I drove Colorado’s Peak-to-Peak Highway today from Nederland north to Estes Park. As in past years, my favorite spot was the highlight of the day. I don’t know the name of the valley that lies along the west side of Highway 72 at approximately mile marker 37, but year after year it has proven to have the largest expanses of the brightest foliage. And if you are in the area and thinking of making the drive, I’d suggest doing it in the next couple of days. The aspen at this elevation look close to or at their peak. Look also for a big stand on both sides of the highway just south of Ward.
There were spots of good color in Boulder Canyon and spots north to Estes. Unfortunately, normally bright patches on distant mountainsides appeared faded due to the haze from Wyoming wildfires, and I don’t think it’s expected to move out before the trees start to fade.
Color is also nice along Highway 36 from Lyons up to Estes, with the aspen and cottonwood just starting to change down around Lyons and progressing as you climb toward Estes, where the trees are peaking.
In Rocky Mountain National Park, again, you have to look for aspen closer to the road. I saw nothing there that approached what I’d seen between Ward and Nederland. The park’s grand vistas were dulled by the haze.
The majority of the photos here were taken near mile marker 37 on Highway 72. Then there are two of “my” Colorado bonsai. I first noticed that little tree growing on top of the boulder way back in the early ’80s, and it hasn’t grown noticeably in the interim. If you’re heading north on the Peak-to-Peak, it will be on your right just a bit north of the Raymond turnoff. After that are two photos of the brightest grove of aspen I saw in the park. It’s near the end of the Upper Beaver Meadows road, surrounded by a fence to keep elk from overbrowsing the area. As I was taking the pictures, I heard a lone elk bugling on the far side of the valley. The perfect touch. Then there’s a begging magpie and a few aspen up near the Aspen Glen campground.
I saw no elk in the park, but as I crossed Lake Estes on my way out of town, I looked to my right and saw a herd of 20-30 elk on the shore, splashing into the lake like a bunch of kids at summer camp. What a way to cap off the day.
These pictures (click them to view as slideshow) are not special in any way, but editing more tightly would take more time, and I wanted to get the word out right away: If you’re planning to go up the Peak-to-Peak this year, go in the next few days.
Note, Sept. 21: I’ve added another photo of the “bonsai” boulder with my car in it for scale. The highway is visible on the left. The picture was taken last year.
This is the first time I’ve used a WordPress “gallery.” I just realized that in the slideshow mode, you can click in the lower right corner, below the picture, to enlarge it to its full size (two clicks). These are hi res images so they get big. Also, you can leave comments on individual pictures, but on my screen at least, I have to scroll down slightly to see them.
See also: Striking gold in Colorado, autumn 2014