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Yosemite Fall Colors: California's Autumn in Full Effect (PHOTOS)

Yosemite Fall Colors (October Photos) © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
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Although the Eastern Sierra puts on the best show, I learned that Yosemite Fall Colors are pretty spectacular in their own right! Here are some of my favorite photos from this Autumn season. These were taken in the last week of October.


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  Words & Photos By Nathan Allen


"Leaf Peeping" on The Drive Into The Park

 

You don't even have to get out of the car for this dazzling display! Still, you might want to.

Colorful Foliage on Highway 120 near Crane Flat - Yosemite Fall Colors  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Colorful Foliage along Highway 120

I hiked down the small canyon to find a small creek that was literally covered in brilliant reds, greens & yellows. Also came across a deer with a fawn! No good picture, sadly.

 

Reds, Yellows & Green colors from the Indian Rhubarb and Dogwood Trees - Yosemite Fall Colors - © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Red, Yellow & Green colors from the Indian Rhubarb and Dogwood Trees

Merced River Scenes (Rapids Near The Junction)

Autumn scene along rocky stretch of Merced River (long exposure) - Yosemite Fall Colors © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Autumn colors along rocky stretch of Merced River (Long Exposure Photo)

The eye popping yellows of the Bigleaf Maple trees are on full display along the riverbank here.

 

Bright yellow Bigleaf Maple Tree shedding its leaves - Yosemite Fall Colors © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Bright yellow Bigleaf Maple Tree shedding its leaves

I climbed some rocks and boulders to take close up pictures. I've been living in the tropics for the last few years, so this cool change of pace is much appreciated!

 

 Bigleaf Maple Leaves on Forest floor - Yosemite Fall Colors Detail © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Fallen Maple Leaves

Autumn Waterfall (Long Exposure)

Long Exposure Waterfall in Merced River - Yosemite Fall Colors in October © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Long Exposure Waterfall in Merced River

Over the course of 3 days in this area, there was hardly ever a breeze. This makes it great for still long exposure shots along the river. Anytime after 1pm is good, though lighting is even better after 3.

 

Calm Merced River Landscapes (Yosemite Valley)

Autumn Reflections in Merced River Pools - Yosemite Fall Colors in October © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Shady Fall Reflections in Merced River Pools

 

This is a beautiful area to park the car and take a quick afternoon hike along the riverbank. As the sun gets lower and lower, the golden light filters through the yellow maple trees - casting serene reflections on the natural pools.

 

Merced River Landscape in Autumn  - Yosemite Fall Colors © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Merced River Landscape in Autumn

You'll need to pull over on the left side of the road soon after leaving El Capitan Meadow. If you reach iconic "Valley View", you've gone too far.

Pohono Bridge Area

Pohono bridge & Merced River in the Fall - Yosemite Fall Colors in October © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Pohono bridge & Merced River in the Fall

Sometimes you'll find this iconic location empty, and you get it all to yourself. However, as soon as somebody sees you parked there, they will follow in your footsteps.

 

Pohono bridge scene in Autumn - Yosemite Fall Colors in October © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
View from other side of the Pohono bridge

Better enjoy that solitude while you can!

Ford Mustang in the parking area by Pohono Bridge - Yosemite Fall Colors in October © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Tourists in the parking area by Pohono Bridge

Hiking Near Pohono Bridge

Hiking trail near Pohono bridge - Yosemite Fall Colors © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Hiking Trail littered with Fallen Leaves

There is a scenic trail that takes you right along the river. Super easy hike, and plenty of great photo opportunities with many mossy rocks and leaves on the ground. Don't miss it!

El Capitan Meadow

Deer Grazing below Rock Wall at El Capitan Meadow - Yosemite Fall Colors in October © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Deer Grazing below Rock Wall at El Capitan Meadow

 

The stately trees along the road have turned a dark reddish brown, and they tower over the grazing deer below. Here I tried to capture the scale of Yosemite Valley, it's truly breathtaking...

 

(Continued below, but I do hope you'll follow along with me)

 


Photographer Nathan Allen Bio via @idreamedofthis

 

If you're more interested in photography than travel, you might want to follow me here:


When (& Where) to Find The Best Yosemite Fall Colors

The 3rd or 4th week of October really is the best time to visit. Not only can you find stunning autumn scenes all around you, but there's also a healthy LACK of tourists (& mosquitoes)!

 

The only thing missing during this time of the year is the strong flow of valley waterfalls. Well, they say you can't have everything.

 

List of locations:

  • Crane Creek - A few miles after Crane Flat on Highway 120 (coming INTO the park). The road passes right through some beautiful fall colors.
  • Merced River @ Junction (Big Oak Flat Rd & El Portal Rd) - Again, you can see the bright yellows from the Bigleaf Maple Trees directly from the road. Some river rock hopping may be required to get some nice long exposure or waterfall shots. I have seen multiple bears in this area, so keep an eye out! (Don't worry if you see one, just consider yourself lucky)
  • Pohono Bridge - This is quite the scenic spot for photos! The bridge is located right where El Portal Road splits to start the Yosemite Valley Loop. If you want to take long exposure photos, I recommend waiting until late afternoon for best lighting. At least 4pm.
  • Swinging Bridge - Even though I didn't post any photos from here, you can take some nice reflection shots in the still water of the Merced river. You just need to "follow your eye" and hike along the river a bit to find the perfect location.
  • El Capitan Meadow - You won't find the most striking colors here. However, the large trees, families of deer, and breathtaking valley backdrop make a visit well worth it. Late afternoon lighting is most dramatic, and chances of deer sightings are better then, too.
  • Tioga Pass Aspens - I did not make it up to the Yosemite high country this autumn, but I hear there are some nice aspen trees along the drive. Note, due to the higher elevation, these yellow colors tend to peak weeks earlier than down in Yosemite Valley. I suspect you would want to visit Tioga Pass around the first week of October for best fall colors.

Yosemite Valley (& Nearby) Hotels


Weather was perfect when I was there, about 70 degrees (f) during the day, though down to 44 at night. You can try your luck with a walk in campsite, though they tend to fill up pretty quickly.

 

Those looking for a bit more comfort can check out hotel options with Booking.com HERE, or Agoda HERE.

 

In closing, I hope you enjoyed my Yosemite Fall Colors series. Stay tuned for more Yosemite landscapes...hint...WINTER'S COMING!

 

(By the way, contact me if you'd like a framed print for the California / Yosemite lovers in your life...)

 

Cheers,

 

 

- Nathan Allen

www.idreamedofthis.com

 

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