Autumn leaves still attracting visitors to the Roaring Fork
October 6, 2014
If you take a drive through McClure Pass over the next couple of weeks, you'll likely find an abundance of out-of-state license plates. While this region has a bustling tourist season in the summer, the changing leaves of the aspen trees keep visitors coming after school begins and temperatures drop.
"The Glenwood Springs Visitor Center saw a consistent number of tourists throughout the month of September," said Lisa Langer, vice president of tourism and marketing at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, in an email. "A majority of the visitors were here to see the colors of autumn in our beautiful Roaring Fork Valley."
Langer said while the numbers of visitors has remained consistent, there has been a demographic shift from families with young children to retired couples, families with pre-school children and couples in their 20s. She said some of the favorite spots for viewing fall colors include Four Mile Road up to and down from Sunlight Mountain Resort, the top of Iron Mountain at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Linwood Cemetery.
But outside of Glenwood, or about an hour from Aspen, McClure Pass offers some of the most spectacular views of fall foliage, with Chair Mountain serving as a snowy centerpiece.
Elizabeth Fischer, from Columbia, Missouri, was driving over McClure Pass on Saturday with her husband and daughter-in-law. She said this is her first time being in the area during fall.
"We came to see the colors," she said. "We've been coming out here for skiing and the summer flowers for a long time, and we had heard about it. My husband is a visiting professor in the fall a lot, and so we hadn't been able to see this. But this year, he's not visiting anywhere, so we're just looking at the colors."
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Barbara Hill from Port Lavaca, Texas, visited McClure Pass on Saturday for her honeymoon. She said there's no comparison between the Texas falls she's used to and the views in this region.
"It's absolutely gorgeous," she said. "We will have a few trees that are colored, but it's just flat land. There's no comparison."
Hill said she and her husband drove through Yellowstone, and even the views there don't compare to McClure Pass.
"I can't explain how beautiful it is," she said.
Even Coloradans from the Front Range travel to the Western Slope to experience the changing leaves. A group of about 30 hikers from Flatirons Ski Club out of Boulder were taking advantage of the sunshine and foliage Saturday on McClure Pass. One of the members, Chris Paris, said this is the sixth or seventh year in a row that the group has come to the region for a fall colors hike.
"We are hiking trying to find good leaves," he said.
Having visitors throughout the fall months creates a positive impact on the local economy. Lisa Schlueter, who has owned the Redstone General Store for seven years, said the fall colors are the only reason the store stays open after the summer.
"This time of year, that's the only reason people are here," Schlueter said. "Otherwise, once school starts, we're done. Except for hunting, it's only the colors that keep us going."
So far, there are still plenty of green trees that haven't turned yet, but there are also a few trees that have lost their leaves entirely. Langer said trees in Glenwood Springs will likely peak in about a week, but trees at higher elevations tend to peak sooner.
"Every year is so incredibly different," Schlueter said. "I think they're beautiful every year, it's just that certain ones are prettier certain years than others. It's pretty beautiful, though, especially with that snow on the top."