Record heat elsewhere in California means pleasant summer-like temperatures for the Mono Basin at the end of September. Daytime highs in the 80s are followed by chilly nights in the 40s. Slow cooling of about ten degrees is expected into next week with a chance of thunderstorms over the weekend.
These warm temperatures are keeping trees green at lower elevations, but they are perfect for getting brilliant colors out of the quaking aspens at high elevations where it is getting colder at night. Above 8,500′ a striking mix of oranges, yellows, and greens can be enjoyed in most aspen groves.
Because of their high elevation, many of these groves can take a bit of work to get to. Hiking up to the Parker Bench, Gem Lake, or the high aspen groves between Lundy Canyon and Conway Summit is an enjoyable way to spend a brilliant fall day.
Some of these colorful groves can be accessed by road. Tioga Road, to Yosemite National Park, has excellent color at the Warren Fork of Lee Vining Creek at the 9,000′ marker. The Virginia Lakes Road which goes from sagebrush at Conway Summit to alpine glacial lakes in seven miles is one of the best places to see fall color right now.
Low elevations at the canyon bottoms are still mostly green, however there are a few yellow leaves here and there, and the views of the higher more-colorful groves are rewarding. Rabbitbrush is still bright yellow along the Mono Basin’s roadsides.
And while you are here enjoying the fall color, make sure you stop at Mono Lake to enjoy the eared grebe migration, one of the largest concentrations of a single species in North America.