When you think of fall, you likely envision a landscape bursting with brilliant color, typical of regions like “America’s Heartland” in the Midwest. One place you probably don’t think of, however, is California. As it turns out, the Golden State is home to amazing fall colors and unique events that can’t be found anywhere else. Join us as we highlight a few of the best fall activities in California!
Big Bear Lake
Situated east of San Bernardino, Big Bear Lake is a mountain escape that lights up with color from mid-October through early November. Yellow aspen groves stand tall among green pines, providing a wonderful contrast that’s reflected in the waters of the lake.
Drive along the south side of the lake on Highway 18, taking in the fall color and exploring the quaint town of Big Bear Lake, where you’ll find local shopping and dining. You can also take Highway 38 along the northern shoreline. This route takes you to the Big Bear Discovery Center, where you can explore exhibits before heading out on a hike. We recommend the Woodland Trail, a family-friendly 1.5-mile loop that provides spectacular views of the shimmering lake and California fall colors.
Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
Nestled along the shores of Lake Tahoe, Ed Z’Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park is an amazing natural area filled with blazing fall foliage. Your first stop at the park should be the nature center, which includes plenty of information about park activities, as well as a bird display featuring local species.
To experience the fall color in late October, you’ll want to hike the trails on foot. The most magnificent and family-friendly trek is the Dolder Nature Trail, which leads through mixed forest above the lake. You’ll witness panoramic views and pass by the world’s highest operating maritime navigational light. This trail loops back to its beginning, ensuring that navigation is a breeze.
For a longer hike, try out the General Creek Trail. This 6.5-mile loop is a dirt trail that meanders through the General Creek watershed, passing by brightly-colored forests and sparkling mountain streams.
Wine Country Events
Harvest Wine Weekend
An annual event in Paso Robles, Harvest Wine Weekend is held from October 20-22. The festival coincides with the beginning of autumn and the 2017 vintage, a winemaking term that refers to the harvest of the season’s grapes. Rather than being held at a central location, the festival takes place at various wineries throughout Paso Robles.
If you’re looking for a truly immersive experience, consider signing up for the Harvest Festival Dinner and Grape Stomp at Opolo Vineyards. This annual event includes a multi-course dinner with premium options like roasted lamb, Mediterranean Sarma, and plenty of wine pairing options. Get ready to stomp your feet during the grape stomp and the folk dance party to celebrate the California harvest in Paso Robles Wine Country.
At Summerwood Winery , you can bring your furry companion with you to! This charming estate is hosting events all weekend long and welcomes pets with open arms, even encouraging owners to get in on the fun with a pet costume contest. While you and your four-legged friend are exploring the activities, be sure to enjoy lawn games, a caramel apple bar, wine samples, and a chance to see the wine production process through the tasting room windows that look down on the cellar.
Garagiste Wine Festival
Explore the edgier side of wine at the 7th annual Garagiste Wine Festival, held in downtown Paso Robles. The term “garagiste” was coined in Bordeaux, France to insult renegade winemakers who shunned the big producers and created their own wines at home. Fast forward to today and you’ll find a vibrant festival that’s held to showcase high-quality micro-production wines.
The festival begins on Friday, November 10, with the Rare, Reserve, and Retro event at the American Legion hall in nearby Templeton. Over 30 wines will be available exclusively at this dinner, where guests can enjoy samples, chat with the producers, and experience unique pairings with a tapas-style meal.
On Saturday, November 11, the main event will be held at the Paso Robles Event Center. Seminars on the history and classifications of wine will be available for VIP all-day ticket holders, creating an opportunity for you to broaden your knowledge. If you’re there to sample, the grand tasting ticket will give you access to over 200 wines from 60 winemakers, complete with food samples from local artisan vendors.
For more mingling after the main event, stay for the Rockin’ After-Party, where you can converse and spend time with the festival’s micro-producers.
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