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Fall colors guide: When and where to see the leaves change in Colorado

A drought means that fall colors in Colorado might peak four to eight days earlier than normal this year. Here's what you need to know for your leaf peeping season.

COLORADO, USA — Your Instagram feed is about to be awash with the glory of Colorado's aspens against a backdrop of blue skies, colorful mountains and literal traffic jams full of leaf peepers on US 285.

Fall is here and, just like nearly everything in 2020, it will be different from years past... and we're not just talking about how it will inevitably include social distancing.

Last year, fall colors arrived late because of a wet spring that saw trees hang onto their leaves longer. This year, the opposite is true.

A statewide drought will cause many trees to lose their leaves four to eight days early and that means in Colorado's High Country, the color will peak anywhere from mid-September to early October.

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That varies by region. Northern Colorado typically peaks the soonest and this year, that could be during the first three weeks of September. 

Colorado State Forest Entomologist Dr. Dan West said since there is less of a drought in northern Colorado, the colors will peak at a more normal time. But, they could peak much sooner in southern Colorado, which has experienced a very dry summer. 

The vibrant colors could peak in southern Colorado anywhere from mid-September to early October. 

The dry weather might not have a huge impact on the leaves. West said the biggest factor are temperature swings over the course of the day. 

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“Those leaves changing is really a factor of day length, and then cool nights,” West said. “The cool nights trap the sugars in the leaves and that gives us those reds. And if we don't have those cool nights and it just kind of goes from really warm to really cold or frost, we just get the yellows and oranges that are already in the leaves.”

See a map of the expected peaks from the 9NEWS weather team below: 

Credit: 9NEWS

There's nothing like fall in Colorado. If you don't believe us, check out this photo gallery from last year. 

As the leaves start to change, we want to once again highlight your fall photos! 

Click or tap here to share your leaf peeping photos with us.  

You can also text them to 303-871-1491, upload them via the 9NEWS app or email them to yourtake@9news.com.

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