Early-season aspens above Conway Summit (October 4, 2004)

Early-season aspens above Conway Summit (October 4, 2004)


If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you probably know that Claudia and I go to the Millpond Music Festival in Bishop every September. We just got back from this year’s event, and I can report that we had a wonderful, fantastic, amazing time. This is either the 13th or 14th consecutive year we’ve attended this festival, so we obviously love it.

This festival always takes place around the third week of September, so our trip gives us a chance to check out the early fall color on the eastern side of the Sierra. I’ve been hearing reports that the aspen leaves are turning early this year on the east side (and in Colorado too according to Jennifer Yu). On our way home yesterday we took a quick drive up Rock Creek Canyon. I didn’t take any photos, but I can confirm that the colors are indeed changing quickly. Rock Creek isn’t at peak yet, but it won’t take long, and by this coming weekend the upper reaches should be at or near peak.

We didn’t have time to go up Bishop Creek Canyon, but that area should be approaching peak too, and Sandy Steinman’s post today seems to confirm that.

Rock Creek and Bishop Creek canyons are at higher elevations than most of the aspen groves on the east side, so the show is just beginning. As the leaves fade from these early-season hot spots the color will progress down the slopes, and you should be able to find great color on the east side through at least the third week of October. After that the autumn display shifts to Yosemite Valley, with the peak color usually coming around the end of October or beginning of November.

An article I wrote several years ago outlines the timing and locations for the typical fall color progression in the central Sierra. My Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite book and iPhone app gives more detail about the best locations to photograph colorful leaves in and around Yosemite.

Of course every autumn is different. Although fall seems to be starting early this year, warmer weather is supposed to arrive later this week and that may slow things down. Then again, an early October storm could disrupt the progression. I’ll let you know what I see and hear during the coming weeks, but here are some other resources to help you keep up with the latest fall-color developments:

And if you’ve heard other reports, or have one of your own, please post your findings or a link in the comments.

Autumn is such a wonderful season. Here we go!

 —Michael Frye

Related Posts: Autumn in YosemiteEarly Fall ColorAutumn Has Finally Arrived in the Eastern Sierra

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author and photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters, plus the eBooks Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, and Exposure for Outdoor Photography. He has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.