Breaking News
More () »

Colorado fall foliage outlook: Better colors north this year?

The fall color outlook for next month could feature better foliage in the mountains along and north of I-70.

COLORADO, USA — Sure, it's looking hot for the next few days, but we're probably only about a week or two from the first fall colors showing up in Colorado's high mountains. We're also probably only a month out from peak foliage.

With that in mind, we consulted arborists and used a bit of meteorology to try and pinpoint where and when the best fall colors might be this autumn. 

Peak foliage dates are generally pretty consistent, rarely wobbling by more than a few days. Here's a look at the expected peak dates for fall foliage this fall, with a general north-to-south peak:

Credit: 9NEWS
Forecast peak dates for the mountains for fall foliage in 2023.

This follows the traditional climatology for peak foliage, specifically of our famed Aspen trees. Again, these dates are pretty specific, since the shutting off of photosynthesis (which leads to the leaves changing color) is dependent on sunlight, which links back to shorter days.

The length of the peak and the depth of the fall colors usually depend on a combination of long-term and short-term factors. Among the most important of those factors is whether or not a drought is in place, which affects the amount of nutrition that trees have.

That's part of the reason why the southwestern mountains, and specifically the San Juans, could have a slightly shorter and less pronounced peak this season. A lack of monsoonal moisture this summer has much of southwestern Colorado in a moderate and short-term drought. That may cut a bit into those fall colors in a few areas.

However, even a slight reduction in those fall colors doesn't mean you won't see any. Brilliant shows of glittering Aspen trees are still a lock, even in the driest mountains; the drought just might mean a slightly shorter peak and less pronounced colors in a few areas. Most won't notice the difference, though.

In general, cool nights (30s for overnight lows) and warm days in September and October, along with generally average precipitation is favorable for good fall foliage and a longer peak. Of course, it's also important that there aren't any wind storms that would prematurely remove the leaves from the trees.

Credit: KUSA
The fall foliage outlook for September/October 2023.

Remember that September weather may be a bigger factor than anything else, so this forecast will be adjusted in the coming days and weeks.

Stay with 9NEWS for the latest on those fall colors this year, and start planning to make those trips up into the mountains!


SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Colorado Climate

Before You Leave, Check This Out