Stunning Autumn Colors on the GMUG

Fall Colors Are Here!

The official time of the Autumnal Equinox is when the geometric center of the Sun’s disk crosses the equator.

For color change updates please visit the Official GMUG Facebook page

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!

  • 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 for color-viewing on the GMUG

Best scenic drives with grand 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 (between 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 your 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 grand 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