The aspens were changing color near Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park last week. Remember to go early in the morning — or on a weekday — to avoid the crowds.


Boulder meteorologist Joel Gratz’s favorite site for leaf-watching season is the guide to Colorado fall colors at — it has the peak forecast and driving route options, which you might want to avoid.

The fall colors are peaking in the northern and central mountains, says Boulder meteorologist Joel Gratz. And the current weather pattern should keep the leaves on the trees a little longer.


But no wonder I sat in traffic in the mountains all Sunday afternoon.

Avoiding the leaf-watching traffic is an art at this time of the year. But you can still get your own fall jollies and bypass the crowds with these five tips:


1 Go early


The leaf-watchers don’t get up early.

Rosy early-morning light on the aspens? Frosty fall air? Sunrise? Whatever.

Get up and go hiking or biking early if you want the roads to yourself.

Also, if you get up early, you can bag a first:

— First pick at Estes Park’s Donut Haus

— First of your cycling buddies to break out the balaclava for the season

— First one to leave the craziest party of the year the night before. Dude. You should have seen it when … you know, you just had to be there.

Yeah. How’s that doughnut taste, early bird?


2 Avoid I-70

Interstate 70 becomes a leaf-watching traffic nadir on weekends in the fall, a foliage funnel for the prime areas that will pull you into the depths of a Dante-esque exhaust-sucking hell.

I-70 is the seventh level — the same one that friend who keeps borrowing your rope is going to be on if he doesn’t buy his own soon.

So do not drive I-70. Do not drive I-70.

Did I mention not to drive I-70? Don’t.


3 Create diversions

You’re stuck behind leaf-watchers on the way to your hike or climb in the national park. They’re driving super slow and not pulling over.

You need to make them pull over.

You need to cause a faux elk jam.

Here’s how: Everyone in your vehicle points in the same direction in the woods. Someone’s arm has to be pointing ecstatically out the window.

Next: Camera out the window.

Hopefully, slowpoke will notice that you’ve spotted the fall-foliage coup de grace: wildlife among the aspens.

Elk?!? Stop the car!

Zoom around now.


4 Pass the screams

You’ve gotten up early, avoided I-70 and created elk-jam diversions. But you might still find crowds at your favorite trailhead.

Hike far away.

How far? At minimum, past the screaming children. Screaming children never make it far down a trailhead. Maybe a mile, if the parents are tenacious. When the screams fade, you’ll know you’re closer to your own personal aspen paradisio.

(Where did all the Dante come from?!?)


5 Weekdays

Go climbing or biking or whatever midweek to avoid the weekend leaf-watchers.

Might as well. You don’t have a job. Slacker.

If you have a job, take off. It’s too beautiful right now to sit inside. Your boss will understand — she has that same itch to get out before the gold disappears. So pack your Dante, head to Aspen and look for elk. I mean, screaming children.

Whatever you do, avoid purgatory. I hear you can’t take your mountain bike there.

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