Many of us are excited about the arrival of autumn and all that comes with it — the crisp air, cool temperatures, bluebird days, and perhaps most important of all, mountainsides turning gold. The fall colors in Colorado are very different than many of the places to the east. In Colorado, there is one main color, aspen gold. Walking through an aspen grove filled with golden light from all of the yellow leaves, looking up thousands of feet at snowcapped mountains while under a cloudless blue sky is something that draws people into the mountains every year. It’s something that has to be experienced.
Castle Creek Road
Castle Creek Road leaves Aspen through the same roundabout as the road to the Maroon Bells. The road itself travels through miles of aspen filled mountainsides as it transitions from mostly private property to National Forest and many popular hiking destinations. In addition to the many beautiful aspen trees, hikes in the area including Cathedral Lake, Electric Pass, 14ers Castle and Conundrum Peaks, and the popular Conundrum Hot Springs are all reached via Castle Creek Road. However, the one destination that sets this road apart from many others maybe the Ashcroft ghost town. A small ghost town renovated several decades ago, this ghost town is nestled amongst aspen trees with views of many more. All of these sites equal a very unique experience very close to Aspen.
The Maroon Bells are by far the most famous mountains in Colorado and this is especially true in the fall. Prepare to stand shoulder to shoulder with other photographers as they crash the shores of Maroon lake for the iconic shot. Be sure to enjoy the sight of what many photographers have found to be a portfolio-worthy shot!
The views out from the end of Capitol Creek are famous for their sheer jaw-dropping beauty. At the end of the sometimes narrow and rugged dirt road, are amazing views of the majestic 14er Capitol Peak and miles of aspen trees showcasing the peak. For the more adventurous, walking along Capitol Creek as far as one desire is a wonderful way to spend a day. At the end of the road do not forget to look east as they are some wonderful views that way as well.
Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
The ~55-mile long Peak to Peak byway provides wonderful views of the continental divide from Estes Park in the north to Blackhawk and I-70 to the south. The Peak to Peak is a wonderful drive any time of the year but comes alive in the fall when aspen light up all along the route. There are several larger groves of aspen on National Forest land that provide walking access but be sure not to walk away from the road if you are unsure if it is private property (which there is a lot of along the route).
Mt Sneffels/Dallas Divide
The Mt. Sneffels and Dallas Divide area are probably the most popular location in southwest Colorado to shoot fall Color. The mountains (including Mt. Sneffels) often have a thin layer of snow above the vast hillsides of beautiful aspen above the many scenic ranches in the area. It is no wonder this area has been a must-stop fall color destination for landscape photographers for years.
Kebler Pass has the distinction of being one of the largest aspen groves not only in Colorado but in the world! There are miles of aspen easily accessible by Gunnison County road 12 and many more accessible by those willing to explore the ridges and valleys in the area. The views overlooking the Beckwith Mountains are some of the most famous in the state but the entire drive is beautiful. Several small lakes in the area are also beautiful spots to catch reflections. Gunnison County road 12 is open to all cars with some sections even paved and access can be gained from state highway 133 (west) or through the town of Crested Butte (east).
Below you will find a website that lets you know when and where to go see the colors.
Photo credit: Eric Schuette and Crystal Brindle