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Where to See the Leaves Change in Colorado

Where to See the Leaves Change in Colorado


fall trees in colorado

Colorado’s peak fall foliage season doesn’t last for long, so be prepared!

Enjoying Colorado’s changing aspens at their most colorful can be a tricky endeavor. The leaves can peak at any moment, usually throughout September and October, and you might only have a week before they fall to the ground. Plus, every year is different, making it difficult to get the timing right.

Before getting your heart set on a particular destination, do some research by checking out the U.S. Forest Service’s Fall Colors Report. A basic Google search will also serve you well if the Forest Service website hasn’t been updated. Don’t hone in on a particular destination – it’s best to choose the dates that you’d like to go leaf viewing, and then choose your final destination based on where the colors are peaking.

Best places to see fall colors in Northern Colorado

Aspen’s Maroon Bells is probably one of the most popular places to see the leaves change, since the town did get it’s name from the plentiful aspens that surround it, but it’s hardly the only option in the northern portion of the state.

Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and other cities at lower elevations will see their leaves change later than the mountain towns at higher elevations. If the leaves have already turned at lower elevations, there’s a good chance that they’re already littering the ground higher up. In Boulder, there are plenty of places to see the leaves and other plants change – aspens aren’t the only plants that put on color displays! South Boulder Creek Trail tends to be awash in color due to the grasses that surround the area. Close to town, the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area usually has great color displays, too.

Give the Brainard Lake Recreation Area a try, or opt for Caribou Ranch near Nederland. Other scenic drives include the Peak to Peak Highway between Black Hawk and Estes Park, and the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway, which starts in Georgetown. An added bonus of Guanella Pass is that you’ll end up in Grant, near Kenosha Pass, which also features brilliant aspen displays.

To get further away from the Front Range, try visiting Grand Junction and Grand Mesa. Heading east along I-70 from Grand Junction to Grand Mesa will take you along the Colorado River. When you reach Colorado 65, go east and then south through the canyons. You’ll eventually end up on top of the Grand Mesa, with expansive and colorful views that stretch for miles. The crowds will likely be manageable, and you’ll be visiting a part of the state unlike any other corner of Colorado.

Top places to see the leaves change in Southern Colorado

The southern portion of Colorado has some spectacular color displays during the fall. Towns like Telluride, Ouray, and Crested Butte are perennial favorites, but don’t overlook other options like Ridgway and Pagosa Springs.

One of the best drives in the southern half of the state is the San Juan Skyway. Tackling the entire road would take around 6 hours of driving, but it’s hardly an uneventful drive. You’ll venture through Durango, Telluride, Silverton, and Ouray, which all make for great stops and further explorations. The route brings you to Mesa Verde National Park, where there’s no shortage of national forest, making it a great area for fall foliage viewing.

Cottonwood Pass, between Crested Butte and Buena Vista, is another southern gem. You’ll be surrounded by the high-rising Collegiate Peaks in one of the densest aspen valleys in the state. There’s a parking area for the pass, where you can access a short hike to snag some stunning views.

If you’re feeling more adventurous and full of energy, you can even climb one of the nearby 14ers, like Mount Yale. You won’t be shrouded in aspens at the summit, but the views of the colorful trees below will be pretty spectacular.