Fall Color on the GMUG


 Yellow aspens tinged with red on roadside


Fall is here!  The official time of the Autumnal Equinox, when the geometric center of the Sun's disk crosses the equator.

2018 Fall Color Reports will be available on the GMUG Fall Color Hotline 970-874-6678

Now is the time to enjoy Fall on the GMUG. Take a scenic drive or surround yourself with yellow aspens on a hike or bike ride.  Check out our suggested scenic drives, and hikes below!

  • You can also check out Facebook for the latest color updates!
  • Trekking through Fall - scenic hot spots on your National Forests across the U.S.
  • Please remember to pull off to the side and not stand on the road when photographing or enjoying the scenery.
  • Many of the aspens particularly on Kebler Pass and on the Grand Mesa have been affected by Marssonia leaf blight.  Aspen leaves will show brown leaf spots. Leaves will turn from green to brown.  Colors will be less vibrant in stands affected by this blight.

Why do leaves change color? In the Autumn, the decrease in the intensity and duration of sunlight, as well as cooler temperatures, causes the leaves to stop their food-making process (photosynthesis). The chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down, causing the green color to disappear, and the yellowish pigments, known as carotenoids, become visible. The Autumn foliage of some trees, including aspen, birch and ash, are mostly yellowish colors. The reddish pigments, the anthocyanins, become more visible in the leaf veins and cells in some leaves, such as maples.

Leaves have just as much yellow pigment (xanthophyll) in July when they are green as they do in October when they are yellow. In July the darker green pigment (chlorophyll) masks the yellow color. More info on color changes.

For more information on Fall check out these websites:

Best trails  (hiker, horse or motorcycle) for color- viewing on the GMUG

Best scenic drives with big color views on the GMUG :

Dallas Divide and Lizard Head Pass: Begin your journey in the town of Ridgway. Head west on Colorado 62 over Dallas Divide. Lining the route are unimpeded views of the Sneffels Range, an apron of aspens at its feet. At Placerville, head southeast toward Telluride on Colorado 145. All the way to Lizard Head Pass you’ll drive through dense groves of white-barked aspens with panoramas of Wilson Peak.

Kebler Pass: Head west out of Crested Butte over this improved dirt road (County Road 12) and you’ll be inundated with autumn glory. The ruddy colors of the Ruby Range make for a radiant contrast with the golden aspens below. At Colorado 133, you can head north toward McClure Pass for more, or return via the way you came for a repeat performance.

Owl Creek Pass Loop: Head east off Hwy 550 (betweeen Ridgway State Park and the Town of Ridgway) on County Road 8. Follow signs onto Forest Road 858  to Owl Creek Pass.  To the south you will see outstanding  views of Sneva and Courthouse Mountain. Continue on Forest Service Road 858 over the pass and along the West Fork of the Cimarron River with impressive views of " the Needles" on Pinnacle Ridge. The route takes you  along open meadows lined with patches of aspen in various stages of green and yellows and backdrops of jagged peaks and high ridges. Every turn out is sure to frame you camera with awe inspiring images. This road continues north and connects with  Highway 50 near Cimarron to make a perfect afternoon scenic drive.

Grand Mesa Scenic Byway and other scenic drives with big views on the GMUG !  

Other favorite routes:
US 160 between Pagosa Springs and Cortez
Colorado 135 between Crested Butte and Gunnison
US 50 west from Gunnison to Colorado 149 south to Lake City and Slumgullion Pass
Colorado 550 from Ridgway south through Ouray and Silverton to Durango

photo of view from Wilson Mesa Trail

Views from Wilson Mesa Trail near Woods Lake State Wildlife Management Area (near Telluride). 

photo close up of bright red shrub leaves

Photo Credit: Pat Ownens

 photo of close up red aspen leaves

Photo Credit: Pam Gilbert

Yellow aspen patches

photo of trail with yellow aspens

A yellow leafed road (Photo Credit: Chad Wellman).

photo of yellow aspen branch

(Photo Credit:Pat Owens)

 Bull elk standing in aspen meadow

It is a good idea to wear orange while traveling in the forest during Fall hunting seasons!

 photo of dogs running in aspen forest

Domestics going wild in the aspen forest (Photo Credit: Chad Wellman)

 two marmots on a rock looking at photographerr

Photo Credit: Dave Armlovich

photo of 4 aspen leaves in succession of color change

Photo Credit: Anne Janik

 arial view of Island Lake

View of Island Lake on the Grand Mesa National Forest (Photo Credit:Cindi Range)

 photo of lake fringed with yellow aspen

Views from Woods Lake State Wildlife Management Area, near Telluride.

photo of yellow aspens with mountains in background

Views of the San Juan Mountains from Elk Meadows, near Ridgway.

looking south, green.yellow aspens

 Views of the San Juan Mountains from Dallas Divide.

 photo of orange oakbrush

A ground fire of flamming trees! (Photo Credit: Pat Owens)

photo of overlook into Valley from Grand Mesa Crest Trail

Views from Crag Crest Trail (Photo Credit: Lisa VanAmburg). 

photo of yellow hillside

Photo Credit: Dennis Garrison

close up of wilson peak

Close up of  San Juans near Telluride.

photo of redish aspens

The Raggeds Wilderness (Photo Credit: Jen Stagner)

photo of leaves on the ground

(Photo Credit: Chad Wellman)

photo of horseback rider on bridge

 Heading home- Rocky Mountain Pack String in the Raggeds Wilderness (Photo Credit:Jen Stagner)

photo of aspen reflections on lake

Aspens rim Kiser Reservoir on the Grand Mesa (Photo Credit:Clare Hydock) 

photo of lineof yellow aspens

(Photo Credit: Pat Owens)

photo of a distant stand of red aspens

Photo Credit: John Stites

photo of colorful hillside

Photo Credit:Kristin Kolanoski

Photo of patches of yellow, green and SAD aspens

Photo Credit: George Goehl

image of sage and aspen hillside

Photo Credit: Jay Tobin


photo of scenic overlook on Grand Mesa

Photo Credit:Mary Sibley

photo of aspens/conifer hillsides view from roadway

Photo Credit: Sue Dillie

photo of valley in fall

Photo Credit: Monica Klinger

photo of fall colors in foreground, jagged peaks in background

Photo Credit: Matt Vasquez

photo of solorful hillsides

Photo Credit:Dennis Garrison


groups of young men (Big City Mountaineers) in a group on top of a peak

Photo Credit: Big City Mountaineers


Come visit and enjoy our forest this Fall!