You don’t need to travel to New England to see fabulous fall colors – a tank-and-a-half of gas away, California's Eastern Sierras are on full autumn display.
A very early snowfall, up to 19 inches in some places, dumped on the Sierras on October 5, forcing the Quaking Aspen trees to begin their change from yellow to a bright burnt orange. The colorful poplar leafs contrast drastically with the always-green pine trees, as the groves of color charge up the mountainsides.
In early fall, daytime highs may still be in the shorts and t-shirt zone (September 13's high was 81 at the 7,000–8,000-foot resort elevations.) But overnight lows will put frost on the car and a chill in your bones. Bundle up! Temps can drop 30 degrees in an hour at sundown.
All along Highway 395, from Bishop to Bridgeport, the summer resorts and private campgrounds have closed for the winter. However, most of the Inyo National Forest campgrounds will try to stay open until the end of fishing season – November 15 – weather permitting.
But the local motels in Mammoth Lakes, June Lake and Lee Vining are wide open this time of year, and the towns are quiet and peaceful, waiting for the arrival of ski season madness. Hwy. 120, Tioga Pass, the east side entrance to Yosemite National Park, remains open, but will close for the season as soon as a big snow becomes too heavy to plow.
By Thanksgiving, the colorful leaves will be gone. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area will be in full operation; June Mountain expects to open in mid-December.
Locals predicted a snow-filled winter again this year, because the aspen trees started turning slightly yellow after Labor Day. Since then, weather forecasters have agreed, due to the cooling La Nina condition that will carry over from last year, which produced record snowfalls and river runoff and ended SoCal's drought.