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The best fall colors may not come until next week

The fall colors are starting to pop in pockets, but the peak may not start until next week.

GEORGETOWN, Colo. — Those gold leaves are just starting to pop, but there’s still a lot of green in the mountains. 

Pictures from Guanella Pass on Wednesday afternoon showed some hints of orange and yellow, but it looks like the colors could still be close to a week away from peaking. 

The peak of fall colors is simply when there’s the most gold all at once. That usually only lasts about 6 to 10 days, so timing is everything. 

The average peak dates for aspen leaves on the mountain passes close to the I-70 corridor are from Sept. 18-29, and it looks like the colors this year will be right on those dates.

That’s not surprising, given that it’s the length of daylight that cues the leaves to change, and the amount of daylight is the same every September.  

Credit: KUSA

Weather can also have an impact. Drought and windstorms can shorten the peak colors, but usually only by a few days. There has been consistent moisture in the mountains since early spring, and last year's drought doesn't appear to be hurting the trees too much 12 months later.

Warm sunny weather makes the colors more vibrant, and there has been quite a bit of sunshine so far in September. Cold nights also help with the colors, but of course there are always cold nights between 9,000 and 11,000 feet in Colorado.

So to catch the peak of colors, it might be better wait another week. Maybe starting on Sept. 21. But there is a good reason to visit the aspens this weekend – the weather should be amazing especially on Sunday. 

There are enough colors already starting to show to make a trip to the mountains worthwhile, and sunshine and blue skies can really make those gold hillsides stand out. 

The colors have a better chance to reach their peak to the north of I-70, in Poudre Canyon or Rocky Mountain National Park.

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