats: caramel apples, pumpkin cupcakes, apple cookies, fresh-baked pie, apple cider, and most popular of all, apple fritter nuggets. If you’d prefer something a little spookier, the Haunted Pumpkin Patch & maze offers adjustable scare levels.

Glen Ellen

You can watch the grape leaves in the vineyards change from yellow to orange to a deep crimson. For outdoor adventures with practically perfect weather, delish farm to table meals, and gorgeous vistas, spend the weekend in Glen Ellen for a quaint fall getaway.

Here’s what to do in Glen Ellen for maximum fall beauty

  • Benziger Family Winery offers a private tram tour through for an intimate view of the changing leaves in the vineyards. Tram tours are available by reservation on certain days. Tours include a detailed experience of the winery with plenty of tastings along the way. Traditional outdoor seated tastings are also available on their beautiful grounds.
  • Jack London State Historic Park. When entering the park, turn left to head to the 1.25 mile walking trail through the forest to the House of Happy Walls Museum and remains of the author’s dream home, the Wolf House. If you turn right when driving in, you will find the colorful vineyards and winery surrounding the ranch as a testament to London’s passion for pure and sustainable farming practices. A Bay Area Ridge trailhead is also located here for a longer hike.
  • Girl and the Fig. Their locally sourced ingredients make for a tasty dish any time of year, but in the autumn, you’ll find seasonal offerings like Wild Mushroom Risotto and Caramel Apple Galette.