Colorado Fall Color Resources
Autumn in Colorado is indescribable, vibrant aspens with a backdrop of dramatic snow covered peaks cannot be beat. The trees change at different times throughout the state, and while they are fairly consistent, areas will vary from year to year. There are a wide variety of sources to find reports of color, in my opinion the best resource is now a group I created on Facebook in 2015. Anyone can join and share reports, if you are not on Facebook you can still read the reports without joining Facebook.
If you don't do Facebook I have setup a page with a Google doc embedded into it that anyone can edit and add their reports - Colorado Fall Color Reports, I have also left the reports from 2015 up to help you get an idea of when certain areas change.
If you are not internet savvy, but want to help out with the reports, just send me an email (with pictures if you have them) to firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are more sites where you can find fall color reports, I try to keep this information in sync with the Google doc
14'ers forum with fall color updates
Lake City Facebook
Crested Butte Facebook
Michael Underwood Facebook
Visit Colorado Facebook
Jack Brauer Facebook
John De Bord Facebook
From the high country Facebook
San Juan National Forest Fall Color Report
Crested Butte Fall Color Updates
Fall Foliage Prediction Map - This is an interesting map that gives a good overview of when colors change throughout the country. It's a good macro view, but it is not detailed enough for specific areas.
NOTES FOR 2016
Kebler Pass will have major closures this fall for construction, the road will be open for short periods at certain times of the day only, below is a schedule.
8:00 - 10:00am
10:00 - 10:30am
10:30am - 12:30pm
1:00 - 3:00pm
3:00 - 3:30pm
3:30 - 5:30pm
5:30pm - 8:00am
Based upon what I saw this summer, the west side of Kebler Pass is not healthy again this year, many black leaves.
There are minor construction projects continuing on Red Mountain Pass and on 550 north of Ridgway, which should not cause major delays.
Below is a map of some of the fall color locations in Colorado, you can now view this map in the Google Maps app on your phone. Ensure you have the most up to date version, then click the star next to the title of the map below, this will save it to 'Your Places' in the app!
For a much more in depth guide consider picking up my friend Jason Hatfield's eBook Colorado's Fall Colors - A Photographer's Guide eBook 3rd Edition. He also has a Google map of all the locations in his book.
Another fantastic book is Andy Cook's A Guide to Colorado's Best Photography Locations
The yellows of fall can look fantastic contrasted against the deep blue skies of Colorado, keeping an eye on the forecast for clouds to add some depth can be very important. For dramatic photos keep an eye out storms and wait for a little bit of sunlight to poke through the clouds. I have found the site meteoblue to be the most accurate, in particular the 'meteograms' which show you different levels of cloud cover. Links to key areas below.
Dallas Divide area
Red Mountain Pass
Rocky Mountain National Park
Below are links to forecast discussions for the nearest National Weather Service offices, this is highly technical information, but after reading through it a few times you start to understand. This information is extremely valuable to understand what the meteorologists are thinking.
If you have a smartphone, I would highly recommend downloading The Photographer's Ephemeris and subscribing to Skyfire, this new addition to TPE predicts where clouds will explode into epic colors at sunrise and sunset.
TIPS FOR DRAMATIC PHOTOS
If the forecast calls for rain and generally miserable weather, get out there! My absolute favorite conditions are just as a storm is breaking up, which allows the sun to come through the breaks in the clouds, spotlighting small areas. Consider using a telephoto lens to capture unique intimate scenes, and always use a polarizer to cut the glare off the shiny leaves.
If snow is in the forecast do everything in your power to get out! When a snow storm comes through it creates a dramatic contrast of vibrant yellows and reds against the white snow, plus the atmosphere is exceptionally clear creating deep blue skies, this is a dream come true in the fall! Often times this signals the end of the season though, due to the cold temperatures finishing off the leaves, so take advantage while you can!