September is one of my favorite months of the year.

What’s not to like?

Crisp cool nights, comfortable days perfect for outdoor recreation, without turning into a sweaty mess. It actually makes me want to break out into a run again.

And the colors, oh the colors of changing leaves.

For four years, I worked as a Park Ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park. My commute involved driving over an hour each way to Estes Park via the Peak to Peak Highway. Many hot summer days, the drive felt long. Sometime, I almost fell asleep on the way home.

But September and early October, I relished the drive and the constant change of color. Each bend in the road brought a burst of orange and yellow. Something about the contrast of the aspens with the deep blue-green of spruce and fir is magical. My drive always ended up a little longer going home, as I frequently pulled over to snap a photo or two.

I thought maybe the color change was thwarted by our post-Labor Day snowstorm. But as I road tripped around the state last week, I found that not to be the case.

Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely clumps of aspens with nothing but brown, dead leaves. But plenty of Aspen were spared and are now turning gloriously golden.

If you’re on the Front Range, you might want to plan on a road trip this weekend. The colors are changing quickly and will probably peak at places like Rocky Mountain National Park and Brainard Lake.

The Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Durango is already showing burst of color and will also probably be peaking by this weekend.

But if you miss out, don’t despair — other parts of the state are a little farther behind. You might have to drive a bit, but consider heading west to Kebler Pass outside Crested Butte. The aspen are abundant and should be in all their glory in 10-14 days. Highway 92 between Hotchkiss and Curecanti also has abundant leaf-peeping opportunities.

Don’t be afraid to leave your car either. Nothing is more glorious than strolling among the aspens during a crisp fall day. The smell of the leaves invigorates me and makes me feel like a child, kicking leaves up in the air.

During this year, it’s an opportunity to escape pandemic cabin fever and revel in nature’s glory. And Colorado has plenty of opportunities on its scenic byways to enjoy all that fall has to offer.

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
Lauren DeStefano