5 Stunning Foliage Hikes in California

By Penny Fox

5 Stunning Foliage Hikes in California

In the fall, the forests of California come to life with vibrant colors, painting a landscape of oranges, yellows, and reds. The very best way to view nature’s annual showing of magical colors is by embarking on a fall foliage hike. These five stunning hikes help you experience Mother Nature at her best. 

1. Bishop Creek Canyon

Are you seeking outdoor adventure? Do you love the season’s changing leaves and flowers with the cinnamon reds, fiery peaches, bright golden hues, and muddy browns? Bishop Creek Canyon has more than a dozen day trails that take you into autumn nirvana. The only limitation is your imagination and how far your feet will take you. Beautiful baby blue skies and fluffy white clouds are your ceiling as you travel through this magnificent wilderness area. You’ll see pristine lakes and rocky mountain majesties. Make sure you have plenty of water with you and stay on the marked trails. There’s no fee for day hiking, but if you plan to stay overnight, you’ll want to get an overnight pass at the White Mountain Ranger Station. 

2. Shasta Cascade Region

Home to Native Americans originally, the Shasta Cascade region is in the northeast/north central part of California at the edge of Oregon and Nevada. There are seven national forests in the region, and well-known waterways, unspoiled lakes, and plunging waterfalls beckon a visit and a photograph or two. A favorite spot of John Muir’s, there is activity for everyone. Water recreation like canoeing, paddleboarding, a moonlight kayaking tour, or fishing, you name it, it’s here for the enjoyment. If you prefer a solitary hike where you can experience the peace and serenity of a crystal-clear lake or the pounding and rushing sound of water falling 138 feet, there’s that, too. Visit for day. Stay for a while. Remember forever. 

3. Lundy Lake/Lundy Canyon

If you’re looking for a nice place to pitch your tent, tether your RV, or just spend the day hiking and fishing, Lundy Lake is the right place for you. This three-mile trail is not heavily traveled and is listed as difficult. The trail is dog-friendly as long as you remember to keep them under control. If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll find plenty of great photo opportunities here with the birds and fall foliage, and it’s not a far hike to the waterfalls. Summer and fall are the best times to come, and the aspen groves and beaver ponds are added perks to the hike. 

4. John Muir Trail

Known as the “Father of the National Parks,” John Muir was also a naturalist, environmentalist, and advocate for protecting the wilderness areas in and around Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park in California. The 211-mile hiking trail named after Muir is good for hikers of all ages, and every mile holds amazing and picturesque views of the state. This trail has the sunniest climate for a mountain range in the world, but hiking the trail is best between July and September. The complete trail can be accomplished in three weeks if you follow a steady pace. A permit is needed, so make sure to obtain one, and bears are frequently seen, so bring along a food container if you plan to spend the night. 

5. Palomar Mountain State Park

Recovering from the damage caused by a wildfire in nearby Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in 2003, the area around Palomar Mountain State Park is coming back to life with the fire of autumn. With almost 2,000 acres of green coniferous forests in the park, there are still brilliant bursts of color as the cedar trees change from green to golden yellow to vibrant orange to earthy brown. Evenings are cool, but you can take any of the 11 miles of hiking trails to locations like historic Boulder Hill, where the view from the old fire tower is magnificent. Part of the Boucher Summit Trail is handicap accessible, and there is information available about the tower, originally built in 1921 and maintained by park volunteers. Some of the trail provides an easy, slow-paced walk, but others require a half-day to complete. Maps are available and remember to get a day pass, which includes your overnight camping fee if you’re spending the night. 

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