Calling all LA leaf peepers! Outside temps might still be toasty, but there are still plenty of places a short drive from Los Angeles where the leaves are a turnin’. While we can’t predict exactly when the colors will begin to change, this handy California Fall Color Map indicates that trees in the Los Angeles Forest, San Bernardino Mountains, and Mt. San Jacinto are just starting to show shades of reds, oranges and yellows. So grab your masks, an (iced) pumpkin spiced latte, and throw the whole family in the car to find your next autumn adventure!

 

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Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

Located at the base of the San Gabriel mountains, the LA Arboretum is a great place to experience a New England-style fall without ever getting on a plane. Boasting 127 acres of trees and plants from all over the world, the Arboretum produces a brilliant display of colors. Little ones can collect fallen red leaves from all of the Freeman’s maple trees or snag a few beautiful yellow ones fallen from the Shagbark hickories.

Know Before You Go: Peek leaf-peeping is typically from late Oct. through early Nov. The best and brightest fall foliage can be found in the Arboretum’s Celebration or Meadowbrook Gardens. If you really want to immerse your lil'pumpkins in the Fall experience, sign them up for the Arboretum's fee-based Autumn Nature Camp where kids will take part in nature-themed science and art activities in a safe and controlled environment. 

Covid Considerations: Advance tickets are required to enter the Arboretum to control the number of people inside at any given time. Masks are required on all visitors and everyone must stay 6 feet from other people while inside this space. 

301 North Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia
Online: arboretum.org

Lacy Park

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 freedom to roam 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 $5 entrance fee.

Covid Considerations: The playground is currently closed through October 31 and face masks are highly encouraged to be worn while at the park. 

1485 Virginia Rd.
San Marino
Online: ci.san-marino.ca.us/277/Lacy-Park

Whittier Narrows Recreation Area

Boasting almost 1500 acres, Whittier Narrows Park in the City of South El Monte and is one of Los Angeles County’s largest recreation areas. Nearly every ecosystem is represented here from swamps to forest to desert, making for lots of interesting plant and animal life to check out! Have your leaf lovers take their scooters for a ride while you stroll around the 3-mile walking trail soaking in all of the different sorts of colors this nature reserve has to offer.

Know Before You Go: Currently the playground and paddle boat rentals are closed so be sure to prep your pint-size peepers accordingly!

750 S. Santa Anita Ave.
South El Monte
Online: parks.lacounty.gov

South Coast Botanic Garden

Palos Verdes is a pretty amazing place to visit in general and when you add cool coastal breezes into the mix, you get a whole lot of fall color options at South Coast Botanic Garden. With 87 acres of well-maintained flora and fauna, this is truly PV's best kept horticultural secret and a must-visit in the autumn months! You won't find New England oak trees here but pink leaves from the Silk Fox Trees and the vibrant orange blooms from the Dwarf Trumpet Trees will be bursting with colors before they fall onto the ground (along with lots more tree leaf varietals). The littles will love the Children's Garden developed around nursery rhymes and also featuring an enchanted dollhouse and bridge, a secret tunnel, worm bin, alphabet garden, butterfly garden, and whimsical characters.

Know Before You Go: The best time to wander through this colorful expanse is the end of Oct. through mid-Nov. when the temps cool down

Covid Considerations: Tickets must be purchased in advance of your visit online and masks are required in all areas of the garden.

26300 Crenshaw Boulevard
Palos Verdes Peninsula
Online: southcoastbotanicgarden.org

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 (keep your eyes peeled for the beautiful yellow-leaf Sycamore varieties!). A great place for beginning hikers, Malibu Creek lives up to its name with a gurgling stream and low elevation trails. Want to make a day of it? Check out our family-friendly Malibu guide.

Covid Considerations: High-density areas such as the visitor center, rock pool, and Century Lake remain closed. You can find restrooms at the lower parking lot only and, while the Tapia parking lot is closed, the lower lot, as well as the Regan Ranch and Piuma parking lots, are open.

1925 Las Virgenes Rd.
Agoura Hills
Online: malibucreekstatepark.org

The Huntington Botanical Gardens

Let's be honest - there is never really a bad time of the year to visit The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. And while the gardens in Autumn might not pass for the backwoods of Vermont, it's still a wonderful spot to see trees you might not associate with all things Fall (but certainly come alive throughout the season)! Check out the colorful leaves on trees like the  American Sweetgum, Koelreuteria Henryi, and Lion’s Ear before feasting your leaf-peeping peepers on the bloom of fall fruits, including the berry-like variety that grows on Washington Hawthorns. 

Know Before You Go: Peak fall foliage at the Huntington is typically found during the month of November so plan accordingly. 

Covid Considerations: All Huntington visitors must pre-purchase or reserve an e-ticket (no ticket sales at the door). Masks must be worn at all times and visitors are required to pass a symptom screening (including a temperature check) prior to entry. Indoor galleries, as well as high touch outdoor spaces such as the Children's Garden and the Conservatory, are closed.

1151 Oxford Rd.
San Marino
Online: huntington.org/gardens

Oak Glen

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.
Oak Glen
Online: oakglen.net

Lake Arrowhead

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 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? Check out Pumpkins in the Pines taking place at SkyPark at Santa's Village and is a great way to celebrate those crisp, cool days and the changing colors of Fall.

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.

*Currently all hiking trails in Lake Arrowhead are closed due to the San Bernandino Forest closure. They are projected to reopen mid-October so, if you plan to take the family on a walk through the woods while visiting, please check the Forest Service website before making the trip!

Online: lakearrowhead.com

 

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Big Bear

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 getaway. 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 on a quaint drive around the lake where many of the mountainside trees turn a fairy tale shade of golden yellow 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 won't want to leave 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.

*Currently all hiking trails in Big Bear are closed due to the San Bernandino Forest closure. They are projected to reopen mid-October so, if you plan to take the family on a walk through the woods while visiting, please check the Forest Service website before making the trip!

Online: bigbear.com

Idyllwild Nature Center

If you're looking for that quaint mountain town feel that's less crowded than some of the other well-known options, Idyllwild is the place to go. Nestled in the heart of the San Jacinto mountains, this cozy spot is surrounded by pine trees, cottonwoods, and cedar trees that come alive mid to end October with vibrant shades of golds, yellows, and orange. Because the town is full of locally-owned restaurants and shops, Idyllwild has tons of small-town atmosphere which lends itself nicely to peaceful leaf-peeping.

Know Before You Go: The Nature Center is open Thursday - Sunday and, at present, is the only place in Idyllwild with open hiking trails (and a small entrance fee per person) so plan accordingly.

Covid Considerations: Masks are required at the Nature Center both on the trails and in shared public spots like the restrooms. 

25225 Highway 243
Idyllwild
Online: rivcoparks.org/idyllwild-nature-center

West Valley

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.

–Jenifer Scott

featured image: Pexels

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