ALPINE COUNTY, Calif — Autumn does exist in California, and the leaves are at peak color in the state's smallest county. 

Alpine County is south of Tahoe, and 96% of the land there is State or National Forest. However, what Alpine County lacks in size and population, it makes up for in big color. 

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Quaking aspen trees are abundant, and every October the trees attract hordes of leaf-peepers. The changing color is just as good or better than what you would find in New England, and that's what leaf-peepers like John Poimiroo wait all year for. These leaf-peepers are people who look for changing leaf colors.

"One of the most amazing things about California is the color starts at 10,000 feet, then drop 500 feet every week," says Poimiroo.

Poimiroo tracks the state's leaf transformations on his website, californiafallcolor.com which give other leaf-peepers a heads up on peak leaf changes. 

"There's several fall color trees: big leaf maple in Northern Sierra, quaking aspen, and the black oak, which is called the Halloween tree," says Poimiroo.

Unlike trees in New England, trees in California go through a much longer transformation due to elevation and the sun. 

"Well, they are turning because of the light. They are getting less light every day, and light makes chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what make the leaves green," says Poimiroo.

Fall Colors peaking in Aspen County
A cabin in Hope Valley, California is framed by trees reaching their peak of fall color.
KXTV / John Bartell

Temperature also plays a factor in leaf color. Cold temperatures and less light triggers the trees to change color and drop leaves before snow falls. 

"Those vibrant colors result from colder temperatures. We want warm days and cold nights," says Poimiroo.

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Its easy to see the fall color from your car. Highway 88 in Hope Valley and Kirkwood area have a number of locations with roadside parking to view the leaves and steep mountains. 

Leaf season usually happens in mid-October and the beginning of November in Alpine County, but leaves are changing color at different times all over California. Look for peak leaf season in your area at californiafallcolor.com

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