Convict Lake

Convict Lake

Most Photographs by Patrick Wilkes

Attention all foliators! What’s a foliator, you ask? It’s my husband’s word for people who like to look at fall foliage. The leaves are changing color and fall is one of the most beautiful times of year for Mammoth Lakes camping as well as camping near June Lake, Convict Lake, and other places in the Eastern Sierra.

The crowds are dropping off just like the leaves on the trees. And the forests are ablaze in color. The colorful show is set against a backdrop of jagged, snow-frosted peaks and glimmering alpine lakes.

Yet, many of the campgrounds close for the season before the Eastern Sierra fall color display begins. But never fear! You can have your s’mores and fall color, too, at a handful of campgrounds that stay open into mid to late-October or early November. And they’re near some of the best fall foliage this side of the Rockies.

Here are 15 campgrounds, plus one bonus campground, that stay open through the remainder of the Eastern Sierra fall color season. Closing times vary slightly year to year. So the dates listed below are approximate. Closing dates can be sooner than listed, dependent upon the weather.

June Lake Loop Campgrounds

Reversed Creek Campground

Reversed Creek Campground

Closing Dates for the Season:
Reversed Creek, June Lake, Oh! Ridge, Gull Lake: Third Week In October
Silver Lake: Early November

You’re in fall camping heaven at Gull Lake, Reversed Creek, June Lake, and Silver Lake campgrounds. Many of the campsites are located under the aspens. That means you won’t have to even leave your campsite to admire the fall show. In many campsites, you can prepare dinner or sit and read while surrounded by a curtain of 24-karat gold leaves.

Not a lot of aspens grow in Oh! Ridge Campground on the June Lake Loop. But you’ll see a splash of fall color across the lake, visible from some sites in the campground. And it’s a short drive to all the nearby leaf action.

Location: The June Lake Loop is Highway 158, which is located north of Mammoth Lakes or south of Lee Vining off of Highway 395.

Exactly Which Campsites In The June Lake Campgrounds Have The Most Privacy? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

Twin Lakes Campground (Mammoth Lakes)

Twin Lakes #64Date Closes for the Season: Third Week in October

The lower portion of the campground is Mammoth Lakes camping at its best. Twin Lakes are surrounded by willows, which turn yellow in the fall and are reflected in the lake, making for some phenomenal photos. Willows and a smattering of aspens surround many of the campsites in the lower campground.

 

Location: From the junction of Highway 395 and State Route 203, turn west on 203 toward the town of Mammoth Lakes. At the intersection of Main Street (State Route 203) Minaret Road, and Lake Mary Road stay straight on Lake Mary Road and travel 2.3 miles to the campground.

Which Campsites In Twin Lakes Campground Have The Most Privacy? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

Lundy Campground

Lundy Campground

Lundy Campground

 

Date Closes for the Season: Early to Mid-November, Weather Permitting.

Most campsites at Lundy Campground either get up close and personal with the changing aspen trees or have views of the fall color. It’s like you’re in one of those snow globes only instead of snow falling all around you, yellow and orange and red aspens leaves flutter around your head.

Lundy Canyon puts on one of the most spectacular fall foliage shows in the Eastern Sierra. This is also a good starting point to explore other fall foliage hot spots such as Lee Vining Canyon, the Mono Lake Basin, Tioga Pass, Virginia Creek Canyon, and Conway Summit.

Location: From Lee Vining, drive north on Highway 395 for about 7 miles. Turn left on Lundy Lake Road. The campground is approximately 5 miles on the left.

Which Campsites In Lundy Campground Are Hidden In The Aspens? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

Convict Lake Campground

 

Convict Lake Campground

Convict Lake Campground

Date Closes for the Season: Late October

Aspens and willows embrace many of the spaces in Convict Lake Campground, so you’ll never be far from the fall color. Plus, it’s a short drive from the campground to Convict Lake, where aspens cascade down the mountainsides lining the water.

Depending on the year, Convict Lake fall color usually peaks around the second week in October. But from the bottom of the canyon to the top, there are a lot of aspens and willows here. So the show can last into late October, weather permitting.

Location: From Mammoth Lakes, drive about 4.5 miles south on Highway 395. Turn right on Convict Lake Road and travel 2 miles to the campground on the left.

Which Campsites In Convict Lake Campground Are The Most Peaceful and Private? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

McGee Creek Campground

View from McGee Creek Campground

View from McGee Creek Campground

 

Date Closes for the Season: Late October

McGee Creek Campground sits in the sagebrush next to the aspens lining the creek, so from your picnic table you’ll have a front row seat for the yellow, orange, and red show.

It’s a short drive from the campground up an aspen-lined road to the trailhead. Aspens and copper birch gather around the trailhead parking lot, so you don’t have to hike up the canyon to see fall color. But if you do trek up the trail prepare yourself for some of the most breathtaking vistas in the Sierra. Waves of yellow and orange aspen cascade down the canyon. Mountains with zig zag stripes of color create a striking backdrop and aspens hover over perky little McGee Creek.

If you hit it at the right time, McGee Creek Canyon is one of the best places to view Eastern Sierra fall color. And with the exception of Columbus Day weekend, it’s not as crowded as Bishop Creek Canyon. Usually in late September, the color begins in the upper part of the canyon and works its way downstream throughout the first and second weeks in October.

Location: South of Mammoth Lakes. Exit Highway 395 at the McGee Creek sign and follow the road up the mountain to the campground on the left.

Which Campsites In McGee Creek Campground Are Close To Their Neighbors and Which Have The Most Privacy? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

East Fork Campground

Rock Creek Lake Area 3

Fall Color in Rock Creek Canyon

Date Closes for the Season: Mid-October

Pitch your tent or park your RV, trailer, or truck camper under a golden and orange canopy of aspens. Aspens grow in most of the campsites here so you won’t have to go far to enjoy Mother Nature’s fall show.

East Fork Campground is located in Rock Creek Canyon, a prime color-viewing spot at this time of year. The first act of the show begins at the top of the canyon around 10,000 feet, usually around the second to fourth week in September, depending on the year. Then the show continues farther down canyon until the finale takes place at around 7,000 feet in mid- to late October. Just remember that all bets are off if an early season snowstorm freezes the leaves.

This campground is located at 9,000 feet so expect some chilly fall nights here. Bring warm clothes!

Location: From Mammoth Lakes travel approximately 14 miles south on Highway 395. At Tom’s Place, turn right on Rock Creek Road. The campground is about 6 miles on the left.

Which Campsites In East Fork Campground Have The Most Privacy? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

Tuff Campground

Rock Creek in Tuff Campground

Rock Creek in Tuff Campground

Date Closes for the Season: Late October

The aspen trees aren’t the only color in this campground. You’ll also see interesting pink formations made from the rock known as tuff. Most campsites overlook the aspens lining the creek, so you’ll have a view of fall color from nearly everywhere in the campground.

The trees here are farther down Rock Creek Canyon, at a much lower elevation than Rock Creek Lake, so they usually turn later, around the second or third week in October.

Location: From Mammoth Lakes, at Tom’s Place, turn left (the opposite direction from Rock Creek Lake) on Owen’s Gorge Road. When the paved road curves to the left, take the dirt road on the right.

Which Campsites In Tuff Campground Have The Most Privacy? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

French Camp

French Camp

French Camp

Date Closes for the Season: Late October, Early November

Even though there’s not a lot of foliage directly in the campground—with the exception of a smattering of aspens near the creek—this makes a great base camp to view the fall color in Rock Creek Canyon, which puts on a spectacular display.

Even better: French Camp is a short drive from Rock Creek Lakes Resort, where until they close in mid-October you can savor one of their homemade cobblers, crisps, or crumbles.

Location: From Mammoth Lakes, on Highway 395 at Tom’s Place, turn right on Rock Creek Road. The campground is a half mile on the right.

Exactly Which Campsites In French Camp Have The Most Privacy? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

Upper and Lower Gray’s Meadow

Gray's Meadow Campground

Gray’s Meadow Campground

Date Closes for the Season: Late October

The black oaks alongside Independence Creek provide an interesting change of pace from the usual aspen forest you see growing along creeks in the Eastern Sierra. Of course, there are aspens here, too, and willows as well, making for a colorful collection of fall foliage. This is a peaceful campground and it has many spaces that we included in our Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy book.

Lounge around in the campground or drive up to nearby Onion Valley to view the aspens against a dramatic backdrop of towering cliffs.

Location: From Highway 395 in Independence, turn west on Market Street and follow it to the campgrounds on the right.

Which Campsites In Gray’s Meadow Campground Have The Most Elbowroom? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

Lone Pine Campground

Lone Pine Campground

Lone Pine Campground

Date Closes for the Season: Late October

Even though Lone Pine Creek Canyon doesn’t have as many aspens as some of the other Eastern Sierra canyons, there is foliage here, growing alongside the creek. And Lone Pine Campground is a good starting point to explore the area and admire the cottonwood trees, all decked out in their yellow attire, in Owen’s Valley. This is an ideal time to stay in this campground, when the weather is cooler. In the summer it can be a bit toasty here.

Location: From Highway 395 in Lone Pine, turn west on Whitney Portal Road and follow it to the campground entrance on the left.

Which Campsites In Lone Pine Campground Feel The Most Private? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

One More Fall Campground: Iris Meadow Campground

Iris Meadow Campground

Campsite in Iris Meadow Campground

Date Closes For The Season: Third Week In October

At Iris Meadow Campground, located in Rock Creek Canyon, you can camp in a number of spots surrounded by aspens. Hit it at the right time, and you won’t have to go far to find fall color. Just look up from your campsite. Or venture up Rock Creek Road for a spectacular fall foliage display that usually starts up top beginning the second to fourth week in September. Lower Rock Creek Road often has color through the second or third week in October.  This is a small campground, with only 14 campsites.

Location: From Mammoth Lakes, travel approximately 14 miles south. Turn right (west) at Tom’s Place on Rock Creek Road and follow the road about 4 miles to the campground on the right. Or from Bishop, travel north on Highway 395 for 24 miles, turn left (west) at Tom’s Place, and follow the road about 4 miles to the campground on the right.

Exactly Which Campsites In Iris Meadows Campground Have The Most Privacy? Read Our Book Eastern Sierra And Death Valley Camping With Privacy To Find Out.

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