Trip Reports: Colorado Fall Colors 2007

Autumn is probably the most spectacular season in the Colorado Rockies, as the vast fields of aspens turn bright yellow and orange under snowcapped mountain peaks. For the last several weeks, I've been searching for grand aspen vistas to photograph, mainly in the West Elk Mountains near Crested Butte, and San Juan Mountains around Telluride and Ouray.

Red Mountain,Colorado, photo

Red Mountain

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Red Mountain No. 2. San Juan Mountains - September. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Fall Creek, aspens, Dolores Peak, Telluride, Colorado, photo

Fall Creek Vista

San Juans, Colorado

Dolores Peak, 13,290 ft., towers over vast fields of yellow and green aspens near Telluride. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Mt. Owen, Ruby Peak, West Elk Mountains, Colorado, Raggeds Wilderness, photo

Owen & Ruby

West Elk Mountains, Colorado

The aspens below Mt. Owen, 13,058 ft., and Ruby Peak, 12,644 ft., take on an iridescent glow under the stormy afternoon light - September. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Mt. Owen, Ruby Peak, Kebler Pass, Colorado, photo

Ruby Reflection

West Elk Mountains, Colorado

Mt. Owen, 13,058 ft., and Ruby Peak, 12,644 ft., reflected in Lost Lake Slough near Kebler Pass - September. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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East Beckwith Mountain, sunrise, Kebler Pass, Colorado, photo

Beckwith Sunrise

West Elk Mountains, Colorado

Sunrise light on East Beckwith Mountain, as seen from a beaver pond near Kebler Pass on a snowy September morning. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Aspen Raindrops, Colorado, photo

Aspen Raindrops 2

Colorado

Raindrops rest on a yellow aspen leaf. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Yellow aspen leaf, ice crystals, photo

Aspen Ice Crystals

Colorado

A fallen yellow aspen leaf is covered by ice crystals on a frosty October morning. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Stormy Autumn, Sneffels Range, Colorado, photo

Sneffels Sage

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Stormy autumn morning in the Sneffels Range - October. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Dallas Creek Autumn, cottonwoods, Colorado, photo

Dallas Creek Autumn

San Juans, Colorado

Orange cottonwoods at twilight along Dallas Creek - October. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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West Beckwith, aspens, Marcellina Mountain, Kebler Pass, Colorado, Raggeds Wilderness, photo

West Beckwith Aspens

West Elks, Colorado

Autumn vista of the golden aspens on the slopes of West Beckwith Mountain, as seen from the summit ridge of Marcellina Mountain - October. The Kebler Pass road is barely visible far below in the lower left.

I had quite an adventure after taking this photo. Hiking up Marcellina Mountain requires a long and tricky bushwack through thick and featureless fields of aspens - similar terrain to what you see here. Since this was my second hike up here in a week, I was feeling confident that I could find my way back down in the dark, so I waited for sunset to photograph these vast fields of golden aspens in the late day light.

However, once the sun set, it got really really dark since there was no moon at all. With only my headlamp to light up a short distance, I had a very hard time recognizing the features of the route, and I ended up spending half the night crashing around through the aspens with only my compass to guide me. I ended up hiking two miles too far by the time I hit Kebler Pass Road, and then had to walk another extra two miles back up the road to get to my truck.

Being relatively lost and barging through the aspens and bushes in the pitch dark was somewhat of a nightmare scenario, but I was able to maintain a calm and collected attitude, which I think really helped me out of this jam.

Despite the difficulties of hiking Marcellina, the view from the summit is stunning since it towers above some of the planet's largest aspen groves. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Cottonwood Bonfire, autumn, Colorado, photo

Cottonwood Bonfire

Colorado

Autumn cottonwoods illuminated by a big bonfire. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Mt. Sneffels, Potosi Peak, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, photo

Richmond Pass Dawn

San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Dawn light illuminates Mt. Sneffles, Potosi Peak, and their lofty neighbors in the Sneffels Range, as seen from high on Richmond Pass after the first snows in September. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

Graupel, Colorado, photo

Graupel Gradients

Colorado

a natural transition. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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Crawford Reservoir, Needle Rock, Colorado, photo

Crawford Autumn

Crawford, Colorado

A golden cottonwood near Crawford Reservoir - October. Though it's barely discernible at this web resolution, Needle Rock is visible in the far background past the lake. Photo © copyright by Jack Brauer.

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