Calling all Los Angeles leaf peepers! Just because autumn in Southern California usually means hot dry temps and crispy brown trees, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find some New England-esque fall colors that will satisfy even the strongest East Coast cravings. We know just where you can find the changing of seasons right here in our backyard. Keep reading to discover Los Angeles’s most wicked awesome foliage spots that make it easy to get the fall-fix you’re looking for.
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 Maine. Boasting 127 acres of trees and plants from all over the world, young explorers 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 Oct. through early Nov. The best and brightest fall foliage can be found in the Arboretum’s Celebration or Meadowbrook Gardens. For a fun family event, check out their Moonlight Forest magical lantern art festival Wed.—Sun. from the end of Oct. through early Jan.
301 North Baldwin Ave.
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 foster 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 four-legged friends for a leashed romp around the very dog-friendly grounds). Your tiny foliage followers will love the super expansive playground and you will love the array of color splashed across the trees come late Oct. and early Nov.
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 (or what the locals call 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 (or families with older kids) looking for a more challenging hike can follow backcountry trails past the visitor center to the spot where MASH was filmed making sure to check out the beautiful yellow-leaf Sycamore trees along the way. Want to make a day of it? Check out our family-friendly Malibu guide.
Know Before You Go: The Sycamore tree leaves begin changing color closer to Dec. so you can "fall" right into a colorful winter.
1925 Las Virgenes Rd.
Ice House Canyon
For those looking to surround themselves in both majestic mountainous beauty and the vibrancy of Autumn, 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 bubbling creek, the old cabin ruins sprinkled along the trail and the abundance of ladybugs. 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 added 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: To park at the base trail in Mt. Baldy, guests must purchase an Adventure Parking Pass for $5 from either the Mt. Baldy Visitors Center (909-982-2829) or from any REI or Big Five Sporting Goods store. Ice House Canyon can get snowfall as early as late Nov. (making for an even more difficult hike) so plan to go during peak peeping times which are usually mid-Oct. to early Nov.
Ice House Canyon Rd.
Fall takes celebrity status in Oak Glen where the mile-high climate lends itself nicely to the brightly colored black walnut and oak trees found during autumn months. Snuggled in the heart of apple country, Oak Glen is worth the 1.5 hour drive from Los Angeles to get a taste of fall and not just for the leaves. See why we love this destination for apple picking, fresh-pressed cider and other quintessential fall favorites.
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 begins after Labor Day weekend and makes for a very busy drive along the five mile loop through town. Our recommend? 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 the fall months are when the foliage is part of the stunning scenery (and the crowds are not) making this town a must-visit. 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 takes place from mid-Sep. to late Oct. and is a great way to cheers your 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 Oct. to early Nov.
Like Lake Arrowhead, people tend to think mainly of the snow in the winter or maybe the lake in the summer in Big Bear. 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 (check out our Big Fun in Big Bear article for more), 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-Oct. through early Nov.
If a quick drive down a tree-lined street is more your speed, pack up your little botanists and head to 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 Ave. from Reseda to Northridge that turn a vibrant red.
Yellow Modesto Ash can be found on Winnetka Ave. from Oxnard St. to Victory Blvd. 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.
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Feature photo: Nick Chapman via flickr