Where to See Colorado Fall Colors | Best Fall Colors in Colorado

Colorado offers some of the most exquisite views of fall colors I've ever seen. I'll share with you where you can see some of these incredible views with your own eyes. If you're considering a trip to Colorado for fall colors, consider joining me with Light Chasing Photo Tours on our Colorado Fall Colors Photography Workshop!

Colorado Landscape Photography | Colorado Fall Colors Photography Workshop

When I think of Colorado fall colors, there are a few places that come to mind. It's important to understand the fall color forecast when considering how to capture fall colors in Colorado. Once you know your timeline and the forecast, you can start building your trip. First, let's review the standard fall color forecast that changes based on weather, precipitation and a number of other factors.

Colorado Fall Color Forecast

The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a later peak for fall colors this year in Colorado with the most vibrant colors hitting October 5-14. Early predictions based on summer weather indicate some areas may see fall colors late in September. Here's the forecast:

  • Northern mountains and I-70 area will likely hit mid to late-September.
  • Central mountain ranges including areas of the San Juan Mountains and the Gore range will light up end of September to early October.
  • Southern mountains including areas of the San Juans, Sangre de Cristo Range and Laramie Mountains will sparkle most brightly early to mid-October.
Colorado fall color prediction map
Image credit: 9news.com

When you're ready to hit the road, here are a few places you'll want to be sure to visit to see the best Colorado Fall Colors.

Fall Colors in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you're in the Rocky Mountain National Park Area, Trail Ridge Road and Bear Lake Road are the spots you need to hit. It's impressive to see how incredibly a scene can change when the fall colors hit. If you've ever wondered why fall colors hit and why leaves change color you're not alone.

This area is likely to start seeing the colors change in mid-September with peak colors closer the end of September. As snow may start falling at the very end of September, check for conditions and road closures within the park.

White Aspen tree trunks fill the forest floor with bright yellow aspen leaves. Looking up to the blue sky the white tree trunks point up to the clouds.

An aspen grove can take your breath away when you walk thru them. This forest I walked thru did just that. I spent hours here photographing these Aspen trees covered in yellow.

Maroon Bells Fall Color Forecast

Maroon Bells is so named for the soft, red shale and siltstone which are red due to tiny iron particles that have rusted. When the light hits these bell-shaped mountains surrounded by fall colors, it's a sight to see. As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Snow covered mountains surrounded by bright fall colors. The scene is reflected in the lake in the foreground.

When visiting Aspen, Colorado you must add Maroon Bells to your bucket list to visit. One of Colorado's must iconic is Maroon Bells and it's hiking trails. September is a beautiful time to visit this iconic location. With it's breathtaking views of Maroon peak (14,163 feet.) and the North Maroon peak (14,019 feet). These peaks are located in the Maroon Bells Snow-mass Wilderness of the White River National Forest. When you visit you will know exactly why. Surrounded by aspen trees that surround the mountain and cast a beautiful reflections. If you love Colorado in the during the fall colors Maroon Bells is a must place to visit.

Maroon Bells as a very rich history and has also been given another nickname, "Deadly Bells". This is due to its unstable rock called mudstone on the slopes that is weak and fractures easily which makes every route dangerous. In 1965 eight people died in five separate accidents on the slopes of Maroon Bells which is when it received the nickname. Additionally, there have been nine deaths between 2010 and 2017 on these peaks that rise over 14,000 feet above sea level which put them in the famous Colorado 14er set of mountains.

Ouray, Colorado | Ouray Hot Springs

Ouray is one of my absolute favorite place to basecamp for fall colors in Colorado due to it's proximity to Telluride and Ridgeway with so many amazing views of the San Juan Mountains and beautiful aspen groves. For our Colorado Fall Color Photography Workshop, we typically stay at the Twin Peaks Lodge and Hot Springs which is why I can't mention Ouray without mentioning the hot springs which are perfect on the cool, fall Colorado evenings.

This area should see peak fall colors the last week of September.

Amazing views of an snow covered mountain surrounded with brightly colored yellow, reds and oranges forest trees. Pink and red morning clouds fill the sky.

As I was driving around the Colorado country roads I came across this amazing view of Mount Wilson surrounded with peaking fall colors. Like what you see? Join Light Chasing Photo Tours for our Colorado Fall Colors Workshop and bring home amazing images of your own!

Another reason why I love Ouray is the number of aspen trees and groves that are ready to enjoy even when the weather and clouds might want to hide the mountains away. It's pure magic to just drive around the area county roads and see what you can find. From intimate views like this one:

Leprechaun | Aspen Tree Images

It's not often you see an aspen tree with red leaves and this one really stood as I drove by it outside of Ouray. Scenes like these cozy little aspen trees are a good reminder of the magic Colorado fall colors always seem to bring.

Fine more beautiful tree images in Joe Garza's Trees & Fall Colors Collection!

to stunning panoramic mountain scenes like this one:

The grand view of Mount Sneffels during fall colors in the Dallas divide. This incredible view is just outside of Ridgeway, Colorado

This is the grand view of the San Juan mountain range with Mount Sneffels in view. One of the most beautiful landscape views I have seen with fall colors. Colorado has many gems but this view takes the cake with Mount Sneffels. Mount Sneffels is the highest summit of the Sneffels Range in the Rocky Mountains of North America. I hiked this 14er as part of my training for my Mount Everest trip. This image is for sale and is a stunning image for your home or office.

Like what you see? Join Light Chasing Photo Tours for our Colorado Fall Colors Workshop and bring home amazing images of your own!

Million Dollar Highway

The Million Dollar Highway is runs between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado. It is part of the San Juan Skyway Colorado Scenic Byway and US highway 550. It was built in the 1880's and I've read a couple reasons for the name. One rumor is that people have said they wouldn't drive the highway even for a million dollars. Another rumor is that when it was built it costs over $1M which was a huge amount of money at the time. Trust me, this stunning, hairpin turning, guardrail free drive is worth every penny it cost to build it.

This area should see fall colors late September to early October.

Early morning light peaks thru the clouds shining on old Colorado barns on the country side. The snow covered mountain as the backdrop to this scene.

Driving thru the Colorado countryside had me stopped in my tracks when I saw this view. Early morning light breaking through the clouds painted light across this stunning landscape. Mount Wilson covered in fresh snow makes everything complete. Enjoy this beautiful image I call "Time Traveler".

Ophir Pass | Colorado Fall Colors

Ophir Pass runs from Telluride to Silverton and is also known as Forest Road #630. This pass runs up to 11,789 feet and has some truly amazing aspen groves that, when hit at the right time, is magical. The San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests in general provides incredible drives and views when you hit them for fall colors. You can monitor the Forest Service website to know when the colors start to change along the San Juan Skyway.

White Aspen tree trunks point directly towards the blue sky. Bright yellow leaves fall from the trees with yellow streaks to the ground.

Looking directly up in a Aspen tree forest give a new perspective of being surrounded by nature. The leaves were falling from the trees as the wind blew thru them making it look like a Gold Rush. Another amazing view from mother nature.

Joe Garza Photography Colorado Landscape Photography