4. MONO COUNTY, Eastern California
The aspens and poplars lining the creeks and lakes just east of Yosemite National Park create a Crayola-like swatch of some of the best gold-, orange- and rust-colored leaves on the West Coast.
Take a hike!
Steep and challenging, the Lundy Canyon Trail packs as much scenery as possible into 3 miles (6 miles round-trip), with beaver ponds, waterfalls and old mining cabins. Sightings may include deer, marmots and, if the force is with you, a bighorn sheep on a craggy outcropping.
Fall foliage looks even more intense reflected on the surface of a mountain-framed lake -- or four, if you take the June Lake Loop (also known as Highway 158), a horseshoe-shaped, scenic 14-mile road.
At the Historic Mono Inn (55620 Highway 395, Lee Vining), which overlooks Mono Lake, the menu offers everything from elk burgers to medallions of antelope -- and California wines to go with whatever you pick.
The Double Eagle Resort and Spa (rooms from $169) sits at the base of the imposing 10,909-foot Carson Peak. The cabins are cute, but the newer luxury rooms come with private whirlpool tubs.