Seven Leaf-Peeping Tips for Transplants — Go for the Gold!

The trees are already changing, and this weekend, massive swaths of forest in the high country will begin to glow in gorgeous shades of yellow, orange and red. As the weather turns colder, week by week trees in other regions will shed their leaves, until finally the groves of the San Juans in the southwest corner of the state will give it up amid the snows of mid-October.  The quivering yellow aspen are Colorado's number-one visual association for a reason.

Still, there's a right way and a wrong way to go "leaf-peeping." In fact, you never heard that pathetically precious term until a few years ago. We used to just say, "Let's go look at the trees." Every fall over the past fifty years, I’ve been dragged by parents, girlfriends, wives and/or children into the Colorado mountains to look at the changing colors, and I've learned the hard way the best way to do it. With so many new arrivals in the state, I'm now sharing my hard-earned knowledge. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind when you head out to see the turning leaves.
1. “It’s not like back east.”
No, it’s not. Anyone who’s seen a New England autumn will know that Colorado’s color palette is much more limited and that the areas that change color are relatively sparse, which is why you have to trek to see them. If some smartass rags you about it, simply respond that this year, the chlorophyll degradation into colorless tetrapyrolles failed to affect spectral deviation as widely, due to a relative lack of simple sugars in the leaf bodies. Ha! That’ll show ’em.

2. Avoid the crowds.
Most folks have to go on the weekends, but if you can possibly go during the week, the roads will be less crowded. If you must go on the weekend, think about staying overnight somewhere close to your destination(s) and catching the colors during the periods photographers call “the golden hours” — the first hour after sunrise and before sunset. The visual results are spectacular.

3. It will take all day.
There are half-day drives from Denver, but why would you hurry? Whether you want to go slow or not, there will be traffic, so just forget about getting other things done that day and submit to the experience.

Keep reading for more leaf-peeping tips.