Where to Enjoy Fall Colors in the Bay Area

When New England reaches its fall foliage peak, the Bay Area slowly gets the idea and tree by tree, fall colors make their much anticipated arrival. The best months to see these spectacular changes in colors take place between October and November. The Bay Area hides some great spots for you and the kids to kick piles of colorful leaves, pluck autumn fruits from the orchards, and watch big leaf maples don yellow colors with the season. Here are some of our favorites:

Alexander Valley
What fruits spell autumn better than apples and pears? To pick them right off the tree with your children, drive to Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol and grab a basket to pluck apples, pears, or persimmons. Plan your visit on a Sunday and grab a bite at the charming farmers market in downtown Sebastopol. After lunch, discover Santa Rosa’s Ragle Ranch Regional Park and its newly renovated playground so kids can swing and climb all their wits off. There’s even a small hiking trail to make this a full nature day trip.

Peninsula
For a dazzling display of maple trees and cherry trees, head over to the Hakone Gardens in Saratoga. These traditional Japanese gardens on the eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains are choreographed to produce a breathtaking variety of colors and forms in all seasons. From now through the winter, explore the arching bridges over the koi ponds with your kids, walk around the tea house, or relax in the bamboo forest. For a more forest-oriented experience, discover Uvas Canyon County Park in Morgan Hill, where stately oak trees shed their leaves along the creek that trickles down Uvas Canyon. You may even catch the last of the waterfall before winter rains restore it to full flown beauty.

After the cultural experience, let the kids loose at Oak Meadow Park in Los Gatos, a large community park where kids will find multiple playgrounds and a decommissioned jet plane nicknamed “Shooting Star” in which they can play. In the same park, the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad and W.E. “Bill” Mason Carousel are the reason local families keep coming back. Miniature steam train ride anyone?

Napa Valley
Looking for blushing vineyards and sunny afternoons? Crush season in the Napa Valley is a great time to hit Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and explore Ritchey Creek along the Redwood Trail. Despite the name, the trail counts numerous big leaf maples whose leaves turn a golden yellow in the fall. After your hike, check out Castello di Amorosa, a medieval castle winery complete with dungeons and a small farm next to the tasting room. Kids under 5 are not allowed on tours but they get to color and taste grape juice. When stomachs get hungry, drive five miles up the road to Calistoga to sit down at the Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery where the popular outdoor dining patio doubles as a roaming ground for young ones. To burn off more energy, walk to Pioneer Park, a sweet park with a playground surrounded by meadows and an old-fashioned gazebo. On the way down from Calistoga, take the scenic Silverado Trail rather than Hwy 28 and go pick fresh walnuts, apples, pears and persimmons at Hoffman Ranch.

Inspired by your autumnal adventures, you may want to further the experience at home by making crafts inspired by the colors of the fall. Have fun!

What other spots in the Bay Area do you know that offer great views of the changing fall colors? Leave us a comment below and share. 

– Laure Latham

photo credit: simonnjuliajitzeWonderlane