It’s that time of year again, when Mother Nature paints a masterpiece in the Colorado high country. With swirls of red, orange, yellow and brown awaiting, leaf peepers from all over the state find themselves wondering where and when to go to get the best view of the changing colors. To grab a front-row seat to this fall phenomenon, consider the following places and times below:
- Steamboat Springs from September 15th through September 29th – 162.3 mi from Boulder
- The I-70 Corridor from September 17th through September 30th – 25.2 mi from Boulder
- Aspen/Crested Butte from September 20th through October 3rd – 165.3 mi from Boulder
- Telluride/Ouray from September 22nd through October 4th – 338.8 mi from Boulder
- Pagosa Springs/Durango from October 1st through October 6th – 287.8 mi from Boulder
Although you can’t go wrong with any of the above, the Aspen area was listed by Prevention Magazine as the third-best place in the United States to see fall foliage.
Why Leaves Change
Leaves change every year, pretty much like clockwork. They take their cue from the dropping temperatures and the shorter days. As trees receive less and less sunlight, the chlorophyll responsible for their vibrant green hue begins to break down, uncovering the amber waves and yellow tones underneath.
But the breakdown of chlorophyll isn’t the only reason for a tree’s changing appearance. Leaves that turn red, particularly dark red, are often the result of a chemical change – entirely new pigments may appear because of trapped sugars.
Is Every Season the Same?
Leaves drop in autumn no matter what (ahem, “fall”), but their colors are influenced by a myriad of factors, assuring that no season is exactly the same as the ones before.
Local weather, moisture (or drought), elevation, latitude, insect activity, and more can all affect how potent the colors are. In general, the healthier the tree, the better the leaf viewing will be. Healthy trees are able to sustain leaves later in the season, assuring that the colors are robust and rich. A wet growing season can also make for a more spectacular showing. That means people heading for the hills just might be in luck: parts of Colorado saw one of the rainiest springs on record this year.
No matter where you decide to look at fall foliage, keep flexibility at the forefront. Not every single spot will be photo-worthy, but you certainly don’t have to go out on a limb to see Colorado at its finest.