California's Wine Country, located in the northern Bay Area, is most attractive in the fall. The weather is mellow, wine harvest festivities and tastings are in full swing, and vineyards look simply stunning, dressed in red, orange and golden tones. The big-leaf maples, black oaks and ginkgo biloba add striking shades of yellow, turning country roads around Napa and Sonoma into colorful artwork.
Best time to see fall colors in Napa Valley
Even though some trees start to change their leaves' colors in September, fall colors start to appear massively only in mid- to late October. The peak fall foliage season in Napa valley falls on early November, and vineyards often keep their vibrant shades until the end of the month. However, keep in mind that the timing is slightly different every year, depending on weather and winds.
Best places to see fall foliage in Napa Valley
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, located near Calistoga, is one of the most spectacular leaf-peeping locations in this wine country. The abundance of black oaks and big-leaf maples create beautiful golden and bronze foliage displays. Take a scenic 1.5 mi (2.4 km) Redwood Trail, running along the creek in a lush, shaded redwood and oak forest. The trail is very easy and flat, with just a couple of climbs.
For aerial photos of colorful vineyards, covering the hills with bright foliage carpets, head to Alexander Valley. Stop at Far Niente Winery in Oakville if you want to capture a beautiful, Instagram-worthy row of ginkgo biloba trees.
Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa is full of oak trees. If you want to photograph some beautiful reflections, Spring Lake in Santa Rosa is a perfect place to relax and spend a day capturing beautiful nature. Closer to Sonoma, Jack London State Historic Park near Glen Ellen showcases colorful vineyards, and picturesque valleys and hillsides, which can be explored via tram.
Highway 12, or simply Wine Road, is a must-see in the fall. Passing Sonoma Valley, Carneros District, famous vineyards, and wineries—this highway is full of scenic spots, such as the Valley of the Moon barn. Highway 29 is the main road that runs through Napa Valley. It was known as Silverado Trail after its construction in 1852. The 30 mi (48 km) road connecting Napa and Calistoga is a beautiful route for bikers and drivers alike. Don't forget to make a stop at Beringer Vineyards near St. Helena to photograph the historic elm tunnel, bursting with color.
It's hard to come up with a better leaf-peeping destination than Napa Valley. After you witness fall transformations at the vineyards for the first time, you'll want to be back during this magical time of the year again and again.