By Mike McClanahan | September 10, 2018 0

Colorado’s Fall Foliage—Where and When to See It

The coming of fall signals one of the most beautiful times of year in Colorado’s High Country. Mountain hillsides, parks, and meadows are packed with residents and tourists alike taking in one of the year’s favorite activities—seeing the aspens turn.

Dry Conditions Bring an Early Change

The timing of fall colors is based on elevation, latitude, light, temperature and moisture and much of Colorado’s mountain forests have experienced moderate to severe drought conditions this year. This is causing aspens and other broadleaf trees to change to their fall colors early.

Trees usually begin their fall change in a fairly predictable pattern from north to south, but this year is different. Dry conditions in the San Juan Mountains in the southwest part of the state have brought early changes to the area, which is one of the hardest-hit by drought. The lack of moisture puts extra stress on the trees and they start their winter cycle early to preserve resources.

The area around the Purgatory ski resort was reporting changes in mid-September, several weeks ahead of average. And the leaves aren’t going through their typical cycle of yellow to orange to red before turning brown and falling.

The Front Range is On Schedule—and Beautiful

Other areas have been spared the drought and are turning on schedule. The areas just west of the Front Range urban corridor have largely been spared an early fall change. In fact, temperatures have been higher than average and rainfall has been adequate, so viewing in areas around Idaho Springs and Guanella Pass are expected to peak in late September through early October. The Mount Evans area also offers prime viewing for several weeks, peaking in late September and early October before leaves start falling rapidly soon after.

The Vail Valley forests began changing in mid-September and are expected to peak around the first of October.

Picture-Perfect Vistas Are Still Available

For Colorado residents in the Front Range, there are still a few weeks of prime viewing left, but don’t dawdle. Changes can come quickly in our unpredictable climate.

If you’re planning on seeing the show, check with Forest Service for the best times and places in your area. And if you miss seeing the fall colors in person, you can enjoy a photo gallery of Colorado’s autumn beauty on the Denver Post’s The Know online.


If you need help choosing the right trees and planting times for your landscape, Donovan Arborists offers planting, pruning, and shearing services as well as a complete landscape maintenance package for property in the Denver area.

We’re always happy to give free estimates to homeowners and property managers for any services they may need.

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