Been waiting all summer to try and schedule perfectly when to drive up and see the beautiful fall colors in the mountains? Having that perfect timing can be difficult. While it is still green down in town, colder nights mean changing colors in the mountains. So, you don't want to wait for the leaves at home to change to plan your trip, but you also don't want to go up too early. The Coloradoan gives us a guide to help plan that perfect fall trip.
Colorado fall colors guide: Where and when to go
Jacy Marmaduke, firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished 9:38 a.m. MT Sept. 14, 2017 | Updated 3:26 p.m. MT Sept. 14, 2017
We're about to hit that narrow, golden window when swaths of Colorado trees glow yellow in unison.
But if you blink — or you're fooled by recent unseasonable warmth — you might miss the show. Cooler temperatures are in the forecast for this weekend and late next week, and cooler weather triggers color change for trees.
Here's your guide for where and when to go for the best displays of fall colors in Colorado this season. The tips are organized based on the timing of your trip, and we put them together based on seasonal outlooks, historic averages and early reports from throughout the state.
Trees can be unpredictable and fall colors depend largely on the whims of weather, so timing isn't exact.
Can't hardly wait: Sept. 15-21
It might feel too early to go looking for fall colors now, but some spots in Colorado are already starting to look autumnal. Cooler temperatures this weekend could up the ante.
In general, you're more likely to see fall hues at higher elevations in mid-September. According to the latest Afield Trails report on fall colors at Rocky Mountain National Park, trees near Hidden Valley are starting to turn gold and you can spot some rare red aspens above the Colorado River Trailhead.
Check the Afield Trails report for weekly tips on aspen viewing at RMNP. Afield Trails also has a handy app to help you find the prettiest aspens of them all.
Steamboat Lake State Park is also reporting some fall colors already.
If you're up for the drive, head to the northern stretches of Grand Mesa National Forest, where stands of trees have already started changing colors.
Fall colors usually start to peak in the Steamboat Springs area around Sept. 15-25, according to a 9News analysis.
I prefer to view my fall leaves when it's actually fall, thank you: Sept. 22-28
Late September is when fall colors really shine in the Poudre Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Drivers, hikers and cyclists have tons of options for viewing fall colors in the Poudre Canyon. You'll find lots of aspens along Colorado Highway 14 about 45 miles up the Poudre Canyon through North Park. Lower in the canyon, you'll see cottonwoods turning golden and sumac turning red, but keep in mind that lower-elevation trees usually take longer to change color. From Fort Collins, take Rist Canyon Road (Larimer County Road 52E) up to Stove Prairie Road (County Road 27), and head north to Colorado 14 to maximize the viewing.
ADVERTISINGAt Rocky, check out fall colors along Trail Ridge Road, Old Fall River Road or Bear Lake Road, to name a few.
Want to head farther out? Try the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, which anticipate peak colors between Sept. 21-30.
I want more time to plan a trip: Sept. 29 to Oct. 5
You're in luck. History and seasonal projections tell us this week will be prime-time for fall colors in a lot of places.
Fall colors at the Maroon Bells historically peak around late September or early October. You can check out a live feed of Maroon Bells colors online. The same goes for trees in Estes Park and RMNP's lower elevations. Expect to see lots of yellow and gold, but you can find some orange and red trees throughout Rocky.
The Rio Grande National Forest projects that fall colors will peak between Sept. 27 and Oct. 4 this year. Colorado's southern mountains tend to peak the first week of October, according to a 9News analysis, although some projections anticipate they'll change color ahead of schedule this year because of dry conditions.
I'm a fall-colors procrastinator, and I don't care who knows it: Oct. 5-11
In early October, you can catch some great fall color shows right in town. A wet summer means Fort Collins could be in for brighter fall colors than we've seen in previous years, but it's too early to tell at this point.
Several of Fort Collins' most common deciduous trees — ash, elm, honeylocust and cottonwood — turn golden yellow in the fall. Maple trees, which make up about 7 percent of trees city-wide, sometimes turn red or orange, and some ash trees turn purple-red.
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