2018 Rocky Mountain National Park Aspen Report

This report covers the weekend of September 20, 2018.

September 18, 2018 - Unfortunately, it appears the aspen are caught between the early-changing trees getting their leaves blown way and the later trees not yet having changed. This probably isn’t a good weekend for enjoying the aspen in Rocky. However, there is definitely color do be found and in a week or two, some big areas will be changing.

Last year at this time was kind of ideal: Hidden Valley, Bierstadt Lake Trailhead were all recommended. This year, Hidden Valley’s aspen are well past-peak, and Bierstadt Lake Trailhead’s magnificent hillside is still yet-to-change.

Aspens along the hillside near Bierstadt Lake Trailhead beginning to change.
Aspens on near Bierstadt Lake Trailhead turning a motley of gold-green.
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Your best bets are higher elevation (9500 ft+) areas that are more sheltered from the wind that can come off of the Continental Divide. I wasn’t able to get to everywhere to check (busy week), but also consider Gem Lake, Bear Lake and past Alberta Falls, and on the west side, Timber Lake, - let me know how it is!

Hill-side with a scattering of gold, but also many bare branches, white trunks, and dead pines.
The area around the entrance of Hidden Valley is stunning when fully changed; it now appears to be "past-peak."

The aspen near the Alluvial Fan and Beaver Meadows have yet to change. The area around Lily Lake and the drive along the Peak-to-Peak highway is really past-peak and most of the leaves have blown away. It’s not too attractive for leaf-peepers right now.

Trail recommendations

Timber Lake Trail – - the aspen on the west side change a bit sooner than the east, but are also a bit more sheltered from wind. Timber Lake Trailhead has some great stands of aspen nearby, and through 0.7 miles up the trail. Unfortunately, our map doesn’t include all the aspen here – the distrubances that made space for them are more recent. The Kawuneeche Visitor Center is a also a good stop.

Bierstadt Lake Trail This area should just get better in the coming few weeks, and the aspen groves across the valley are still quite vivid. This hike is quite exposed and steep – try to do it in the morning or late afternoon.

Afield Trails’ 2018 aspen coverage

You can find more features for making the most of the aspen season with the Afield Rocky Mountain app.

Review our previous aspen reports for 2018.

More fall foliage resources, for Colorado and beyond

Natural History Wanderings has a great collection of sources for fall foliage locations around the country. It’s also a great website for information on birds, wildflowers, and nature photography.

The Coloradoan’s 2018 fall colors guide covers all of Colorado and is updated weekly with reports and links to other resources.