We are finally seeing the changing of seasons in Colorado which cannot only be felt from the briskness in the air, but also seen from the colorful shows the trees put on each year.
According to the Colorado State Forest Service, this year’s peak for fall colors in Colorado’s northern mountains probably is being delayed a week to 10 days by recent abnormal temperatures. Experts say that Colorado is at least one week behind what we would consider to be an average peak and we have not had any storm fronts move through that would start to move some of the pigments within the trees.
Obviously, day length is what triggers the greens to come out of those leaves. In other words, what we need was those cooler evenings to make those yellow and reds really pop. However, Colorado has been extraordinarily hot and warm for the last past few weeks which resulted in late leaf-peeping season in Denver.
Leaf-peeping season, as it is colloquially known, is a short and magical couple of weeks when mountain ranges turn brilliant shades of gold and red before the trees leaves fall off, ushering in the unofficial start to winter. Coloradans and visitors to this beautiful state often take a hike or even a get-away to a mountain town to experience the natural Colorado beauty. But really, all you need to do is to jump in a car and put the pedal to the metal.
If you have been wondering whether the time has come to make your annual leaf-peeping pilgrimage to see our mountains adorned in all of their fall glory colors, this weekend might be a perfect time to see colorful Colorado by driving up to the mountains. Here are several recommendations for a scenic leaf-peeping drives to take this autumn to your footstep.
Trail Ridge Road, Closest Cities: Estes Park and Grand Lake
If you’ve been holding off on visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, this weekend may be the perfect opportunity to make a day of it. The park’s famous Trail Ridge Road runs between the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake, topping out at more than 12,000 feet in elevation. That is, notably, above treeline, so those looking to experience the changing leaves up close and personal will want to search at the ends of the route. So do not hesitate to park in a pullout near a colorful grove and explore some of the numerous trailheads off the road. Wildlife activity is plentiful this time of year, as the elk mating season or rut, is in full swing. Keep your ears peeled for the high-pitched elk bugle both in Estes Park and within the national park grounds.
Independence Pass, Closest Cities: Aspen and Twin Lakes
Independence Pass is already very well-known to many Coloradans who love visiting Aspen and Twin lakes. What better place to see the magic of changing aspen leaves than near Aspen? Independence Pass is widely lauded as a Colorado classic when it comes to leaf peeping. The drive follows Colorado 82 and crosses the Continental Divide between Aspen and Twin Lakes, both of which are known in their own right for spectacular fall foliage. Expect twisting roads, steep drop-offs and show-stopping views. Bonus: The Independence Ghost Town offers an extra attraction along the drive.
Guanella Pass, Closest Cities: Georgetown, Silver Plume and Grant
Georgetown is a great destination not only for leaf-peeping but also scenic fishing. The scenic Guanella Pass connects the towns of Georgetown and Grant, passing by Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans, both of which are fourteeners. Along the 22-mile route, drivers travel through a variety of environments — from lush aspen, spruce and pine forest to expansive meadows to high altitude tundra — as they climb more than 3,000 feet in elevation. In the fall, the forests are radiant with leaves turning gold and red. The pass is also a popular cycling spot, so you can take in the sights by bike if you so choose.