DENVER(CBS) – Although September is starting off this year with summer-like record breaking heat, you know that at this point fall is definitely right around the corner. One of the best things about fall in Colorado is the changing of the leaf colors across the state.
It looks like the color show is going to be quite a spectacular this time around. The combination of good winter snow, a wet spring and steady summer rains has set the stage for the change over to be one of the best we have had in a few years.
Here we are just a few days into September and YouReporter Steve Chavez found a few leaves already at it in Keystone.
The average dates typically bring the northern part of the state into play at the end of September into early October and the southern stretches of Colorado the first half of October.
Here is a list of some of Colorado’s most popular drives for viewing the fall color shift.
From Denver take I-25 north to exit 269. Take Colorado 14 west through Laporte and into Poudre Canyon. You will be driving through Roosevelt National Forest. On this drive you will go over Cameron Pass and have a good look at the Medicine Bow Mountains.
Rocky Mountain National Park
From Denver take highway 36 through Boulder, Estes Park and straight into the park, using Trail Ridge Road. Enter Rocky Mountain National Park and follow the road to Bear Lake. One of the best places for viewing the aspens is the area around Glacier Gorge Junction. There may be a few bugling elk to view along this route!
From Denver take I-70 west and exit at historic Georgetown. Follow county road 381 over Guanella Pass to the town of Grant for some spectacular aspen viewing. A large part of the road is gravel. So if there is a lot of rain or snow the road can be a bit rutty. This is also a great time to ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. A steam locomotive will take you on a scenic ride to Silver Plume.
This may be one of the easier drives to take. Just drive from Denver west on Interstate 70 all the way to Avon. The viewing is awesome as you travel from Vail Pass to Avon. The aspens will highlight the slopes on both sides of the interstate. In some cases you don’t have to venture far from the highway to find color. A gorgeous view when the colors are changing is around Dillon Reservoir right next to Frisco.
Peak to Peak Highway
The Peak to Peak Highway is one of the most picturesque drives in just about any season. But, fall is one of the best times to take it. On U.S. 6 through Clear Creek Canyon, take highway 119 past Blackhawk and Central City up to the mountain town of Nederland. Look for highway 72 heading to Ward and Allenspark. You should see thousands of acres of golden aspen with the Continental Divide as the backdrop. Another popular place to visit while in the area is Rollins Pass.
About 20 miles west of Yampa off County Road 8 you will find Dunkley Pass. sitting at an elevation of 9,763 feet. It’s a major highlight of the Flat Tops Trail Scenic and Historic Byway and puts on quite a show when the aspens turn gold.
From Denver, take I-70 west to Copper Mountain, where you will follow highway 91 through Leadville to highway 82. the aspens should big and bold as you travel from Twin Lakes over Independence Pass and down into the town of Aspen. While your there you can take a little detour to the Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed areas in Colorado. Check out the John Denver Sanctuary while you are in Aspen.
Go west along I-70 to the Frisco exit and head toward Breckenridge on highway 9. Continue over Hoosier Pass down into the towns of Alma and Fairplay.
For this one go west along I-70 to the Frisco exit and head south through Breckenridge on highway 9. Look for Boreas Pass Road on the south side of Breckenridge. Follow the road around 14.5 miles to the town of Como. Most of this road is unpaved, so don’t take the Corvette. The view of the Blue River Valley is great. And the waves of aspen groves are quite impressive.
Just outside of Nederland is a “two-for-one” adventure that includes both a drive and a hike. CBS4’s Jason Hussong says at times the area can be on fire with color that include reds and oranges. Lake Dorothy can be found along the same trail that goes to Diamond Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.
That’s the same trail that goes to Diamond Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area west of Nederland
West Elk Loop
From Denver, take I-70 west to Glenwood Springs where you will follow highway 82 south to Carbondale. Take highway 133 through Carbondale and continue over McClure Pass, there you will find one of the largest expanses of aspen in Colorado. The loop will take you through Paonia, where you’ll head east on highway 92 to Gunnison. The loop back takes you on highway 135 to the ski town of Crested Butte where you’ll drive a gravel road over Kebler Pass and then back to Carbondale on highway 133. This is a longer trip but, well worth it.
San Juan Skyway
The San Juan Skyway starts in Durango and travels north on U.S. 550 to Silverton where you’ll follow the “Million Dollar Highway” over Red Mountain Pass down through Ouray (Colorado’s little Switzerland) and into Ridgeway. Take Highway 62 over Dallas Divide on your way to Placerville where you’ll want to turn south on highway 145 and head toward Telluride. Continue over Lizard Head Pass down to Cortez. Heading east on U.S. 160 will return you to Durango. This is considered one of the most scenic drives in America.
Take U.S. 285 south from Denver to Buena Vista. Drive about seven miles west of Buena Vista on Main Street, and turn left on county road 344. You’ll find Cottonwood Lake about four miles down the road surrounded by beautiful groves of Aspen.
Take U.S. 285 south from Denver, or from Pueblo take U.S. 50 to Poncha Springs. Continue south on us 285 over Poncha Pass where you’ll find stands of aspens along San Luis Creek.