Colorado’s leaf-peeping peak has officially arrived in the high country with an explosion of fall colors

The peak of fall colors has arrived in Colorado’s central mountains with spectacular colors in abundance, but you might want to get up there as soon as you can if you want to see fall foliage in all its glory.

Some mountain-dwellers fear that a cold snap bringing precipitation to the state this week may cut the show short for two reasons. They say cold temperatures and moisture seem to speed up the evolution of color changes, and wind could knock off some of the leaves that have already changed.

For now, though, it’s gorgeous up there. At this time last week, folks in Aspen were saying the color change had just started, but now it’s on in full.

“We are seeing aspen in peak,” said Aspen resident Ruthie Brown. “It’s been a very quick transition and they have all of a sudden exploded into colors everywhere — reds, yellows. It’s beautiful. It happened very quickly, once the nights got cold. That really affects how quickly they change. And then moisture on top of that really makes a difference.”

Just over 20 miles to the south, Crested Butte is seeing the same.

“This week is it,” said Emma Coburn, an Olympic track athlete who grew up there. “They are peak, perfect.”

RELATED: 20 Colorado hikes for spectacular fall color

Provided by Melissa McLean Jory

The aspen are turning near Marshall Pass, about 15 miles southwest of Salida. This photo was taken Sept. 27. (Provided by Melissa McLean Jory)

Kyle Groen, a Gypsum resident who spends a lot of time working in the Vail Valley, described a walk he took Monday near Eagle as “breathtaking.” Beaver Creek on Sunday, he added, “was aglow with yellow aspens” while the cottonwoods along the Eagle River were turning.

Up in Rocky Mountain National Park, where locals say the change came late this year, the show now seems close to a crescendo even though some of the aspens are still green.

“It’s very, very close to peak,” said Estes Park Trolleys co-owner Brandon McGowen, who runs tours in the park. “There are some brilliant reds, oranges and yellows right now, everywhere you look, but some trees are still holding onto green and haven’t dropped anything. I’d say it’s about close to prime. Maybe by the weekend. I would imagine once that cold snap hits, it’s really going to flip, the stuff that’s still green is going to change immediately. Some of the reds that have been out for about a week might even start dropping.”

With peak colors moving from north to south, the change is well under way in the Salida area, 80 miles south of Interstate 70. Local resident Melissa McLean Jory went for a mountain bike ride Monday in the Marshall Pass area and said the foliage was “spectacular,” even though the peak hasn’t arrived there yet.

“It’s not full-on yet — there’s still patches of aspens that really haven’t changed — but there are some dramatic gold colors,” McLean said. “It was just gorgeous.”

McLean is especially appreciative for this year’s color show because last year’s left something to be desired.

“This seems like a normal year,” McLean said. “Last year we had snow, September 8 and 9, and we just didn’t have a good fall like this. So this is just glorious.”

And even though the peak hasn’t arrived, McLean said this may be the best week for leaf-peeping trips there.

“There were sections driving up the road Monday where some of the leaves were blowing off, but then there’d be completely green aspen trees next to them,” McLean said. “I think the next few days, with our weather changing, may accelerate it a bit. I think two weeks is too long. I think it’s going to happen fast.”

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