Best Places to Catch Fall Color in and Around Murphys

Murphys, CA | Lisa Boulton

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Fall is nearly upon us, and here in the Sierra Foothills we are fortunate to have abundant opportunities for leaf peeping. If you’re a fan of fall color, read on to find the best places to enjoy those glorious autumnal tints right here in Murphys and the surrounding area. As always, please help us keep these places pristine and follow leave-no-trace principles as outlined in the Hop Lightly guidelines developed by the Calaveras Visitors Bureau.

Downtown Murphys Fall Color

If you haven’t spent time in Murphys in the fall, you’re truly missing out. With its tree-lined streets, Murphys downtown is a beautiful spot to catch foothills color while shopping, dining, wine or beer tasting. You’ll want to catch one of our fall events if you can, to enjoy this backdrop of natural splendor. This time of year, temperatures are usually still mild enough for al fresco dining and tasting.

Downtown Murphys | Lisa Boulton
Murphys Park Gazebo | Rick E Martin
Main Street, Murphys | Lisa Boulton

Ironstone Vineyards Fall Colors

Ironstone Vineyards is beautifully landscaped and a treat to visit anytime, but it really outdoes itself in fall. Although Ironstone is technically in Murphys, we think it deserves its own special mention. Everywhere you look from the entrance, to the walkways and grounds is just spectacular. Oh, and did we mention strolling through all this fabulousness will take you from the tasting room and gift shop, to the deli, music room, heritage museum, jewelry shop, wine caves, lake and amphitheatre? If that’s not enough to keep you entertained, check out the upcoming Ironstone Concours d’Elegance this year.

Ironstone Vineyards fall color | Lisa Boulton
The covered bridge at Ironstone Vineyards | Lisa Boulton
Ironstone Vineyards | Lisa Boulton
Ironstone Vineyards | Lisa Boulton

Arnold Fall Colors

Just 15 minutes away, on Highway 4, Arnold gains 2000 feet in elevation. Here, you’ll see black oaks and dogwoods changing color, as well as small aspen groves against a backdrop of pines, firs and incense cedars. It’s a heady mixture, providing ample epic Instagrammable moments. You can enjoy all this while dining and boutique shopping in this lovely mountain town. Check out these images from the Arnold Rim Trail (a 17-mile trail system) and White Pines – where you can visit the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum, enjoy a picnic by White Pines Lake and allow the kids to let off some steam on the playground at the community park.

Note: a small section of the Arnold Rim Trail between posts 2 and 5 is currently periodically closed for fire reduction work. Signs are posted when work is occurring and you will need to steer clear of these areas to stay safe.

Arnold Rim Trail | Jason Smith
Aspens at White Pines | Mike Masters
Arnold Rim Trail fall color - Lisa Boulton
Arnold Rim Trail | Lisa Boulton

Calaveras Big Trees Fall Colors

Located in Arnold, and just five minutes from downtown, Calaveras Big Trees State Park deserves its own special mention. A combination of dogwoods and black oaks with a backdrop of giant sequoias, sugar pines, incense cedars and other evergreens, makes for a spectacular landscape. The North Grove is a beautifully scenic, nearly level, 1.6-mile, stroller-friendly trail, with plenty of majestic giant sequoias and fall color that can be casually walked in an hour. For an informative guided hike led by a ranger or docent that takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, meet your guide at the entrance to the North Grove any Saturday at 1:00 pm. Be sure to bring water and use the restroom before joining the tour.

The North Grove Trail, Calaveras Big Trees State Park | Lisa Boulton

The South Grove is a more remote, narrower, less developed trail (although still well maintained) with changes in elevation including some overlooks of Big Trees Creek. It’s not a strenuous hike, but at 5.4-miles, it’s more intense than the North Grove, and your reward is getting to see the most massive giant sequoias in the entire park. Expect to hike about half an hour from the parking lot before you get to the beginning of the preserve and another 10 minutes before you start seeing giant sequoias. Hiking the entire trail loop takes about 5 hours, so be sure to take water and dress in layers.

Big Trees State Park | Lisa Boulton
Big Trees State Park | Lisa BoultonĀ§

Although dogs aren’t allowed in the North or South Grove, there are still several miles of beautiful fire roads in the park that you can explore with your leashed pooch. None provide views of giant sequoias, but still feature great fall color. Make sure to pick up a map at the entrance to locate the fire roads:

Fire road, Calaveras Big Trees State Park | Lisa Boulton

Ebbetts Pass Fall Colors

From Arnold east, Ebbetts Pass is a National Scenic Byway. Gaining in elevation from 4,000 feet to its high point at approximately 8,700 feet, this sierra pass meanders through spectacular vistas and breathtaking valleys. There are some outstanding hiking trails, many featuring serene alpine lakes. Keep an eye out on social media for when the aspen groves are at their peak, for some amazing photo ops. It’s always a good idea to have chains available for your vehicle at this time of year, in case of unexpected snowfall. Check the California Fall Color website for updates on color (including a handy map), and to upload your own pics of Ebbetts Pass in all its glory.


NOTE: Ebbetts Pass will be closed during daylight hours for road work past Lake Alpine, east to Raymond Meadow Creek on September 24 and September 25, 2019.

Ebbetts Pass | Laurie Ahlberg
Ebbetts Pass – close to the Monitor Pass turnoff | Barry Boulton
Ebbetts Pass – close to the Monitor Pass turnoff | Lucia Gonzalez

Fall Colors Guided Hikes

Two new businesses have opened in Murphys in perfect time to guide fall color hikes on the pass. Expert outdoorsman, search and rescue trained, Steve Shields, from MountainGeist is available to take you on guided adventure hikes with optional extras like kayaking and rock climbing. You can reach him at 209-404-1603 and steve@mountaingeist.com.

Jassmine on a High Sierra hike | Barb Schick, Half Ass Adventures

For families with kids who want to entice their youngsters away from their electronic devices, we can almost guarantee they’ll be up for a hike when adorable mini donkeys are included. Contact Barb Schick from Half Ass Adventures for guided mini donkey hikes, with optional extras including catered picnics and gold panning.

Hike with adorable mini donkeys with Half Ass Adventures

You can visit MountainGeist and Half Ass Adventures at their downtown visitor information center opening soon, at 202 Main Street, Murphys right next door to the Wine Information Center.

Lodging Options

Need lodging for your trip out to Murphys to enjoy fall color? Check out the listings here for Murphys, nearby Angels Camp and the Arnold area.

Murphys Interactive Map

Click on the image below to get to the fully interactive map of downtown Murphys. Be sure to click on page 2 for the legend, and the buttons at the top of the page linking to full business listings along Main Street.

Murphys, CA interactive map

HISTORY COMES ALIVE IN MURPHYS

A stroll down tree-lined Main Street transports visitors back to the mid-1800s with buildings bearing thick stoned walls, iron shutters, and pastoral gardens with white picket fences ...

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