The long, summer days are getting shorter, and shorter. The evening temperatures are getting cooler, and cooler. The seasons are changing, and now is one of the best times of the year to be in Colorado. And the locals are getting restless.
We've been having "color reports" as early as mid-August, and that got me wondering. Is that's normal? Yes, yes it is. If you've always wanted to know the "how" and the "why", check out this article at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry. But it basically boils down to this; as it gets cooler, and the days get shorter...leaves start to change color.
Ok. Now what? Am I going to miss the show? When should I drive up to the mountains?
Great questions! I wish I knew for sure...but it is a little bit of a guessing game. On average (and depending on where in Colorado you're going to be) mid-September to early October are the best times for fall color. Usually. But, I'm going to try and help take some of the guess work out of it. So here are a few online sources to check out–in no particular order:
SmokyMountains.com This is a fun, interactive map to help predict fall colors (it's where I got my image for this blog post). Use the slider at the bottom to select a date, and it'll highlight areas where fall color should be present, and how close to peak-color it should be.
TravelCrestedButte.com Now were getting some local reports! This page gives updates in and around the beautiful town of Crested Butte, CO. One of my favorite spots for fall photography is along Kebler Pass, which is near Crested Butte.
Colorado.com has a lot of information on fall color driving routes too.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife has a cool map featuring Colorado State Parks with fall color alerts—yes, fall color is serious business in Colorado. The map uses red and yellow leaves to highlight which state parks are reporting season color changes.
San Juan National Forest has info on fall color, but it hasn't been updated for 2018...at least not yet.
Webcams are great for getting a realtime view of what's going on. Sometimes they aren't working, but keep checking. A few of my favorite webcams are:
Of course, you'll need to get out and explore to find those fall colors. If you're just looking for a place to start, hop in your car and head for a few of my favorite mountain towns:
- Crested Butte, CO
- Telluride, CO
- Ridgway, CO
- Ouray, CO
- Gunnison, CO
- Estes Park, CO (gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park)
I did find a cool app (Apple and Android) for your phone or tablet. Afield Rocky Mountain National Park has some cool features for helping you discover interesting things while on your next visit. And just in time for fall, the map feature highlights areas where fall colors are starting to show up! That's pretty slick! Maybe someday they will have a map for the entire state of Colorado.
If stumble upon new websites, or super-helpful links, I'll update this post. Good luck out there!