A local guide to leaf-peeping: How to find the fall season’s best colors | AspenTimes.com
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A local guide to leaf-peeping: How to find the fall season’s best colors

Fall colors provide a backdrop for the Silver Queen Gondola on Sept. 30, 2022, from Aspen Mountain.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

As you drive on Independence Pass, you may notice vibrant yellows, oranges and reds scattered among the trees. It is officially autumn in Aspen, and leaf-peeping season is here.

According to the National Arboretum, a wet growing season followed by a dry, sunny autumn with cool, frost-free nights results in the brightest of fall colors.

Why do leaves change?

The bright yellow, orange and red colors are always present in leaves; however, they are usually masked by the green created by chlorophyll as trees turn sunlight into food, the Colorado State Forest Service website says. When the days get shorter, less photosynthesis is happening, causing chlorophyll levels to fade and bright colors to be revealed.



According to Aspen Weather, adequate moisture during summer is critical to vibrant leaves. In early autumn, the best weather is sunny days and cool — not freezing — nights. Rain is no friend to vibrant leaves. If it stays wet, the leaves will dull, and wind can knock them off prematurely.

The morning road sits quiet on Independence Pass on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, near Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen Weather said the higher elevation spots are vibrant right now, and they expect a peak in seven days. The colors in lower elevations are still a bit dull, and they expect a peak in two weeks.




Where can I leaf-peep?

Aspen Snowmass’ Fall Guide lists their favorite places for fall color:

Independence Pass — Take the drive from Aspen on Highway 82 at 12,095 feet to see aspens along the road and across the valley. There are pullouts and trailheads where you can stop to get a picture of the golden leaves.

Maroon Bells Lake and Maroon Bells — We all know and love the scenic Maroon Bells. The scenic area is at its best in late September when the aspen trees are shades of orange and yellow.

Ashcroft — Head down Castle Creek Road to this preserved mining town just south of Aspen. Aspen trees surround the entire “ghost town.”

A tree is backlit by the morning sun on Independence Pass on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, near Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Castle Creek Road — After hitting Ashcroft, continue on Castle Creek Road to see even more of the autumnal colors. You can hike up to Cathedral Lake or Castle Creek or relax at the Pine Creek Cookhouse.

Snowmass Ski Area — Take the Elk Camp Gondola up Snowmass Ski Area to see hundreds of colorful aspens.

Hunter Creek Trail — This trail is only a short distance from downtown Aspen and is the destination to see aspens in various stages of transformation. The trail originates at the Roaring Fork River and follows Hunter Creek up valley.

aryan@aspentimes.com