Los Angeles in October usually brings hot temperatures, dry air and brown trees getting ready to shed their crispy leaves, making it hard to create those crisp autumn moments that make you crave a pumpkin latte. But it’s not impossible! We know just where you and your brood can ring in the changing of seasons New England style. Scroll down to find LA’s wicked awesome foliage spots that make it easy to get the fall-fix you’re looking for.
Beautiful and historic Lacy Park is home to several varieties of deciduous trees, spanning over 30 acres of lush beauty. An afternoon stroll around its mile-long walking path is sure to inspire that fall feeling in the whole family so make sure to have a thermos of hot cocoa on stand-by for an after-walk treat. Bring bikes, trikes, scooters and roller-skates as the path is perfect for all things with wheels (and fur—take your 4 legged friends for a leashed romp around the very dog-friendly grounds). Your tiny foliage followers will love the recently updated playground and you will love the array of color splashed across the trees come late October.
Know Before You Go: While this park is free for all during the week, on weekends those who don’t live in San Marino must pay a $4 entrance fee.
1485 Virginia Rd.
Malibu Creek State Park
The Santa Monica Mountains provide some of the best opportunities for local leaf peeping, and at Malibu Creek Park (affectionately named by many as the “Yosemite of Southern California”) you’ll discover some lovely old growth trees that turn all shades of fall as cooler air comes to town. A great place for beginning hikers, Malibu Creek lives up to it's name with a gurgling stream and low elevation trails. If your plan is to picnic only, try entering at Tapia Park, where you’ll find an abundance of large oaks and a great spot to settle. Fitness buffs looking for a more challenging hike can follow back country trails past the visitor center to the spot where MASH was filmed and be sure to check out the beautiful yellow-leaf Sycamore trees along the way.
Know Before You Go: Sycamore tree leaves begin changing color closer to December so you can "fall" right into a colorful winter.
1925 Las Virgenes Rd.
Ice House Canyon
For those looking to embrace fall colors surrounded by majestic mountainous beauty need travel no further than Ice House Canyon, the crown jewel of the Angles National Forest, located just below Mt. Baldy. Kids will love the year-round creek flowing happily through the canyon, old cabin ruins sprinkled along the trail and ladybugs aplenty. Parents will delight in the crisp clean air, soaring peaks and gorgeous fir, cedar, oak and sycamore trees that reach to the sky in a dazzling display of color during fall months. The lower parts of the trail are more family friendly but if you’re craving extra adventure (for more accomplished hikers), head up to the 4.5 mile to check out some of the most incredible foliage views this side of the Grand Canyon.
Know Before You Go: Guests must purchase an Adventure Parking Pass for $5 to park at the base of the trail in Mt. Baldy. You may buy this pass at the Mt. Baldy Visitors Center (909-982-2829) upon arriving in town or you can grab one ahead of time from any REI or Big Five Sporting Goods store. Also, Ice House Canyon receives snowfall as early as late November (making for an even more difficult hike) so definitely make sure to bring the family during peak peeping times which are usually mid-October to early November.
Ice House Canyon Rd.
Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Located at the base of the San Gabriel mountains, the LA Arboretum is a great place to channel a New England style fall without actually hopping a flight to Vermont. Boasting 127 acres of trees and plants from all over the world, your young naturalists will be amazed at the color produced by the Arboretum’s deciduous inhabitants. Have them collect fallen leaves from the Freeman’s maple trees for brilliant red tones or snag a few from the Shagbark hickories for beautiful yellow hues. Before heading home, be sure to get some snaps in with the most colorful inhabitants of the Arboretum: the peacocks!
Know Before You Go: Peek leaf peeping is from late October through early November. The best and brightest fall foliage can be found in the Arboretum’s Celebration or Meadowbrook Gardens.
301 North Baldwin Ave.
If a quick drive down a tree-lined street is more your speed, pack up your little botanists and head to the West Valley. There are several stretches of streets planted with non-native deciduous trees that really put on a show. There are Sweet Gums on Lindley Avenue from Reseda to Northridge that turn a vibrant red and yellow Modesto Ash can be found on Winnetka Avenue from Oxnard Street to Victory Boulevard. Also, the poplars at nearby Warner Center Park turn a beautiful yellow. Strap in your carseat travelers, drive through a coffee shop for something warm and pretend you're driving through a tiny New England town.
Fall takes celebrity status in Oak Glen where the mile-high climate lends itself nicely to the brightly colored black walnut & oak trees found during Autumn months. Snuggled in the heart of apple country, Oak Glen is worth the 1 ½ hour drive from Los Angeles to get a taste of fall (be sure to also taste & pick the apples and freshly pressed cider from a variety of local orchards as well).
Know Before You Go: If your little leaf peepers are excited to combine fall color sightseeing with apple picking, make sure to head out of Los Angeles early in the morning. The Oak Glen apple harvest starts after Labor Day weekend and makes for a very busy drive along the 5 mile loop through town, so be sure to arrive before 10 a.m. especially if it’s on a weekend.
Oak Glen Rd.
Lake Arrowhead is a beautiful, cozy and quaint mountain resort. Like Big Bear, it’s often thought of as a winter or summer retreat, but missing it in the fall, when foliage is part of the scenery and the crowds are not—well, that would be a shame. Black oak, cottonwood and maple trees create a painters palette of rose, orange and gold colors that will delight the most seasoned of foliage followers. Need another reason to make the drive? Oktoberfest in Lake Arrowhead (taking place from mid-September to late October) is a great way to kick off your Autumn leaf peep-a-palooza.
Know Before You Go: Located 80 miles East of Greater Los Angeles, Lake Arrowhead is about an hour and a half hour drive (depending on traffic). Peak colors are generally from late October to early November.
Big Bear Maples
Like Lake Arrowhead, people tend to think mainly of the snow in Big Bear or maybe summer, for the picnics, fishing and horseback riding. Fall, however, is also a spectacular time to visit this forested get away and take a hike (or three). You can leave the city behind and with the crisp blue skies, the smell of pine and the trees turning those beautiful fall shades you can pretend you’re trekking through the White Mountains. Take your leaf-lovers to Big Bear’s aspen groves where all of the trees turn a fairy tale shade of golden yellow at the same time or grab a coffee in town where the streets are adorned with red maples. With so much for families to do around here, you and your loved ones will fall head over heels for this idyllic mountain retreat.
Know Before You Go: Located 100 miles east of Greater Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake is about a two hour drive (depending on traffic). Foliage reaches peak colors from mid-October through early November.
Where do you take the family when you want to feel like fall?
main image of kids in leaves by Seth Lemmons via Flickr