9 Tips for Aspen Viewing in Colorado

Last Updated on September 25, 2023 by foxintheforest

Alas, the beautiful season of fall is upon us. This time of year, everyone swarms to the brilliant, fire-colored leaves that blanket our state. It’s surely a sight to behold and well-worth your time to explore the Rocky Mountains in the fall. These local tips for Aspen viewing in Colorado are aimed to give you the know-how to have a successful time out in the mountains this fall.

Follow the Foliage: Peak Foilage Predictions for 2018

We have a saying in Colorado, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.” Our weather patterns are different almost every year and this means that the Aspens turn at different times each year. Typically, the aspen trees in the north are the first to show signs of color and the phenomenon slowly makes its way south in a matter of three weeks. Peak season for the middle of the state, at famous Aspen viewing places such as Crested Butte and, well, Aspen is the third weekend in September.

This year, predictions are a bit different. We didn’t have the snowpack and precipitation we have had in years past, so the leaves are starting to turn a bit earlier due to the drought. For the up-to-date information, you can check out Visit Crested Butte’s live updates.

aspen viewing in colorado

Travel to Lesser-Known Destinations

I hate to break it to you, but if you’re planning on looking at the leaves, Mt Blue Sky (formerly Mt Evans), Guanella Pass, Kenos, a Pass and Aspen are going to be swarming with people. Although these areas are beautiful, they undergo an intense amount of stress with so many people stomping and tromping around. Don’t believe me? I waited in over an hour and a half of traffic when I drove by Kenosha Pass a few years back. There were people everywhere and no one was sticking to the trail. This year, take some of the pressure off of these areas and opt for a just-as-beautiful hike to one of these destinations. Oh and bonus, there will hardly be any people.

Stay on the Trail

If you’re new to hiking it can be quite tempting to veer off of the trail and go exploring in a sea of trees. Please stick to the trail, it exists so you can visit this pristine area with less of an impact. Wandering off-trail eventually creates social trails. These trails then put stress on sensitive areas, causing problems with erosion and trampling of wildlife habitat. Stay on designated trails when you’re peeping the leaves. Can’t stand the crowds? Keep hiking. Most people won’t wander more than a mile from their car.

Get Your Free Hiking Gear List and Hiking Planner!

Stay organized with this easy-to-use hiking planner and checklist. Complete with planning info, hiking packing list, emergency contact and more! Simply fill it out and send along to a trusted friend.

free hiking planner and packing list

fall foliage in colorado

Don’t Mark the Trees

There is nothing more unsightly and disheartening than an aspen tree covered in graffiti. I like street art, but please keep that habit in the city. When you carve a tree, you expose the tree to harmful bugs, diseases, fungi and all sorts of danger. Not only are you doing this to one tree, but Aspens happen to be all interconnected, meaning that a grove of aspens is actually one organism. Therefore, when you carve a tree you are exposing the entire grove to all sorts of harmful intruders. Not to mention, the fall is a sensitive time for trees. They are getting ready for the long, cold winter and carving the bark can cause more damage in the fall, as the tree is unable to recover. Simply put, take photographs and leave only footprints!

Here are a few excellent local recommendations for hiking in Colorado:

Leave it Better than You Found it

Whenever you go outside, be sure to follow Leave No Trace Principals. Be sure to pack out all of your trash, including wrappers, dog poop, fruit peels, and cores and anything else you bring with you. Don’t leave dog poop bags on the trails and be sure to follow all signage and instructions from rangers.

Psst, new to Leave No Trace? That’s okay. Get educated with this guide to being a better steward in the outdoors.

Keep Fido Close

With busier trails and wildlife looking to make one final stand before settling into winter, it’s important to keep your adventure pup under control. Be sure to follow all leash laws and if you are in an area where your dog is allowed off-leash, make sure your dog doesn’t chase after wildlife.

Many animals are storing up precious fat reserves for winter, and allowing your dog to chase wildlife only inhibits their ability to eat fat and be merry. Also, the time for Aspen viewing in Colorado coincides with various hunting seasons and the elk rut. Animals can be particularly aggressive during ruts and you don’t want a hunter to mistake your dog for a wild animal.

Pack Layers When You are Aspen Viewing in Colorado

If you haven’t spent much time outside in Colorado, don’t forget to pack layers. The weather changes frequently and although thunderstorms aren’t as prevalent as they are during the monsoon season, they still exist. Keep an eye on the clouds and pack a hat, gloves, puffy layer and fleece to stay toasty if the wind picks up or the temps plummet.

tips for fall in colorado

Get There Early

If you’re like me and you hate crowds, get to trailheads early, especially if you plan on visiting a popular area. You’ll get some much-coveted quiet time on the trails. Not to mention, the lighting is far better for photography early in the morning. Lastly, you’ll beat traffic. “Leafer traffic” as the locals call it, is certainly a thing here in Colorado that rivals even the fluffiest of powder days on the slopes.

Follow Fire Bans

Camping in the fall is a beautiful experience. The warm light of the changing colors, cooler temps and calmer crowds make fall camping one of Colorado’s best kept secrets. However, the forest is starting to dry up and die out in preparation for the winter. Fire-prone areas are susceptible to devastating infernos should a campfire get out of hand. Always follow fire bans and if you don’t know, Google around or call a local ranger station.

The fall foliage in Colorado is one of the most magnificent sites to behold. Snow-dusted peaks meet the fiery oranges of the aspens. These tips for Aspen viewing in Colorado help you make the most of the short fall foliage season.

Be prepared for the fall leaf-peeping season in Colorado. Experience the magic of the fall Aspens with insider tips on how to make the most of your time in the Colorado Rockies this fall. Written by a local. #colorado #travel #fallcolors #outdoors
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Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.