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Beautiful Fall Colors!

Enjoy the amazing fall colors in the West Elk Mountains…

Colorado offers many attractions to visitors and one of the most popular is the opportunity to view the changing leaves in the aspen forests. The West Elk Mountains to the east and the Grand Mesa to the North are prime leaf viewing areas with huge aspen groves. Aspen forests are unique in many ways, but maybe the most interesting is that these huge forests are not made up of individual trees; instead each tree is an expression of a massive and ancient underground root system. Scientists believe that these root systems are the oldest and largest organisms on the planet!

When to See the Best Colors

The prime leaf viewing times are not possible to pinpoint because of varying fall weather – an early, cool fall will encourage early leaf changing; while a late, warm fall will delay the color change.

But the general rule is that high country aspen forest color is at its peak between the third week of September and first week of October.
The valleys, at a lower altitude, and warmer in climate, often see color through the third week in October; although with fewer aspen, most of the color change is in the cottonwood, box elder, scrub oak, brush and landscape trees.

How to Get There

In the North Fork Valley, most of the aspen color viewing is at a distance; but if you have a robust four-wheel drive vehicle you can see it in all its up-close magnificence by taking any of the many logging roads leading into the West Elk wilderness. For details on wilderness access routes, please see the articles on forest access in this section.

If you want to see the colors up close and do not have an off-road vehicle, you may want to take either Hwy. 65 north through Cedaredge up to the Grand Mesa, or take the gorgeous Kebler Pass road which leaves Highway 133 sixteen miles northeast of Paonia and ends in the funky bohemian ski town of Crested Butte.
 
          North Fork Valley Autumn Orchards       Coming into Paonia.