Pack up the pinot and the roast turkey sandwiches -- it's a beautiful weekend for leaf peeping. Yes, while most of the country ushers in winter, we're in full autumn splendor in the Bay Area and beyond in Northern California.
Every fall, travel expert John Poimiroo tracks California's changing colors on his website, www.californiafallcolor.com. He says the mid-elevations are the best places for crimson and gold this week, including the Bay Area wine regions.
"The vineyards of Napa and Sonoma counties have been peaking," he notes, adding "wine country doesn't change all at once, it shows by plot."
At 75 to 100 percent this week, look for brilliant displays of ruby, orange, yellow and lime. The redwood and oak-studded Santa Cruz Mountains are another Poimiroo pick for Thanksgiving.
"Bigleaf maple are putting on a glorious show," he says, with one of the prettiest drives along the Soquel-San Jose Road from Summit Road down to Soquel. Take this trip in the late afternoon, and he says you'll see "a backlit display that will brighten your day."
Venture out beyond the Bay Area, and you'll be rewarded with even more eye candy. Poimiroo says the 2,000- to 4,000-foot elevations in the Gold Country are peaking this week. The mother of all color spots is the Mother Lode, with brilliant orange and yellow maples and oaks.
Then there's the Shasta Cascade along Interstate 5, where some of the best fall color is in Redding. Poimiroo recently said this town "has been burning with color the past two weeks but will be at full peak in time for Thanksgiving Day."
An added attraction in the area is the salmon run, underway on the Sacramento River. Fly fishers are finding the best salmon, rainbow trout and steelhead fishing in seven years along this stretch of the river in Redding.
Tahoe travelers, your treat begins in Sacramento, where colors have been peaking the past two weeks, Poimiroo says. "Sacramento is a veritable jewel box of brilliant reds, auburns, oranges, yellows and chartreuse."
Much of the Eastern Sierra is at 75 percent to 100 percent this week, including the Owens Valley and the lowest elevations of Rock Creek. Past peak are the High Sierra and the Yosemite Valley, where he says "the combination of snow on fall color was gorgeous," last weekend, but is likely over now.
Recapping, he says: "Thanksgiving week will see the best color at Redding and Butte County in the Shasta Cascade, in the vineyards of the North Coast, among the redwood forests and oak woodlands of the Santa Cruz Mountains on the Central Coast, along the Mother Lode in the Gold Country and in the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California."
Here's hoping your trip over the river and through the woods is a colorful one.