If you’re looking for Mother Nature’s annual show of colors, this road trip is for you! The aspen, oak, maples, cottonwood, and dogwood trees explode in color from late September through early December. During harvest season, the grapevines reveal a fantastic color palette which, of course, pairs well with any wine-tasting adventure.



Autumn leaf peeping road trip itinerary - Visit El Dorado County

1. Welcome to farm country

There is no better place to start a fall exploration than Apple Hill™— Brilliant fall colors provide a beautiful backdrop for this bucolic farm region. Sample a multitude of apple and pumpkin delicacies at the many farms and orchards while you view the splendor of fall. Most farms and ranches are located in Camino off Highway 50.

2. Seasonal menus made with locally sourced products

Smith Flat House Restaurant & Grill – Built in 1853 on top of a gold mine, this is a truly unique dining experience that’s not to be missed! Enjoy locally sourced ingredients and a creative menu along with the history.

3. Soak in views of the American River

Travel east on Highway 50 toward South Lake Tahoe. This stretch of the highway along the American River provides stunning vistas along the way.

4. Lover’s Leap

That huge granite dome rearing 600 feet above the American River Canyon is Lover’s Leap, a popular climbing area that’s well worth a hike. The more ambitious road tripper can make a pit stop at the Camp Sacramento parking area. From the trailhead, it’s a moderate 45-minute walk uphill rewarded with views of Horsetail Falls, Pyramid Peak, Ralston Peak, and the American River Canyon.

5. South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is home to the largest alpine Lake in North America, deep and wide, bluer than blue, and surrounded by the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. There is no shortage of things to do here!

6. Good Eats in Relaxing Meyers

Meyers Downtown Café is filled with locals and laughs. The food is fantastic and reasonably priced, and breakfast-lovers will appreciate that the most important meal of the day is served all day long.

7. South on Highway 89

Those looking for the first colors of the season should head to the Carson Pass, Hope Valley, and Monitor Pass regions. Here, expansive hillsides of quaking aspen flame brilliant gold with occasional hints of orange. The dark blue high-elevation skies, craggy snow-dusted peaks, and greenish-black conifers are a dramatic contrast!

8. Sorensen’s Resort & Cafe

Sorensen’s is a historic settlement that dates back to 1926, when Danish immigrant Martin Sorensen opened a service station, store, and dance floor. Today it boasts 35 cabins, a café, and gift shop, all surrounded by stands of aspen near the West Fork of the Carson River.

9. A ski area in transition

Kirkwood Resort – The turning aspens make a beautiful backdrop to one of the region’s largest year-round mountain resorts during the fall months. In the summertime, Kirkwood turns into a picturesque high alpine playground with fields of wildflower that will take your breath away. In the winter, the resort is known for its deep snow and pristine beauty.

10. High Alpine Views

Especially showy stands of trees are located in and around Carson Pass, primarily east of Caples Lake and the turnoff to Woods Lake. East of Carson Pass, Hope Valley offers spectacular displays of fall colors.

11. Explore trails

Sly Park Recreation Area – With Jenkinson Lake as its centerpiece, the park’s trail system winds through thickly forested areas and open meadows while closely following the lakeshore. It’s a perfect spot to hike, horseback ride, pedal, paddle, swim, fish, water ski, or just relax with a picnic.