A Grand Way to Explore Lake County

The beautiful wine country region of Lake County is always outstanding for a Sunday drive, as it is home to California’s first-ever quilt trail. Lake County’s winding, pastoral roads about 100 miles north of San Francisco feature an organized network of more than 100 colored quilt blocks on the sides of the barns, wineries and historic buildings. Quilt trails are a modern-day public art exhibition that celebrates rural traditions dating back to the 1800s.

The striking, fashionable and culturally fascinating quilts of the Lake County Quilt Trail make this northern portion of California wine country unique for a drive to enjoy the fall foliage (the Quilt Trail has an online map showing most of the quilts’ Lake County locations). But this autumn also features some significant quilt shows that patch together the sights of the quilt trail with the actual work of some of California—and the world’s—leading quilters.

Lake County Quilt Trail

Carpenter’s Star

The big event was the annual Falling Leaves Quilt Show, an annual “Quiltapalooza” presented by the Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild that attracted more than 200 quilts in competition. The show was a juried event on the competitive quilting circuit, and the craftsmanship and level of detail on the quilts was simply remarkable. The featured artist was Lake County local Tami Benevedes-Graeber, who got her start at the Lake County Fair and went on to win numerous national and international quilting awards. Her lectures were paired with quilting demonstrations and contests for a great two-day convention of quilting enthusiasts.

The Falling Leaves Quilt Show will return when the leaves turn next autumn, but the Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild throws monthly meetups, programs and classes.

There are other celebrations and quilting displays still underway in Lake County this fall. The quilts from the 24th annual Quilt & Fiber Arts Show were on display at the Lower Lake Historic Schoolhouse Museum. The Quilt & Fiber Arts Show also attracts top quilts from around the country and world, and there’s no other way to fully take in their detail except by seeing these quilts in person. The show features not only needlework and quilts, but stunning examples of handcrafted baskets, batiks and more from around the globe.

The Lower Lake Historic Schoolhouse Museum is a neat gem among the museums of Lake County. A pioneer and Native American museum built in a real 1880s three-room brick schoolhouse, the facility has a fully accurate reproduction of a late 1800s classroom. The Quilt & Fiber Arts Show remains on display through Oct. 15 during museum hours: Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A beauty in downtown Kelsyeville, California.

Seeing these quilts and the other artifacts at the Lower Lake Historic Schoolhouse Museum is a poignant historical experience. And a drive along the Lake County Quilt Trail, with more than 70 stunning paintings of quilts to take in, is an unforgettable and picturesque afternoon trip. Circle around Clear Lake, California’s largest natural lake, and the surrounding towns of Middletown and Kelseyville, where many of the works on the trail feature vignettes, or accompanying artworks that complement the quilt paintings themselves.

We have a great Lake County Quilt Trail gallery online, with page after page of photos of these remarkable quilt paintings and their scenic locations. But there’s no better way to enjoy the Lake County Quilt Trail than to see it in person.

The scenery is terrific this time of year, the Lake County wineries are in full fall harvest season, and the Lake County Quilt Trail map will show you the stops and points of interest on the actual trail itself. With quilt shows and the incomparable Lake County Quilt Trail decorating the backdrop, Lake County blankets northern California with a beautiful and rich history.