The best places for fall foliage without the crowds
In late September and early October, the leaves in Plumas County begin transforming to create stunning natural beauty. From creek beds to mountaintops, vibrant leaves contrast brilliantly against the dark green pines and firs that dominate the landscape.
We’ve pulled together the best routes that offer abundant color and adventure. Read on for a fall foliage guide that gets you off the beaten path and into the heart of Plumas County.
Fall Colors Road Trip Itinerary
When to Go
Fall colors tend to start in late September and last through early November. With warm, sunny days and chilly, cozy nights, autumn is perfect for a long weekend road trip into the Sierra Nevada. Read our Awesome Autumn Blog to learn about current conditions and other leaf-peeping updates.
Day 1: Fall Colors Road Trip
The Route: Oroville to Quincy
Highlights: The twisting, turning drive through the Feather River Canyon in South Central Plumas County is bound to take your breath away.
The Feather River Scenic Byway (Highway 70) from Oroville to Quincy is a breathtaking 75-mile drive featuring steep, rugged walls, river, unique railroad and hydropower engineering feats, and fall colors at every turn. Some of the colors will not be as showy this year because of the Dixie Fire.
Masses of golden oak flanked by blazing dogwood, Big Leaf maple, redbud, and occasional aspen bring color to the mountainsides, ranging from chartreuse to flaxen yellow, all intermixed with evergreens. Foliage generally turns later in the canyon due to lower elevations.
Along with beautiful fall foliage, notable attractions along the byway include three drive-through tunnels, the Tobin Twin Bridges, the Bucks Creek Powerhouse, the Eby Stamp Mill, and the famous Keddie Wye–the only train trestle of its kind in the world.
Fall Colors In and Around Quincy
Shortly after leaving the canyon, you’ll arrive in Quincy. The trees in and around Quincy become beautiful displays of color. Stately ornamental silver maples, liquid ambers, sycamores, locust trees, and Virginia creepers adorn downtown Quincy, framing its grand four-story courthouse and historic homes with autumn splendor.
Don’t miss the row of maples at Quincy High School. From there, take Quincy Junction Road to Chandler Road for spectacular valley vistas of oak and cottonwood. Then head back through town and up Bucks Lake Road to see large masses of dogwood and Big Leaf Maple. Follow the Big Creek route, and continue a few miles past Bucks Lake, where there are several beautiful groves of aspen and creek willow, and Thompson Lake. The Bucks Lake area was threatened by the Dixie Fire, but firefighters were able to prevent any major damage.
Quincy is a picturesque town with a historic downtown, a beautiful courthouse, and murals. On most weekends, you can find live local music to end your adventurous leaf-peeping day.
Some of the best fall hikes in and around Quincy include Cascade Trail, Spanish Ridge, Monument Trail, Q Trail, Feather River College Community Trail, and Mill Creek Trail. Check out our Hiking Guide to learn more.
Stay in Quincy
Day 2: Fall Colors Road Trip
The Route: Quincy to Lake Almanor
Highlights: The scenic drive through North Central to Northwest Plumas County meanders along creeks and valleys and provides countless photo opportunities, ending with Lake Almanor and Volcanic National Park.
Head South on Highway 70 until Highway 89, where you’ll head north toward Chester through North Central Plumas County.
The first section of 89 follows Indian Creek and used to include some of the best fall colors in the county, but after the Dixie Fire ripped through that area in August of 2021, it will take many years to regain its beauty. Masses of golden oak, chokecherry, and dogwood lined one side of the road, while on the other side, the crystalline waters of the creek were accented with amber willow and flaming red Indian rhubarb.
The road opens to Indian Valley, named for the Native American Maidu, the valley’s original inhabitants. The area is dotted with ranches, old barns, grazing cattle, and quiet roads. Thanks to dedicated firefighters and local organizations working in fire recovery and restoration, we hope fall colors will return to the area before long.
If you veer off Highway 89 toward Taylorsville, you can take in the entire expanse of Indian Valley at the base of Mt. Hough. Broadbands of oak and aspen descend the mountain ravines, resembling giant saffron waterfalls.
Option to return to Hwy 89 and continue north through Crescent Mills and into Greenville or take Indian Valley Arm around the east side of Indian Valley and into Greenville and head north.
The road to Round Valley Lake is worth the short trip to view large groves of dogwood, Big Leaf Maple, and cottonwood.
The Dixie Fire destroyed Much of Greenville on August 4, 2021. No lives were lost, but more than 200 homes and historic Main Street businesses were destroyed. There is a massive effort by the Greenville community to rebirth their community, but it will take many years. Stop and show your support by visiting the businesses that have rebuilt. For some of the best jerky anywhere, check out Riley’s Jerky. Riley’s Jerky is one of the businesses that have been successfully rebuilt. Riley’s Jerky will be on the east side of Hwy 89 just before entering Greenville proper, it is well worth a stop. In downtown Greenville, watch for “The Spot.” it is a fun place with several food trucks, bar, and thrift stores.
Stay in Indian Valley
Continue north on Highway 89, and you’ll reach Lake Almanor. Northwest Plumas County is a gateway to Lassen Volcanic National Park and a perfect basecamp for leaf-peeping.
Nestled along the banks of the North Fork of the Feather River, Chester offers vintage charm with unique shops, parks, and museums. Look for beautiful fall colors in the large cottonwoods and other trees along Chester’s Main Street. At the east end of Chester, take a loop walk on the Olsen Barn Meadow with views of Lassen Peak, fall color displays along the North Fork of the Feather, and a 150-year-old pioneer barn.
If you choose to extend your adventure, the drive into the National Park along Highway 89 is lined with quaking aspen, thermal pools, and stunning landscapes. Along the way, you might want to take a tour of Highway 32 and view some of the fall colors along Deer Creek. Deer Creek Falls is just south of Elam Campground.
Stay near Lake Almanor
Day 3: Fall Colors Road Trip
The Route: Quincy to Southeast Plumas County
Highlights: With multiple options for leaf-peeping routes east of Quincy, you can choose your adventure. Whichever road you choose, explore the hidden treasures in Southeast Plumas County.
Just east of Quincy, turn south on La Porte Road and drive less than a mile to the old Thompson Ranch. On the left side of the road stands an enormous English maple that turns incredible shades of champagne pink and deep scarlet.
The steep 45-minute drive to the former Gold Rush town of La Porte is a spectacular fall color excursion that winds along canyons and meadows, crossing the Middle Fork Feather River and passing a historic bridge.
Back on Highway 70, dazzling colors of oak, cottonwood, and dogwood jump out at you from the roadway, hillsides, and mountaintops between Quincy and Cromberg.. Oaks, cottonwoods, maples, and willows provide significant color along this route, which eventually follows the Middle Fork of the Feather River. You’ll pass the historic Feather River Inn which first opened its doors in 1915.
Turn onto Highway 89 (25 miles east of Quincy) to head into the village of Graeagle. Lined with an array of identical red buildings that once were homes for workers at the former lumber mill, Graeagle is a great place to stretch your legs, shop, grab a bite to eat, or relax at the Graeagle Mill Pond.
Explore Graeagle and the surrounding area
Beyond Graeagle, it’s easy to spot fall colors along the Middle Fork of the Feather River and Gray Eagle Creek, and numerous hiking trails within Plumas-Eureka State Park and the Lakes Basin Recreation Area also provide excellent off-road foliage viewing. A ride up the Gold Lake Road will be worth your while in early October as the aspen will be turning yellow.
From Graeagle on Highway 89 you can continue towards Clio traveling along the Middle Fork of the Feather for more fall colors until you reach the wide open spaces of Sierra Valley, one of the largest mountain valleys in the Sierras. From Calpine to Sierraville there can be some very nice fall displays of cottonwoods. From here you can head home by way of Truckee along the Truckee River or do some more leaf peeping on Highway 49 towards Sierra City and Downieville.