Leaf-Peeping in the Rocky Mountains

 Date: 08-Oct-2022Category:

Leaf-Peeping in Colorado

Colorful Colorado - enjoying the vibrant hues of autumn

We love to do "leaf-peeping" and we were really looking forward to this trip. It has been a decade now since our last trip to Colorado during fall season. But the Rocky Mountains are definitely one of the most scenic places during this time of the year. High and rugged peaks and colorful aspens, that's a perfect mixture. These trees come in all kind of shapes and colors. And this month's image shows a good example of the incredible potpourri. While some of them were still green, we also saw a lot of golden or orange leaves. But our favorite aspens are the red ones. Not every aspen tree is capable to turn red. It depends on its genes, but also on the weather conditions. We were told that this happens when the days are sunny and warm and nighttime temperatures remain above freezing - which was the case in 2022.

But at most places fall arrived pretty late this year, especially around the city of Aspen. While we used to have great color display around September 24th there, the famous Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness was a total bummer this time. We had permits (-> reservation page) for the area for two consecutive days, and we were glad that we also used them to do some scouting when we arrived in the afternoon. The lake was almost gone, no reflection, no snow on the peaks, no appealing composition whatsoever and mostly green aspens - so no alarm clock ringing in the middle of the night! It made no sense at all - we skipped sunrise and the second visit. 

It is always fascinating to see how quickly the fall colors progresse at higher elevations. The Million Dollar Road between Ouray and Silverton was absolutely stunning as early as September 25th, while quite a lot of trees had already lost their leaves by October 3rd at this place. But the fresh snow on that day also left us more than happy. While in the San Juan Mountains, we followed all the classic routes near the towns of Ridgway (Owl Creek Pass, Country Road #5, #7 and #9), Telluride (Last Dollar Road and Fall Creek Road to Woods Lake) and Crested Butte (Kebler Pass Road). Most of them looked fabulous by early October, just Gothic Valley was already past peak.
We stayed many nights at Montrose (the cheapest motels nearby) and also overnight at Silverton to pay a visit to the (truly outstanding) Red Mountains #1 and #3. The latter will be featured for sure in one of the upcoming images of the month. So please stay tuned! ;-)

Image data: 1/30 s at f/16, ISO 100; Canon RF 100-500 f4.5-7.1 L IS USM mm at 185 mm, Canon EOS R5

Related Links: Our images from the United States