Some of the best leaf-peeping outside of the Northeast can be found in Colorado.
As temperatures drop in the Rockies in early September and snow seems likely, the Aspen trees get ready for winter too. The front-ranges near Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins see the leaves turn slightly later, toward the beginning of October.
Starting with the right environmental triggers, the Aspen begin to wall off the leaves on a cellular level, allowing them to slowly die off and fall. This process, forced by nature as snow collecting on the Aspen’s leaves thru the winter would surely break the branches, is a spectacular thing to see.
Here are a few great spots to go leaf-peeping in Colorado:
Close to Denver, the Peak to Peak Highway heads north from Blackhawk/Central City and leads all the way to Estes Park.
For the area north of Nederland, and south of Ward some of the best views and largest groves can be visible. Aspen trees are mixed with Evergreen trees.
From Estes Park to I-70, the Peak to Peak Highway is a 3-hour drive with stops along the way.
Peak to Peak Highway is Colorado’s oldest scenic byway, passing interesting sites and places along the way. It makes for a great day trip from Estes Park or Denver.
Gravel roads crossing the main highway lead to ghost towns at Hesse and Apex. Some side roads lead to high country lakes. There are also many mines around, as well as areas where you can let kids do some gold-panning!
The best thing to do is stop for some elk watching in Estes Park and grab a dinner in beautiful downtown of Estes Park.
The now-paved road from Buena Vista to Taylor Reservoir is absolutely covered in large groves of Aspen trees easily viewable from the roadway and multiple turnouts.
Cottonwood Pass rises to the west out of Buena Vista, heading over the Continental Divide. It’s a beautiful mountain pass to see colorful fall aspen groves.
The road reaches 12,126 feet, and it is doable in a normal 2WD car. Cottonwood Pass is the highest paved mountain pass over the Continental Divide.
Make sure to visit the town of Almont, where rustic cabins still dot the landscape.
This classic southwest Colorado destination features small towns, with longer scenic drives between them. Look for camping spots in the multiple campgrounds near the highway, or post up in a small classic wood cabin available in many locations between Creede and Lake City.
The historic Silver Thread Byway takes you on a 117-mile journey from the town of South Fork, through Creede and Lake City and ends at Blue Mesa Reservoir.
The original road was footpath and led to colorful old mining camps with plenty of history.
Slumgullion is a national Natural Landmark is a rare example of an earthflow – called mass wasting – composed of partially decomposed volcanic rock that slid down the mountain and blocked the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. The earthflow is about 4 miles long and covers over 1,000 acres.
From the top of Rabbit Ear’s pass all the way into town, you will be greeted by yellows, golds, oranges and reds from the large groves off the pass. Stay in town or camp in the nearby Stagecoach Reservoir State Park.
Buffalo Pass starts winding through on its way up to 10,400 feet at Summit Lake.
It is a 2WD dirt road that goes up all the way to Walden, you can definitely go with a normal SUV. If you are already in Steamboat, don’t forget to visit Strawberry Park hot springs or do Fish Creek hike.
Native Jeeps also offers guided off road tours with some of the best Colorado leaf-peeping available (season permitting).
There is nothing like driving on a road full of golden leaf fall, conquering obstacles, far away from other cars and people. No need for dodging cars or fighting for the best picture. We know where to go and how to give you the best experience.
Aspen trees are considered the second largest organism in the world, since entire groves share same root system!
The roots are of course stopped by natural barriers like rocky ridges, but otherwise will fill up entire valleys.