Colorado’s fall colors are coming — and leaf-peepers have a lot to be excited about this year |

Colorado’s fall colors are coming — and leaf-peepers have a lot to be excited about this year

The Denver Post talked with a forestry expert who just spent two months flying over every acre of forest land in Colorado

John Meyer
The Denver Post
Fall colors as seen at Guanella Pass last September. Leaf-peeping season this year is expected to be good to great, with the peak in the northern mountains expected in mid-September.
Hyoung Chang/Denver Post archive

Having spent the past two months flying over all 24 million acres of Colorado’s forests to assess their health, one of the state’s leading forestry experts foresees a good-to-great year for fall foliage with peak colors starting in mid-September.

Dan West, the state forest entomologist for the Colorado State Forest Service, who also teaches at Colorado State University, said some forests are showing signs of recovery from stress caused by years of drought.

Another key factor for fall colors could be September weather. The current 30-day forecast by the National Weather Service calls for above-normal temperatures across the state with below-normal precipitation in the northern half and equal chances of above or below normal moisture to the south. Those conditions should enhance the color transformation process while preventing frosts or early snows, which can curtail leaf-peeping season.

“The forecast is favorable for aspens and fall color in general,” West said. “That’s almost the ideal condition. We want cool nights, not cold, and we want really warm sunny days.”

When the shortening days of late summer trigger the fall color change, trees burn off the chlorophyll in their leaves which gives them their green pigment. As it dissipates, other pigments that were there all along become visible.


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