A few weeks ago, I took a break from the relentless Texas heat and headed to the mountains for a week of cooler temperatures and colorful landscapes. While fall colors are on the way here in Texas, the oranges and golds of Autumn leaves have already come and gone in Colorado. I’ll dive into the highlights of my trip to the Rockies just down this blog, but first, I invite you to peruse my Colorado Fall Colors gallery.
Before I start reminiscing, I’d like to share some good news. First, one of my Autumn images from Garner State Park was chosen as the cover for the October edition of Texas Highways Magazine. Thank you to the folks there for continuing to use my work in their publication.
Next, Fox Sports contacted me to use nine of my Houston skyline images during their broadcast of the ALCS and the World Series.
Now, let’s get to Colorado. I started from my home away from home, Winter Park. From there I traveled through Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, then through Grand Lake and west to Carbondale. I then headed further west to the Grand Mesa, then south to the Dallas Divide and Silver Jack areas south of Cimarron. I completed the loop by returning to Winter Park before spending the day with my summer hiking buddy in Denver. All in all, I covered over 1700 miles in 7 glorious days and took over 1700 images (all RAW files).
I haven’t shot fall colors in Colorado in several years, but I do remember in years’ past when exploring in September and October being struck by the richness and depth of color – from the golden aspen to red-orange of scrub oak to the yellow leaves of cottonwood along creeks and rivers. Colorado is beautiful when the Autumn season passes through like a cool breeze.
From this adventure, I’d like to offer a few of my favorite images and locations from the trip.
Rocky Mountain National Park
I only focused on the northeast and most visited side of RMNP. I knew where I wanted to shoot based on previous trips – on a slope facing southeast overlooking Bear Lake with Longs Peak in the distance. From high up on a boulder field, this scene peeked out between colorful aspen leaves.
A little later in the morning, this image came from a trail not far from Bear Lake:
Maroon Bells Wilderness Area
One of my favorite places in all of Colorado is the Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake. The problem is that this area is a favorite of many people – both locals and tourists. In the fall when the leaves are changing, the parking lot often fills up by 5:00am with photographers waiting for the perfect shot. In addition, the rangers that protect this sensitive area have installed a small fence around the lake, thus preventing any really good angles where a reflection of the mountains can be seen in the clear water. Instead of the iconic photograph that many are familiar with, I chose to explore more areas (and visit some of my favorite spots to take in this scene. Here are two images – one of the colorful aspen and leaves; the other is a panorama of West Maroon Creek with Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, both 14,000’ summits, in the distance.
Southeast of Carbondale is a lone peak that rises to nearly 13,000’ – Mount Sopris. Numerous backroads can be found around this summit, and after some exploration, I found a spot where I could capture the remarkable fall colors in the foreground at sunrise. To photograph this area required an early wake-up call, and soon I was bumping along a dirt road to the previously located location – a park and hike up a hill to shoot across a beautiful valley. The temperature was around 28, and my fingers felt frozen as I watched low clouds move across the landscape. I was a bit concerned at the conditions (the forecast called for clear skies), but fortunately, the clouds began to break up. This panorama was taken during the breaking-up part before the skies went clear. And it all happened in about 10 minutes. Mountain weather changes quickly, for sure.
Home base was Montrose, just north of Ridgway, for this part of the trek. I met up with a good friend, Mike, from San Antonio. He’d been able to scout out a few areas before my arrival so we made good use of his recon and immediately headed to County Road 7. Over the course of a sunset this night as well as a sunset the next night, we covered the dirt roads County Roads 5, 7, and 9, and came away with some nice photographs of the Dallas Divide, a range of mountains that include Mount Sneffels, and Mt. Wilson. The red scrub oak and golden leaves of aspen trees filled the mountainsides and valley with amazing color, making for nice views in all directions.
Silver Jack Reservoir
The unincorporated town of Cimarron, Colorado is about 30 minutes from Ridgway. From here, CR 858 turns south and winds back into the San Juan Mountains. One of the most well known areas is Silver Jack Reservoir. With its backdrop of rugged mountains and slopes of aspen, this location made a great place for our sunrise stop. The clouds were constantly changing. In the course of 30 minutes, we experienced snow, wind, sunshine, and a little rain, as well. The dynamic conditions gave us a lot to work with. Here is one panorama from that morning overlooking the reservoir with Turrett Peak in the distance.
From here, we traveled further down 858 to Owl Creek Pass, stopping in several locations to take in the colorful aspen groves and expansive, colorful vistas.
These were some of my favorite locations, and while I stopped a few times on the way home to shoot a few areas (McClure Pass and Lake Creek on the east side of Independence Pass), my time on this journey was drawing to an end.
Looking back, and even in the midst of the trek, I am grateful for the beauty I saw as well as time spent with good friends. It was a week I won’t soon forget. But I’ll be back to explore even more areas the next Autumn. In the meantime, safe travels, everyone! I hope you enjoyed some of these moments from the Rocky Mountains.