Do you live in a place where Fall means pumpkin spice lattes, trees changing color and sweater weather? Well we live in San Diego, where “Fall” means you can still wear shorts and flip flops during the day and the most common trees you see are palm trees which don’t change color. I desperately wanted to find some fall colors this year, so I did some research and decided to go leaf peeping a few hours north in the Eastern Sierras the last weekend of September!
The Eastern Sierras are my favorite place to road trip to. Although great during any season, I would have to say that Fall might be my new favorite time to visit. Since we only went for one night and one day, we didn’t quite make it to the Mammoth Lakes area, but instead stayed a little south near Bishop. The leaves there start to change a little bit earlier since you have to drive up to a bit of elevation to find them, whereas in Mammoth Lakes and further north they usually peak sometime in October. So, where did we find Fall? Here are the 3 places we went and what you can expect:
Rock Creek Lake
We left San Diego at 8 pm on a Saturday night and drove about 5.5 hours to Tom’s Place, which is right at the base of Rock Creek Road. A few hours before sunrise we arrived and found a dirt road pull off where we slept for about 5 hours in the back of the truck, since we were meeting a friend in the morning. We headed up Rock Creek Road at about 7 am the next morning and drove a few miles until we saw signs for our first stop: Rock Creek Lake! We were greeted by these beautiful yellow aspens 🙂
We parked our cars and enjoyed some fresh hand-ground coffee before heading out to explore. There were multiple places to camp and we saw a good amount of people tent camping there, so that’s always an option when you go!
We wondered around until we found a trail that looped around the lake. There were a few spots with sandy “beach” where you could lay out a towel and relax if it’s warm enough (during the summer I presume). There were aspen trees sprinkled throughout the area, and we found the most magical tunnel of perfectly yellow aspens and proceeded to take way too many photos….
We soaked in the views at this spot for a while before heading onwards along the trail. Oh, and we only saw a handful of other people the whole time, which is what we love!
The trail veered off so that we could get closer to the lake, but it was a bit too cold for the pups to go swimming so early in the morning. They needed their sweaters to stay nice and warm, but we were able to snap a few photos on the rocks by the lake. The trail around the lake is about 1.6 miles and it took us 2.5 hours to complete due to all the photo ops!
North Lake Road
Our next stop was North Lake Road in Bishop Creek Canyon, which was about a 30 minute drive south from Rock Creek Lake. To get there, head south on the 395 and turn right onto CA-168. After about 18 miles, you will turn right onto North Lake Road, which is all dirt but any car could drive on it. Just go slow because there is only room for one car at a time, so you may have to pull off to let someone pass.
Aspen trees line the whole road, making the drive a gorgeous one! Many people parked along the side of the road and just took photos nearby. We proceeded almost to the end where there was a bathroom and a decent sized parking lot. The very end of the road was backed up with cars as we found out later.
After we parked, we walked along the road until we saw North Lake on our right. We kept going until the lake ended and then headed right towards a trail around the lake. There were quite a few fisherman out that day trying their luck at fishing!
Cosmo ended up going for a swim, even though the water was freezing cold! He had a blast playing in the water and sniffing all the good smells. This “hike” was only about 1 mile round trip, but not necessary to do to see the fall foliage.
The last stop of our quick trip was at Lake Sabrina, which is less than 3 miles from North Lake Road. Lake Sabrina was the biggest of the lakes that we visited and it had a boat dock, a cafe serving breakfast and lunch, and a small store with snacks and souvenirs.
We ventured towards the right, behind the store, and began hiking around the lake. The aspen trees were all over the place at Lake Sabrina, and even formed an aspen tree tunnel for us to hike through!
We hiked about for about a mile before veering off the trail a bit to hang out by the water and let Cosmo swim some more. The trail became pretty rocky at that point, and we could have kept going, but decided to hike back.
Although we didn’t do any long hikes at Lake Sabrina, there are plenty of opportunities for you to do so! Some of the hikes you can do include Blue Lake Trail (6.2 miles roundtrip), Hike to Dingleberry Lake (9.2 miles round-trip), Hike to Midnight Lake (11.2 miles). There are campsites nearby including Sabrina Campground, as well as Parcher’s Resort for cabin rentals.
What are you waiting for? Head out and find some Fall colors, or bookmark this for a trip next year!
*If you decide to go a little more north towards Mammoth Lakes, some good places to see fall colors there are Convict Lake, June Lake, Little Lakes Valley and Lundy Canyon!*