Turning a new leaf

Watch the changes that autumn brings

Fall's colorful foliage is almost at its peak in Northwest Colorado, making the next couple of weeks perfect for witnessing its changes, local leaf peepers say.

Aspens and scrub oaks with red, gold and yellow hues are easy to find, photograph, and hike and travel to, Colorado photographer John Fielder said.

"The Elkhead mountains northeast of Craig is one of my favorite places in all of Colorado to see and photograph fall color," he said. "Though the peaks don't make it to even 11,000 feet, the Routt National Forest contains some of the most colorful stands of aspen and scrub oak anywhere."

If you're in the mood for a good driving tour, Fielder recommends starting on Colorado Highway 13 north of Craig.

Take Moffat County Road 27, which eventually becomes Forest Service Road 110, which heads east through the trees, he said.

"This scenic road connects with Routt County Road 82, which proceeds south while morphing into Forest Road 150 on its way back down to U.S. Highway 40," Fielder said. "It's a treat for fall color."

Liz Turner of the Blanco Ranger district noted some pretty drives and hiking opportunities near Meeker.

About 48 miles southwest of Craig, leaf enthusiasts won't be disappointed by the Flattops scenic byway to that leads to the South Fork drainage and Ripple Pass, Turner said.

"The south fork drainage is absolutely gorgeous," she said. "I'd recommend taking trips between now and Oct. 30. It gets really pretty."

To take advantage of a hiking opportunity along the way, Turner recommends South Fork Trail 1827 that begins in the canyon campground.

She also advises hikers to prominently wear orange- or red-colored clothing to easily be distinguished by hunters.

Archery and muzzle loading season ends Sept. 26, and the first rifle season starts Oct. 9.

Although it's difficult to determine when the fall leaves will reach their peak, Turner said the leaves seem to be changing quickly this year.

"I'm thinking that they will be at their best between Sept. 18 to 25, but

it's hard to gauge Mother Nature," she said.

Cooling weather, light and water supply have an influence on the intensity and duration of fall colors, according to literature on a Web site produced by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Wendy Holden, visitor information services at the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District, said it is almost impossible for residents to miss the fall colors.

"There are just so many roads and places to check it out," she said.

A number of residents already get in a lot of leaf peeping during daily commutes to work, she said.

Holden also said that residents may forget to take the time to enjoy fall's changes because they are busy getting ready for winter.

"It seems we get a lot of interest statewide from people seeking out the foliage," she said.

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