Colorado’s iconic autumn color is already blazing across its mountain passes.
Even though wildfires have devastated large forested areas of the state, their are still plenty aspens turning golden on Colorado’s mountain slopes.
This most magical of trees creates groves which are all connected by the roots, turns to molten gold in Autumn, and luckily for us, here in Taos, they are only a day trip away!
Leaf peepers here in Taos typically wait until later in September before taking a drive north to see the aspen groves aglow. But this year, in some of the state’s higher elevations and most coveted spots, the message is out: Don’t delay.
The beautiful aspen tree is the quintessential Colorado tree. In the summer, the aspens provide shade for Colorado’s delicate state flower, the columbine; and when fall arrives Coloradans (and their neighbors), rejoice as the aspens’ gently tinkling leaves turn their vibrant shade of gold.
The month of September is the ideal time to witness a gilded aspen spectacle on a scenic drive in Colorado, but you have to time it to the minute, as the brilliant color lasts only about a week, and It’s difficult to predict when exactly the leaves will turn in any given location.
The best strategy is select travel dates in advance, but not destinations. Then go wherever the color is.
Friends in Colorado tell me the time is nigh.
One said that over the past week, what she saw on Kebler Pass was mindblowingly beautiful. She also mentioned splashes of yellow starting to show up and down Monarch Pass.
“It was quite surprising,” she told me, “I’ve lived in Colorado for forty years, , and it usually doesn’t start turning until maybe the second or third week of September.”
“It’s definitely three weeks early.”
A State Forest Service official in Fort Collins explained the phenomenon.
“Drought conditions are highly correlated with fall colors,” he said.
Here are a few road-tripping routes, that are easy enough to take from Taos, that have become fall-color pilgrimages for aspen lovers in Taos..
Best places to see the aspens within a three to four four drive from Denver, which on a good day, is a five hour drive from Taos::Steamboat, Rabbit Ears Pass, Buena Vista, Aspen, Independence Pass, Monarch Pass and Grand Mesa
All most definitely worth the trip!
One of the very best ways to the enjoy the brilliant fall colors of the Rocky Mountains is by riding the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TSRR). As the longest, highest and most authentic steam railroad in America, riding the C&TSRR will bring you to pristine areas with views unseen from any highway!
For more information on routes north to see the Aspens in all their blazing glory, please visit the sites linked below this post.
Top photo by Bill Curry
Other images, Stock Files