Fall Foliage in Northern Colorado

Photography by Rick Shandley

Rist Canyon after the High Park Fire of June 9, 2012.
Rist Canyon after the High Park Fire of June 9, 2012.

Beyond the peak of fall colors that light up the northern reaches of the Front Range in Colorado, the beauty continues to stunning. Photos often don’t do justice to panoramas and solitary objects in the way the human mind is able to record staggering beauty, but images are the only means of sharing. And we want to share some of the color of this annual transition of autumn as the Great Plains and foothills morph into short days and long nights of a Rocky Mountain winter.

Gusty winds, winds that are blowing fierce in the high country and foothills above Ft. Collins, Colorado today, will carry away leaves from the deciduous foliage such as aspen and cottonwood trees; it’s only the end of the color change process. Dropping temperatures and shortened days are also only part of the color change process.


The core trigger that begins the change of colors in deciduous trees begins and ends with the tree itself. Every year, about the same time, trees like the quaking aspen stop sending nutrients to the leaves in order to prepare new buds for the spring. As the nutrients from the tree roots cut off food to the leaves, the leaves, in turn, stop producing chlorophyll. Because the tree leaves are no longer producing chlorophyll, the green colors fade out and leave the base pigment that, for aspen, visually span the gamut of yellows and gold. This same chlorophyll fade happens to all the various types of deciduous trees and ground cover in any given elevation and topography of a region. In this case, the region is Northern Colorado, but the chemical change is similar regardless of where it takes place in North America and around the world.

So, the photo gallery below is just a snapshot of colors we are seeing in the late fall of 2012. As the first snows fly in coming weeks, all but the glorious, bug infested, evergreens of the Rocky Mountains are going to stand bare.

Be sure to “Click On” the images you want to enlarge and inspect. In this photo gallery you will see some of the fire damage to the Rist Canyon area that was run over by the High Park fire that started on June 9, 2012 and wasn’t contained for a month. You’ll also see how much beauty remains in Rist Canyon and the foothills west of Ft. Collins, CO.

One thought on “Fall Foliage in Northern Colorado

  1. Thank you Lanny. I’ve since discovered some astounding canyons along the Front Range of N. Colorado where I’d like to get Fall Colors for 2013.

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