Get out there: Fall colors are coming |

Get out there: Fall colors are coming

Summit Daily file photos/Richard ChittickWhile red aspens are rare, a single tree in Wildernest last year provided these explosive colors.

Trying to figure how to make the best use of your free time is about to get challenging. The next four weeks, before the snow really starts to fall, time must be budgeted to see the best fall colors displays in the state.

Combining mountain biking and hiking, or just plain old car camping, with the wild displays available make for some of the best road trips of the year.

Brent Doerzman is a nature photographer based out of Arvada, a suburb of Denver. Every fall, Doerzman organizes a trip to shoot fall colors in the far corners of the state. A limited selection of Doerzman’s work can be found at

“The Dallas Divide in the San Juans is an incredible area, as is Owl Creek Pass,” Doerzman said.

“One of my favorite places is Last Dollar Road,” he said.

This four-wheel-drive road provides a back way to Telluride from Ridgway near Dallas Divide in the Uncompahgre National Forest. Be sure to plan any trips to the San Juans carefully, though, as some areas have already received up to two feet of snow.

A little closer to Summit County is the Capitol Creek drainage near Aspen.

“I had never heard of it until a couple of years ago,” Doerzman said. “But once I found it, I went totally nuts.”

Hiking into this valley in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness also provides some pretty spectacular views of Capitol Peak, a fourteener located deep inside the wilderness area.

Tom Winter, a professional photographer based out of Vail, particularly likes Rocky Mountain National Park.

“Because you have both Western Slope and Eastern Slope, the colors change at different rates,” Winter said from his home in the Vail Valley. “The viewing season is longer than most places in the state.”

“For a good fall bike ride,” said Winter, “check out the Monarch Crest. It’s one of the best in the state.”

The Monarch Crest is a point-to-point ride that connects Monarch Pass with Poncha Springs south of Buena Vista. Most groups choose to shuttle the trip up Monarch Pass.

And, for all the East Coast transplants who are desperate to see a fireworks of reds and oranges, Winter recommends the scrub oak found in Glenwood Canyon.

Both of the photographers agreed that for the best view of aspens on the planet, head to Kebler Pass, which passes through the West Elk Mountains on its way from Crested Butte to Paonia.

“The aspen grove on Kebler Pass is one of the oldest and largest living organisms on the planet,” Winter said. “It’s an amazing drive over.”

And some of the best mountain biking and hiking in the country is available right there in Crested Butte.

Doerzman already has his plans set to be there when the aspens peak, which will likely be within the next two weeks.

And of course, there’s always home sweet home.

“It’s pretty decent right here in Summit and Eagle counties,” said Winter. “So most people can just walk out their door.”

So make the best of it. Fall colors usually peak between the third week of September and the second week of October.

Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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