Fall Outdoor Activities In and Around Southern California

Dearest Angelenos, how many times have you heard the phrase, “Southern California doesn’t have seasons!!” Once? Twice? Thirty-six times? Whether you’ve heard it few and far between or too many times to count, it simply isn’t true. Of course we have seasons. They may be notably warmer than the rest of the country, but we do indeed have seasons.

Parts of fall may have the hottest month in Southern California (lookin at you, October), but overall, the temps start cooling down, the trees begin to turn, and towns all across Southern California begin hosting fall events to celebrate the changing of the seasons. In this blog, I’ve compiled a list of my ten favorite fall activities to do in and around Southern California. From the mountains of San Diego to wine country in Santa Barbara, there are so many ways to celebrate Autumn!

And so, before we begin, I would like to dedicate this blog post to anyone who has ever said “Southern California doesn’t have seasons!” Happy fall, y’all!

Leaf-Peeping

Believe it or not, the trees of Southern California get fall colors – and no, not palm trees! If you know where to look, you can find trees of gold and orange in our own backyard. Some of my favorite areas for leaf-peeping include Icehouse Canyon in the Mt. Baldy area, Palomar Mountain, and the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Depending on where you go, these areas might turn to peak color a little later than normal fall colors (let’s say, in the Sierra) because the weather stays warm throughout October. For instance, when I visited Palomar Mountain in late-November 2018, a few days after Thanksgiving, the trees were at their peak. Higher elevations, such as IceHouse Canyon or Big Bear, will have their peak in October or early November depending on the weather.

Apple Picking in Oak Glen

Other than picking out a pumpkin, there really is no fall activity more “fall-like” than apple picking! This fall, put on your favorite flannel (and then take it off and tie it around your waist because October is usually hot AF in SoCal) and take a ride to the apple-picking capital of Southern California – Oak Glen!

There are a bunch of different apple orchards in Oak Glen, but I think my favorite has been Snowline. There apple orchards are absolutely HUGE, and they also have pumpkins to pick when they are in season. There is a winery and store on-site, where you can taste and purchase hard ciders and wines to take home or for consumption in the picnic area. They also have fresh-pressed apple cider and APPLE CIDER DONUTS for sale. Absolutely delicious.

Another awesome orchard is Riley’s at Los Ranchos Rios. This orchard has apple-picking, live music, a petting zoo and tractor rides, a restaurant, u-press apple cider, and hard cider tastings. The grounds are absolutely MASSIVE, and it is perfect for a fall day in the sun!

Celebrating Harvest in Santa Barbara Wine Country

If you have spent any time on blog, you’ll have already likely noticed that my favorite activity other than hiking is drinking wine (and sometimes I’ll even do it together – what!). This fall, take a ride up to Santa Barbara Wine Country and celebrate harvest, which usually occurs in September and October. To celebarte, various wineries around Santa Ynez, Solvang, and Lompoc will put on harvest events and sell “passports” to participating wineries – which means more for you at a lesser price! Be sure to bring a picnic with your favorite cheeses and meats – many wineries will allow you to enjoy your picnic on their patios among the rolling hills and plentiful vines.

Fall Wine Walk in Big Bear

Love wine but looking for a more mountainous location to enjoy it in? Try the Fall Wine Walk in Big Bear! Held in mid-September every year, the Big Bear Wine Walk is an awesome event put on by the town and shops. With your ticket you’ll receive a certain amount of wine vouchrs that you can redeem at stores around the town. Each store will have a few different wines that you can pick from, and once you get your pour, you can browse the shop as you enjoy your wine. It is a really awesome way to support businesses in Big Bear, as well as the town itself!

Grab a Slice of Apple Pie in Julian

Julian is an extremely cute little mountain town located in northeast San Diego County. The main drag is lined with restaurants, mom and pop shops, and little bed and breakfasts. Julian is known for all things apple – apple pie, apple crisp, and apple cider!

While you are up in Julian, consider taking a hike around the area! I recommend summiting Volcan Mountain or checking out the rolling hills of the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve. After your hike, be sure to replenish and rehydrate with a few celebratory beers! About a half mile north of Julian is the Nickel Beer Company, a super unique little brewery with a beautiful outdoor beer garden.

Bates Nut Farm

What’s fall without visiting a pumpkin patch?! As a kid growing up in north county San Diego, we used to go to Bates Nut Farm every year – or what we used to call it, Nate’s Butt Farm. The farm is in a really beautiful area of rural San Diego County. During the month of October, it has a pumpkin patch, a farm zoo, hayrides, picnic areas, and plenty of nuts, fruits, and trinkets that you can buy from the retail store. It really is the perfect place to celebrate fall with the whole family.

Fall Hiking

Fall may possibly be my favorite season to hike in. The Southern California heat has finally started to cool down, the is sun less intense at those high elevations, and the trails are practically empty. Add in some various fall color, and you have the perfect recipe for a perfect hike.

Big Bear Oktoberfest

For the first couple of weekends in October every year, Big Bear is home to Oktoberfest! Get ready for a weekend of beer-drinking, German food-eating, stein-holding, log-sawing, lederhosen, and live music among the pines! For a full schedule of events and to purchase tickets, visit their website.

Ski Films

Did you know that we actually have seven seasons throughout the year? There are the main four – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, of course; but only a few select people know the additional three seasons – pre-ski season, ski season, and not ski season. Crazy, huh? While ski season and not ski season can vary between Winter, Spring, and Summer, pre-ski season almost always falls during Fall, and one of my absolute favorite traditions during pre-ski season is watching ski films to get you pumped for the season!!

When I lived in Mammoth, one of my absolute favorite fall activities was attending ski film premieres around Mammoth to get me psyched for the upcoming season. Various venues around Southern California will show ski film premieres in October and November. Since moving back down to Southern California, I have attended ski film premieres and showings at USC’s Shrine Auditorium, the Hermosa Beach Community Center and the Arbor Store in Venice. Start by looking at Teton Gravity Research’s film tour page to see where and when films are touring around the country.

Visit a Ghost Town

What better time than fall to get a little spooky and visit a ghost town?! About two hours north of Los Angeles lies Calico Ghost Town, a real life mining town preserved and restored from the 1800s! Visit Calico for a day full of sarsaparilla, gold panning, train rides, gunfight shows, and mine tours. There are plenty of restaurants and saloons to fill your cup after a long day in the mines. During the winter months, you can even camp on-site! Be sure to visit in late October if you want to get real spooky during the Ghost Town Haunt. For more information, visit their website here.


Disclaimer: This blog was written in the time of COVID-19; however, this blog was not written with COVID-19 in mind. Please be sure to follow all of the guidelines in place, and keep in mind that some of the events listed may be cancelled.

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