Yellow Aspens in the fall in the Indian Peaks Wilderness in Colorado

5 Easy Tips for Colorado Leaf Peepers

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Are you not from Colorado and do you therefore not know what the title of this post means? I had not heard the term before we moved to the mountains of this state, so I’ll clarify. A leaf peeper is someone who comes to the mountains to look at leaves. Specifically, leaves changing colors in the fall.

As someone who grew up in Appalachia and the Midwest, I find it a little baffling as aspens really only turn yellow, whereas the greater variety of deciduous trees we had where I grew up would change a wide variety or reds and oranges in addition to yellow. It’s perfectly pretty out here, but there’s no comparison. Ironically, I find the color change in Colorado to be prettiest in the city which contains a lot of non-native trees. If it really were just the trees people wanted to see, they could just go to Capitol Hill in Denver.

However, I digress. Odds are, it’s just an excuse to go to the mountains, which I understand.

There’s definitely a love-hate relationship between mountain residents and the peepers as tension tends to build when you want to go to the store for an onion and there’s a 40-minute line of traffic to get into town. The business is appreciated, but the inconvenience is real.

That being said, here are a few things to consider if you are going to peep at leaves.

  1. Stay Out of Traffic – If you pull over to peep or to photograph peeping for your holiday cards, please pull over all of the way. Despite the aforementioned tension, no one really wants to hit you. However, if you leave the ass of your car out in the road or, even worse, if you stand in the road, there will be issues that could include death. Stay safe. Stay out of the road.
  2. Consider the bus – It depends where exactly you are going, but if you are planning on peeping in the Nederland area, you can take the RTD NB bus (formerly the N) to the mountains. There are many lovely aspens that you can see from the town of Nederland. If you wish to peep further out in the wilderness, you can take the Hessie Shuttle (it’s free!) from the RTD Park & Ride in Nederland. It picks up where the NB bus drops you off, so it’s super convenient and allows you to enjoy the view of yellow leaves from the comfort of a vehicle you are not controlling. The destination is the Hessie trailhead, from which you can hike to Lost Lake or beyond and see many fine yellow aspens. Check out the link above for schedule information.
    Note: The last day for the shuttle in 2019 is October 6th. Apologies for the late post.
  3. Stay off of private property – Some of those yellow trees are not on public land and humans that own that land probably don’t want you peeping on it, even if that pic would make great Instagram content. Be courteous, obey signage, and stay off private property.
  4. Be Kind to the Land – This is important year-round, but the crowds can be pretty bad during peeping season, so problems are exacerbated. Pick up your trash, obey any current fire bans, and leave-no-trace. The locals will appreciate it, the wildlife will appreciate it, and you’ll feel the personal satisfaction of being a good person. That matters, yes?
  5. Take a deep breath – The trees do this every year. There’s no need to rush or be irritable. It will happen again.
Yellow Aspens in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado
The trees do this every year

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