Changing Colors – Golden Aspen Leaves in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Big Thompson River Color ChangesAutumn hasn’t yet arrived, but the colors are changing. Each summer as schools open for class, I find myself looking westward at the mountains. Colors begin to change from deep greens to softer, yellow greens and eventually to yellow. Across the peaks, the deep blues of summer mountains turn to softer paler shades of blue until eventually white peaks cap each mountain in the distance.

Changing colors in the Colorado Rocky Mountains come gently with shorter days. As skies fade to softer blues, clouds begin to drift in brighter tones and the days fill up with the aroma of autumn, colors on the Rockies begin to change. Pines become a richer green, grayed by the season as aspen trees turn gold. Crisp mountain air highlights the change.

Animals grow heavy winter coats and more and more they’re seen in lower elevations looking for food, some to store up for winter, and others to fill their bellies one more time before hibernation. Each of them growing more and more comfortable in the chill nights, preparing for the long winter ahead, and steadily edging their way toward snow on the mountains.

Often people ask me where they can see the colors change in Colorado, and I have a list of favorite places to see the brilliant colors of autumn. My most favorite ever is the Big Thompson River Valley, driving west toward Estes Park along the Big Thompson River, you’ll catch views of far more than the Aspen Golds. Elk and deer visit the highway, enjoying the heat it absorbs to rest their weary bones. Mountain sheep and goats often climb through the rocks there, to find water and soft grasses near the valley. And there’s always the chance that you’ll come across a mountain lion or bear along the road. Just keep the windows rolled up and your arms inside the vehicle. They most likely will keep traveling.

Another favorite site is along I-70 from Idaho Springs to Vail, where aspen trees are prevalent and mixed well with pines. Visit a ski slope along the way, or stop for an art show along the streets of Vail. Almost any town along the highway offers some sort of autumn activities and a welcome array of restaurants and hotels should you choose to spend the night.

In southern Colorado, follow US 50 west from Canon City to Salida and enjoy the color along the way. You’ll find places to stop and visit, or small side roads to take, leading you along the rushing waters of the Arkansas River or up the side of a mountain. Stop for a bit and take a picture of a bridge or country road, or maybe a train waiting for passage alongside the river.

Almost anywhere you travel in the Rocky Mountains, you’ll have ample opportunity to see wildlife, colorful trees and rocky jagged mountain cliffs. Enjoy the drive, and send photos. I’d love to see where you go.

Photos of Colorado Rocky Mountains are a favorite pastime for this Colorado Native. offers a glimpse of Colorado from a native perspective. Be sure to sign up for a complimentary subscription to her photo newsletter.

© 2010 –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *