Every September, Colorado is witness to a beautiful fall event – the turning of the aspen trees. This quintessential Colorado tree presents a spectacle of color as the fall weather sets in, and their bright green leaves turn a brilliant yellow in mid September. The exact time they turn is dependent on the elevation where the trees reside. Rest assured, any trip in later September in the mountains is sure to yield some prime aspen viewing. If you’re not sure where to go for fall aspen viewing, we’ve picked out several areas located in the Front Range. Make sure to plan a road trip before the season is through!
Basics For Fall Aspen Viewing
Since the aspens can change fairly quick depending on the elevation, it’s good to pick areas where you’ll have some variation in landscape. This ensures that if one area isn’t quite ready to change, another area is prime for fall aspen viewing. This gives you a chance to gas up the car and do some exploring. The weekends are a perfect opportunity to do some driving and stop for lunch in a quaint mountain town on the way. Don’t forget to bring the binoculars and camera when you head out.
Guanella Pass is a prime early-season location for fall aspen viewing. This year, a new road project was completed on the pass, and this makes for a smooth, well maintained ride for any manner of vehicles. You can approach the Guanella Pass road from two sides. Take I-70 to Georgetown and drive all the way through the town to the south side. As the town ends, the Guanella Pass road begins. On the way you’ll encounter the Mt. Bierstadt trail head as well as plenty of picturesque mountain views. At the other end of the pass, the road meets up with 285 at the small town of Grant. This pleasant drive offers plenty of September aspen viewing opportunities because of its dynamic elevation changes.
Mt. Evans Road (CO 103)
Another great fall aspen viewing opportunity lies just a bit east of Guanella Pass at the road up to Mt. Evans. Now the road all the way up to Mt. Evans (CO 5) closes after Labor Day, but the loop that takes you up to Hwy 5 (CO 103) is a great option for fall aspen viewing after Labor Day. You can access this road from I-70 at Idaho Springs (easily labeled Mt. Evans on the highway). This well-maintained road passes a great stop at Echo Lake Park, which is a park with a small loop around the lake. If you want to get out of the car and check out some aspens, this is a perfect spot to do so. From there you can either circle back down to Idaho Springs, or you can follow the road past Echo Lake are work your way back down to Evergreen.
Peak To Peak Highway
The road that runs from Estes Park to Blackhawk is a Colorado Scenic Byway known as the Peak To Peak Highway. In Estes Park, this road begins at CO 7 and then turns into CO 72 a little past Allenspark. Once you get to Nederland, the Peak to Peak turns into Co 119 that takes you to Blackhawk and eventually I-70. The Peak to Peak is famous for it’s fall aspen viewing opportunities, and since you can drive it in different sections (i.e. Nederland to Estes Park, or Nederland to Blackhawk), it provides a lot of flexibility for your road trip. There are also plenty of lunch spots along the way in the small mountain towns.
Rocky Mountain National Park
No list for fall aspen viewing would be complete without the mention of Rocky Mountain National Park. Naturally there are plenty of elevation differences which makes this a prime aspen viewing spot all the way through September. There are also plenty of trail heads to stop at where you can get an up-close look at the changing aspens. The most popular is Bear Lake, and this easy trail head has a rich offering of aspen groves along the trail. You can combo a lunch stop in Estes with a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park for a perfect day of aspen viewing.