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San Bernardino Mountains

When most people think about Southern California, palm trees and warm sunshine tend to come to mind, a far cry from the multi-colored leaves and crisp weather associated with autumn.  While it’s true that most “leafers” don’t exactly set their sights on booking flights to LA or San Diego but I am here to tell you that fall does visit Socal, you just have to know where and when.  Sure there are plenty of neighborhoods around the Southland with maples lining the sidewalks but the best autumn strolls are found away from the subdivisions and out in nature.  Hop in the car and take a day trip to one of these great spots:

LA Metro

Pt. Mugu State Park:  What is better than finding fall color just north of Malibu? Why fall color and butterflies, of course!  A hike into Sycamore Canyon in Pt. Mugu State Park during late October and early November offers nice color, pleasant weather and clusters of wintering monarch butterflies in the trees. Be sure to save time for a beach sunset to end the day.

Visit the aspens:  Believe it or not, the country’s southernmost aspen grove is located in the San Bernardino Mountains, east of Los Angeles.  Aspens are known for their vibrant yellow autumn color which pops against the pines that dominate the mountain.  The grove is located off Hwy 38 near Barton Flats.  A sign directing you to Heart Bar campground will take adventurers onto Forest Road 1N02. Follow the dirt road towards Fish Creek in mid-October (weather dependent) and you will be rewarding with trees aflame.  If you have time on the way home, be sure to stop in Oak Glen for some apple picking and fresh cider.


While it is pretty much impossible to find fall color in the desert, the mountains towering above the Hemet and Palm Springs area offer some nice pockets of vibrant leaves.  When the nights cool down, head off to Idyllwild and Mt San Jacinto along highway 243. Lower in elevation, Hurkey Creek and Lake Hemet in Garner Valley offer some late season color in November.

San Diego Metro

Julian:  This historic gold mining town sits at 4200 feet in the Laguna Mountains of San Diego County and offers the total fall package. Golden oaks and cedars, apple picking, and wine tasting await in this town which is only an hour away from distance but a world away in atmosphere.  For the ultimate fall experience, visit in mid to late October when the Halloween harvest is in full swing and the apples are ripe for the picking.

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