A Guide to Fall Colors for Aspiring Leaf Peepers
Aug 31, 2019 07:26AM
By Kristen Beckman
September heralds the start of leaf peeping season in Colorado, when folks come from far and
wide to view the spectacular palate of the foothills and mountains painted with the changing
leaves of Aspen trees mingled in forests of evergreens.
Deciduous trees shed their leaves in the winter to save energy when the air is colder and sunlight
hours are fewer. During the warm and sunny spring and summer months, trees produce abundant chlorophyll, a source of energy for plants that reflects green light, thus making plants appear green. As temperatures begin to drop and days shorten in the fall, chlorophyll begins to break down and other pigments in leaves are expressed that reflect the beautiful yellow, orange, and red colors we associate with fall.
A day or weekend trip just a few miles west provides plentiful opportunities to view Mother
Nature’s colorful farewell to summer. But if you blink, you could miss it! Leaf peeping season
can be somewhat unpredictable depending on the weather – warmer weather may push the
optimal viewing window into October while a cold snap could mean the window is closed
quickly in September. Typically, optimal leaf viewing occurs in Colorado between mid-
September and mid-October, with trees at higher elevations changing first.
Check out one of these great leaf-viewing locales this fall.
• Guanella Pass. For the early fall color, take a drive on the Guanella Pass
Scenic and Historic Byway between Georgetown and the town of Grant. While in
Georgetown, consider taking in the fall color views from the historic narrow-gauge train on the Georgetown Loop Railroad.
• Aspen. Where better to enjoy the beauty of changing aspen trees than in its
namesake town? The Aspen Chamber Resort Association recommends several areas in
and around Aspen to view fall colors, most notably the iconic Maroon Bells. Peak foliage is often during the third week of September at this highly photographed spot. The association also points to Cathedral Lake, American Lake, Hunter Creek and Crater Lake for hikes that highlight fall foliage. Or if you’d prefer to peep leaves from the comfort of your car, the association recommends drives along Maroon Creek Road, Castle Creek Road, and Independence Pass.
• Estes Park. Optimal fall leaf viewing in Estes Park is usually late
September through early October. For a unique view of the area’s fall colors, rent a
paddle boat or Kayak at Lake Estes Marina and view the changing colors from the water.Or hike one of the many trails in Estes Valley that reward your efforts with beautiful vistas. Bierstadt Lake Trail winds through a forested area and culminates with a final view across Bierstadt Lake to Long’s Peak and the Continental Divide. Gem Lake Trail takes hikers through a colorful aspen grove and provides a panoramic view of the Estes Park Lookout over the entire valley and Long’s Peak. Or celebrate fall at one off Estes Park’s two fall festivals: Autumn Gold Festival Sept. 21 and 22, or the Elk Fest Sept. 28 and 29.
• Closer to home, fall colors will peak in the city in October. Walks around
Washington Park, Sloan’s Lake, and City Park are among the favorite nearby spots to fit some leaf peeping into your busy fall schedule.