It’s the locals’ favorite time of year in Mono County, when life slows down, days get cooler, crowds disperse, and the landscape shifts into the rich yellows, reds and oranges that signal the arrival of fall. While the East Coast is famous for its spectacular fall displays, Mono County and the Eastern Sierra also boast a majestic, colorful transition into autumn that peaks late September through late October.
Experience the awe-inspiring scenery in a way that you might not have thought of before. Appreciate the magic of the Sierra this fall on horseback, on a Jeep tour, by kayak or high above it all in a chartered helicopter ride.
“Riding on horseback really allows you to see more of your surroundings,” explains Kira Olson, a wrangler at McGee Pack Station. “Unlike hiking, where you are looking at your feet and the trail most of the time, experiencing the fall colors while on horseback allows people to have a better and more intimate experience of the beauty of the Sierra.” McGee Pack Station, in Crowley Lake offers affordable fall horseback rides that start at just $65 per person. The two-hour Horsetail Falls Loop takes riders along a creek to Horsetail Falls and McGee Gorge and returns on the Canyon Trail. Rides leave at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
For an epic three-day adventure through golden aspen groves and expansive meadows, book the Fall Color Ride at Hunewill Ranch, in Bridgeport. If you’re not able to commit to a three-day ride, consider joining their wranglers on a day trip in the high country.
Leavitt Meadows, also located in Bridgeport, offers five different rides to choose from, ranging from one to two hours of saddle-time. Longer rides take adventurers out to hidden lakes where riders can relax and eat lunch along pristine alpine rivers tucked in majestic pines.
Horses not your thing? Sign up for a Jeep tour and try some four-wheeling along with the autumn viewing of changing colors. High Sierra Jeep Adventures’ experienced guides will drive you and your group out into the backcountry to experience the fall magic. The best thing about these guys? They will let you drive the Jeep if you have a current license. High Sierra Jeep Adventures is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and are located in June Lake.
Kayaking and boating also offer a completely different perspective as you paddle and glide through golden reflections on smooth water. Boats and kayaks can be rented at many marinas and lakes which are lined with brilliant aspens: Rock Creek Lake, Convict Lake, Lake Mary and Lake George (Mammoth Lakes Basin), June, Gull, Silver and Grant Lakes (June Lake Loop), and Twin Lakes in Bridgeport. Call in advance to verify hours, dates of operation and make a reservation for a boat or kayak in advance.
Or try something truly breathtaking and view the shift of seasons from the cockpit of a helicopter. “Everyone we take on a helicopter ride is ecstatic about the experience of seeing fall foliage from above,” says Ed Roski, owner and pilot at Sky Time Helicopter Tours. “You get to see everything – clumps of trees that haven’t yet turned color next to clumps of orange and red trees. We fly to areas that are hard to get to in any other way, and every day the scenery changes, especially in fall. We also see majestic waterfalls, bears, bald eagles, and all different types of wildlife. It’s truly a unique experience.” Sky Time Helicopter Tours, located in Mammoth Lakes, offers tours that take their guests all over the greater Eastern Sierra including over Mammoth Mountain, June Lakes, Lee Vining and more.
Experience something new this fall and explore the forests of Mono County as the canopy shifts to the gorgeous gold, orange and deep red colors of the changing season. Check out current fall color reports, the free Eastern Sierra Fall Color Guide & Map, as well as the free Mono County Visitor Guide that outlines all the best fall color drives and hikes.