By Matt Payne, Examiner.com
One of my favorite parts of living in Colorado is the fall colors that come each September and October. Over the years, I’ve come to note in my mind the best areas to view fall colors around the state, and I thought I’d share my top five areas with you!
1. Dallas Divide
Not only is the Dallas Divide home to some of my favorite mountains to climb, it is also home to some of the most breathtaking areas for fall foliage. Start in the town of Ridgway, which is located south of Montrose. You will see the mighty 14er, Mount Sneffels as you enter Ridgway. Mount Sneffels is one of my favorite mountains to climb. From there, head west on Colorado Highway 62 over the Dallas Divide. You will be afforded incredible, classic views of the Sneffels Wilderness Area and a bounty of color will explode before your eyes from the aspen trees. At Placerville, drive southeast toward Telluride on Colorado Highway 145. From here, you will head towards Lizard Head Pass and see incredible views of Wilson Peak, which I climbed back in July. Did you also know that Wilson Peak is featured on the Coors Beer can?
2. West Elks and Kebler Pass
I’ve not had the chance to visit this area yet, but through my admiration of one of Colorado’s best photographers, Kane Engelbert, I feel like this is one of the best areas for viewing fall colors in the country. To get there, head west out of Crested Butte on Gunnison County Road 12. You will be immediately pleased by the fall colors in this area. The aptly named Ruby Range add contrast and more color as you continue. This would be a great area to stop and hike in. At Colorado Highway 133, you should drive north toward McClure Pass for more incredible colors and opportunities for incredible fall hiking.
3. Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness Area
The Maroon Bells are quite possibly the most photographed mountains in the world, and it is really no wonder as to why. The fall colors, as seen in this area, are quite splendid indeed. I feel that this area needs no further introduction, and examples can be found in the slideshow. According to the Colorado Tourism website, on weekends in September, access to the Maroon Bells is limited to shuttle buses that leave Aspen on a regular basis. But if you reserve a campsite along Maroon Creek Road, you can drive your vehicle all the way to the scenic Maroon Lake. This whole area is incredible – I visited it twice this year, once to backpack to Snowmass Lake, and another time to climb Snowmass Mountain and Hagerman Peak.
4. Cottonwood Pass
The mighty Sawatch Mountain Range is home to several 14ers and 13ers, including some of the best fall colors around. When driving in from the east on Highway 285, the majestic Mount Princeton greets you with huge groves of aspen at its base. Driving up to Cottonwood Pass places you between both Princeton and Mount Yale, another huge 14er. As you pass beneath the 14ers, you’ll find yourself in a valley full of aspen trees ranging from green to gold. Last year, I was able to view all of this from the summit of six 13ers, all in one day!
5. Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway
To reach this superb area, drive south out of the historic town of Georgetown to the summit of 11,699 ft. Guanella Pass. The changing aspen are pretty amazing, especially on the south side of the pass. Turn right on US Highway 285 and take the highway for 15 minutes to the top of Kenosha Pass, where you will be afforded more incredible views of aspen trees near South Park.