This report covers the weekend of September 8, 2018.
September 6, 2017 - I’ve had more than a couple people tell me that over Labor Day weekend, the aspen at high elevations were already turning. Due to some travel, I wasn’t able to make it last week. Despite some brilliant color on the north-facing slopes along the Bear Lake corridor, it looks like the aspen changes are going along at about the the same pace as last year. The best weekends will likely be 2-4 weeks from now, but there’s enough variety in Rocky Mountain National Park that you’ll find an amazing place throughout the season.
The corridor up to Bear Lake is worth braving the crowds for the aspen season. The large groves of aspen near the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead only have just the first blushes of turning yellow, but the mountainside to the south are speckled with vivid shades of gold.
Thus far, some areas where aspen have not changed include the Alluvial Fan, and Beaver Meadows. The area around Lily Lake and the drive along the Peak-to-Peak highway is starting to change, but be aware that there are several construction areas just south of Lily Lake which might make CO-7 very slow going.
Storm Pass Trailhead - Some of the colors on the north-facing slopes along the road to Bear Lake are accessible from Storm Pass Trailhead. Parking there is extremely limited, so you may plan to start from Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, just a quarter of a mile down the road (there are trails, you don’t need to hike on the road). Head up the Boulder Brook Trail half a mile, or 1.5 miles toward Storm Pass.
Timber Lake Trail – - Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get over to the west side this visit, but it was so nice last year at this time that it’s worth mentioning: the aspen on the west side change a bit sooner than the east. 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.
Alberta Falls from Glacier Gorge or Bear Lake – - Most of the aspen close by Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake aren’t changing much, except for the fantastic stand near the junction that splits off toward Alberta falls. It already has some strong color and will probably peak within a couple weeks.
Afield Trails’ 2018 aspen coverage
You can find more features for making the most of the aspen season with the Afield Rocky Mountain app.
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.