Leaf peepers, social media rock stars, and anyone looking for Mother Nature’s annual show of colors will find that in spades in and around El Dorado County during the autumn, where the trees explode in color from late September through early December.

Fall colors in Apple Hill, El Dorado County | Photo: Jill Nauman

Those looking for the first colors of the season should head to the Carson Pass, Hope Valley and Monitor Pass regions, accessible via state highways 88 and 89. 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 – and ensure your Instagram photos will pop!

Typically in the high country, fall colors peak in early to mid October. Especially showy stands are located in and around Carson Pass, especially east of Caples Lake and the turnoff to Woods Lake. East of Carson Pass, Hope Valley offers spectacular displays of fall colors. You can also see spectacular vistas and showy fall displays near the summit of Luther Pass.

The high country doesn’t have all the fun. Fall colors are everywhere at lower altitudes, too. The native black oak, found throughout the Sierra Nevada foothills between elevations of about 1,000 and 5,000 feet, boasts leaves that turn a brilliant gold. If you happen to be traveling on Highway 50 through Placerville in El Dorado County, you will also see fiery-red pistachio trees.

Here are a few of our favorite places to spot fall at its best:

South Fork American River Fall colors

Fall colors along the South Fork of the American River.

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park – Enjoy the spectacular view along the American River as well as the many stands of colorful trees along Hwy 49 heading toward Auburn. Located in Coloma on Highway 49.

Fall colors in Apple Hill, El Dorado County

Apple Hill comes alive with fall colors. Photo: Jill E. Nauman

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. Located in Camino off Highway 50.

Grass Lake – You’ll find magnificent groves of Quaking Aspen surrounding his beautiful lake/meadow located at the top of Luther Pass on Highway 89 just off Highway 50.

Fallen Leaf Lake – Take a short hike to the shores of the lake, where you can see Mt. Tallac framed by Quaking Aspen. Located on Fallen Leaf Lake Road off Highway 89 just north of South Lake Tahoe.