guides

2021 Fall Colors in NOCO! Get Out & Enjoy The Changing Colors.

Fall In Northern Colorado Isn't Predictable But It Is Beautiful.

By Melissa Shrader Editor/Publisher Fort Collins Macaroni Kid September 13, 2021

Fall Colors are here and there are so many great resources for finding the best colors. 

Fall is one of my most favorite times of the year (along with spring, winter and summer LOL). Each season has something special about it. What I love most about fall is the changing of the colors. This year is predicted to be an awesome year for fall colors to shine in all their glory!

Forest experts are predicting a good year for fall colors in the state that received good moisture this summer. The western slope colors may come and go quickly due to less moisture, while the eastern slope that got more rain will have a longer season. Down in southwest Colorado, you’ll see aspens turn colors quicker and their leaves will probably fall off sooner.  

My favorite go to for a wonderful drive is peak to peak. We try to get there every year. If we can’t make it there we enjoy the changing colors in the local parks in town. Again, Aspens aren’t the only tree that leaves change color on. Bushes, grasses, and various plants change colors during the fall season too. Get out to your local park and just explore! 

The real tip is to check the weather. If there has been enough rain and a gradual enough shift to cold the colors will be fantastic! If there has been little moisture and/or a quick cold snap the colors won’t be as vibrant or might not happen at all.  Sometimes the colors don’t present themselves well because there has been a cold snap and the leaves just turn brown and drop.

 Sometimes it’s too wet or too dry and the leaves don’t turn well either. The fall colors are all set up to be a rainbow of golden, yellow, orange, red and everything in between. 

I have investigated a few different links and found that these are some of the best for finding when and where is the best each season. 

  • This great article from The National Park service is a great source for dates and areas to visit to see the changing leaves. Remember reservations are required to visit the park. Also, if you have a 4th grader you can get a free pass for the year
  • This is from Estes Park on the changing colors in the Rocky Mountain Park from Twin Sisters, Bear Lake Road (One of my favorites), to Glacier Gorge Trail. It also includes Grand Lake with Kawuneeche Valley, and Fairview Curve. My personal pick for the BEST color in RMNP is at Bear Lake. 
  • Some of my favorite drives include the Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway from Black Hawk to Estes Park (if you have time drop a coin in a slot! Maybe listen to some Elk Bugling).
  • Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway from Georgetown to Grant. 
  • The Poudre Canyon – From Fort Collins to Cameron Pass. Always wonderful! Right in our back yard too!  This year unfortunately the Cameron Pass fire prevents us from enjoying the colors here.
  • Fall River Road – It takes a pretty rugged vehicle to traverse the road but it’s well worth it. (closed currently do to fire danger) 
  • Lastly is Boulder county road 130 from Nederland to Fourth of July Trailhead. This is dirt road for most of the trail.  
  • USDA Fall checks every season to see when and where the best colors are. This is their list here!
  • If you are interested in colors in Nebraska, Wyoming, or South Dakota, this list is where to start. 
  • This is a map from Colorado Parks and Wildlife showing their assessment of the best fall colors. 
  • This is from Colorado Tourism. It’s a wonderful list of the best places all throughout Colorado to catch the fall colors.  
  • Don’t forget about the Pawnee grasslands! Just because it’s the plains doesn’t mean that there isn’t changing colors. There are some beautiful shrubs and grasses that change and show off a bit too. 
  • See full state notification on closures and other park alerts here

Check out your favorites and let me know how you faired.