Fall colors are beginning in Colorado’s northern mountains for 2023

The peak of leaf-peeping season in the northern mountains most likely is a week or two away, but the onset of the great fall foliage transition has begun.

“We’ve had some chilly nights, a few 34s, 35s, some light frost on the deck,” said longtime Steamboat Springs resident Cathy Wiedemer. “That maybe has helped with it. It just seems in the last few days, we’ve kind of rounded the corner and the colors are on – but just starting. (Wednesday) I was noticing some reds in some scrub oak. It definitely feels like fall. Then you look at a row of trees in town, some are yellow and some are still green. There’s this nice melding of colors.”

About 25 miles north of Steamboat at the Vista Verde Guest Ranch near the town of Clark, mountainsides are mostly green but some gold is popping. The ranch’s sales and hospitality director, Roxy Kestner, said the change could be in full force next week.

“I think next week and the week after are going to be great, Kestner said.

Closer to Denver, the change is just beginning around Estes Park and in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to Thomas Pemberton, owner of Estes Park Tour Guides, an outfitter that guides trips in the area. Pemberton says it feels like the change is a little later than usual.

“We definitely have a couple of weeks to go,” Pemberton said. “From what I’ve been seeing, we have a good start, there’s some good foliage beginning, but we are behind by a couple of weeks for sure. If you were looking at the (predictions) for this area, we still have another week or so until it’s supposed to be ‘peak’ season, but I think we’re about a week and a half off. I’d say another week and a half, it will be perfect. We’re definitely more on track for the end of September.”

The annual fall color change typically starts in the northern mountains in the middle of September and runs through the third or fourth week of the month, according to Dan West, entomologist for the Colorado State Forest Service and a member of the faculty at Colorado State University.

In the central mountains — including Vail, Summit County, Aspen, Crested Butte and Gunnison — West expects fall colors to emerge at the end of the month and last into the first week of October. The southern mountains should see fall colors in the second and third week of October.

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