From vistas of golden aspens under snowcapped mountains to scenes of slithering rivers on the plains lined by cottonwoods, Colorado is full of fall photo opportunities. September and October are the peak months to go leaf-peeping. Here are eight great spots spanning the state to capture autumn with a camera.
By Joshua Hardin
(This story originally appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of Colorado Life Magazine)
On our cover, the lake offers one of Colorado’s most iconic fall images. Good light can be seen in the morning when mist rises from the lake’s surface. In the afternoon, climb the boulders nearby until you see Longs Peak bathing in pink alpenglow above the aspen trees.
2. Kenosha Pass – Between Bailey and Fairplay
Accessible from Highway 285, about an hour west of Denver, the pass provides ample views of an expansive forest. Hike or bike the Colorado Trail to photograph people enjoying the seasonal splendor under a canopy of glittering leaves.
3. Lake Catamount – Near Steamboat Springs
About his photo at Lake Catamount, Corey Kopischke said: “This spot had the elements for the perfect photo: peak foliage, clear skies, a snowstorm the night before causing fog in the valley. With a polarizer and 3-stop graduated neutral density filter all I had to do was wait until the fog started to lift to see the Flat Tops in the distance.”
4. Grand Mesa – Between Mesa and Cedaredge
On this scenic byway near the town of Mesa, look for views of the Book Cliffs which light up in scarlet shades at sunset or find swirling reflections of tree leaves and trunks making tantalizing abstracts in the Mesa Lakes.
5. Kebler Pass – Near Crested Butte
Create a sun star as light filters through golden-hued leaves like the one pictured here by Erik Stensland. “First, you will want to block most of the sun with another object such as a tree, mountain or even a cloud so that just a little bit of the sun is still showing,” he said. “Then, set your camera to use a very small aperture. This will create a sun star.”
6. Cottonwood State Wildlife Area – Near Brush
Also a popular spot for birdwatchers and hunters, this Morgan County area is home to an impressive swath of cottonwood trees and willows that explode with fall color along the South Platte.
7. Owl Creek Pass – Near Ridgway
Owl Creek Pass would be a good choice if you could only stop at one place in the San Juan Mountains. Visit the aspen-lined meadow where a scene in the 1969 movie True Grit was filmed. Continue over the pass to Silverjack Reservoir and the granite spires of the Cimarron Range.
8. Spanish Peaks – Between La Veta and Trinidad
Find an awesome aspen stand in the rolling hills on Highway 12 (the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway) at the summit of Cuchara Pass. Enjoy fantastic views of Devil’s Stairway, Monument Lake and the unusual sandstone formations behind the town of Stonewall.