One of my favorite categories of photographs is Fall Leaves Pictures. It truly is amazing how just the change in color of leaves during the Fall season can completely change the same landscape photograph. Looking at a photo of beautiful Fall colors from Colorado is almost like admiring a well done painting by a Master painter.
I fell in love with Colorado about 30 years ago when I visited for the first time during the summer. I was teaching tennis at a resort up in the mountains called Keystone. At the end of that summer I was assigned down to Arizona in Scottsdale. On my drive down to Arizona I still can picture in my mind one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen… It looked like a whole valley was ablaze with bright yellow gold below the road I was travelling on. I made a silent promise to myself that one day I would come back to Colorado to live and make a home there.
Now, 30 years later, I am BACK and living here and loving every minute of it!! I am sure there are other beautiful places to live in the world which have a beauty of their own. The thing is; Colorado has various types of beauty for every season of the year. I have lived in many places in the world (especially in the United States) and have found great locations for my landscape photography in every place. Somehow for year-round photography, I can’t find even a close competitor to Colorado’s awesome beauty.
Aspen trees tend to thrive in Colorado. Below, I have listed the best locations to find good Aspen pictures by region:
- Travel from Ridgway west on Colorado 62 over Dallas Divide. At Placerville, head southeast toward Telluride on Colorado 145 all the way to Lizard Head Pass.
- Travel west out of Crested Butte over County Road 12. At Colorado 133, travel north toward McClure Pass for more picture opportunities.
- Travel on US 160 between Pagosa Springs and Cortez.
- Travel on Colorado 135 between Crested Butte and Gunnison.
- Travel on US 50 west from Gunnison to Colorado 149 south to Lake City and Slumgullion Pass.
- Travel on Colorado 550 from Ridgeway south through Ouray and Silverton to Durango.
- Travel west out of Pueblo on Colorado 96 through Wetmore to McKenzie Junction.
- Travel from La Veta on Colorado 12 to Trinidad where you will reach Interstate 25.
South Central Colorado
- Travel on Cottonwood Pass Road west of Buena Vista. It is a 60-mile-long paved and gravel road that crosses the Continental Divide and follows the Taylor River to Almont.
- Travel on Colorado 17 from Antonito to the New Mexico border.
- Travel on Gold Camp Road from Colorado Springs to Victor, and then Colorado 67 through Cripple Creek north to Divide. To access this road from Colorado Springs, take exit 138 off of Interstate 25. Follow signs that lead to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Then instead of turning at the entrance to the zoo, go straight. The road turns into Old Stage Road, which turns to dirt, and eventually intersects with Gold Camp Road.
- Travel on US 285 from Conifer to Fairplay over Kenosha Pass.
- Travel south on US 24 from Minturn through Leadville to Twin Lakes on Colorado 82. Then go back on US 24 to Leadville. From Leadville take Colorado 91 to Copper Mountain.
The Front Range of Colorado
- Travel on Colorado 119 from Black Hawk north to Nederland. Then follow Colorado 72 to Raymond. From Raymond, drive on Colorado 7 to Estes Park.
- Travel south from Georgetown to Grant over Guanella Pass. Then turn right on US 285 and go 15 minutes to the top of Kenosha Pass.
- Travel on Colorado 14 west from Fort Collins through the Poudre Canyon to the top of Cameron Pass.
- Travel on the Fall River Road (CR 275) from I-70 (Exit 238) northwest to St. Mary’s Glacier.
- Travel on Boulder Canyon Drive from Boulder to Nederland.
- Travel on Maroon Creek Road (CR 13) southwest out of Aspen into the Maroon Bells near Maroon Lake.
- Travel from Grand Junction, heading east on Interstate 70 through Palisade and along the Colorado River. At Colorado 65, head east and then south to Cedaredge.
- Travel on Colorado 125 over Willow Creek Pass between Granby and Walden.
- Travel on US 40 south from Steamboat Springs. Then take Colorado 131 to Yampa. From Yampa, take County Road 7 southwest to Stillwater Reservoir.
- Travel from Meeker to Yampa on County Road 8 over Ripple Creek Pass.
Colorado’s colorful landscape begins to emerge usually by the middle of to late September. In order to find great pictures of this yearly event, you only need to find where the Aspen trees are showing their yellow-gold colors. Some areas in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado have more Aspen trees than others. Some of the areas where I have personally found great pictures of Aspens are near the cities of Pagosa Springs, Telluride, Winter Park, Ouray, Estes Park, Aspen and Breckinridge. If you can take 4 wheel drives outside of these cities, you will find an abundant supply of pictures just waiting for the taking.
The key conditions that are unique to Colorado which turn the color of Aspen trees are the frost and the higher elevations of surrounding mountains which produce shaded areas. The more shaded slopes will turn first. Then the more sun exposed areas will turn a few days later. If there is an early frost, then you are in for a special treat. This is because all the Aspens in one area will transform into their glorious yellow color all at once.
I remember a line of music sung by John Denver where he sings about seeing “Fire raining down from the skies”. Let me tell you, when it rains during a sunset, it sometimes can actually look like this is happening! He also sang about the many beautiful and memorable sights he saw in Colorado with regard to the colors of Fall.
To capture the best photos of this time of year, I would suggest purchasing a very good digital camera, a good macro-zoom lens and even a wide angle lens. If you are lucky, you may get a rare picture of white fluffy snow on golden Aspen trees that are highlighted by late afternoon or early morning sunlight. I got some very good pictures of this very rare event last year when I finally moved back to Colorado.