Catch the Fall Colors on the West Side of Rocky Mountain NP
Colorado › Trail Ridge Road
Added by Kyle Colby
Get amazing lake views on the start of your drive at Grand LakeTake some great shots of the aspen changing colorsThere is an abundance of picnic areas to hang out and relaxDuration: A few hours
A Fall adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park is among the most spectacular experiences Colorado has to offer. The change of the seasons offers an amazing change to the landscape that makes taking a bad picture darn near impossible. The light is perfect, the elk are in rut, and the mountains offer a backdrop that’s beyond description.Most people visit Rocky Mountain National Park via Estes Park and the East Portal and only venture onto the west side driving Trail Ridge Road (a unique adventure all its own). However, in the fall as the aspen turn, Trail Ridge is closed and the only way into the park is the West Portal north of Grand Lake, CO. The colors are well worth the drive. Be sure to look in the meadows and on the edges of open areas around dawn and dusk as the elk are in rut and will be lurking around for you camera to capture.
While exploring, take Trail Ridge Road through Grand Lake and head north into the park. From there, you can wander trail ridge up to where it starts to climb up above 8000ft in elevation. Along the road there are numerous picnic areas, parking lots, and trail heads to stop and explore. Pack your camera, a lunch, and plenty of memory cards. Be sure to start early so as to catch the early light and have the longest time to explore.
Keep in mind that fall is a rather volatile time in the Rocky Mountains, be sure to plan for all weather conditions as you may see all four seasons make an appearance within an hour’s time span. Make sure you don’t ever approach rutting elk as the may become hostile and dangerous; use your telephoto lens and enjoy from a safe distance. Also, always check in at the local ranger station and ask what’s going on in the area as the staff may be able to direct you to wildlife, scenic, and trail locations based on your abilities and interests. Remember to Dress in Layers and most importantly, HAVE FUN!
Live Like a Local:On the way up have Breakfast at The Mountain Rose Café and sample some unique local fair (think hippie meets dinner).
The Mountain Rose Café78542 U.S. 40Winter Park, CO 80482Open today6:30 am – 2:00 pm
On the way out for a cold one:
Grand Lake Brewing Taphouse9921 U.S. 34Grand Lake, CO 80447
- Cold Weather Gear (jacket, hat, gloves, etc)
- Water (1-3liters depending on your size and consumption rate)
- Camera Gear (note: I’m a photo junkie and carry a ton of gear with me: you don’t have to. It just makes the pack heavy)
- Canon 70D (3 lenses)
- GoPro 3+
- Tripod & Monopod
- Rain Cover for gear
- Extra SD Cards
- Cooler with food and drinks to enjoy
- Light Gloves
- $15 for Park entry fee
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Chillin, Hiking, Photography
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
RMNP is gorgeous during autumn!
This past fall, we took the Trail Ridge Road from the east side of RMNP to the west side, and it was incredible all the way through. The vibrant colors of the foliage and the abundance of elk are quite a sight to see!
It's not one of the better places to view fall colors in Colorado but it's still pretty. The bigger forests of Aspens in the north are near Steamboat Springs and the Flat Tops Wilderness.
Added by Kyle Colby
I travel, photograph, write, and drink local. The world is full of adventure and I'm out to find it. Always looking for a new place to wander, a new friend to teach me, and another experience in life. IG/T: @KColby87 -In the end, we are nothing but a collection of stories. Make yours worth reading - KColbyFollow
More Adventures Nearby
Photograph Dallas Divide
Colorado / Dallas Divide
Along with Maroon Lake and Crystal Mill, Dallas Divide is one of Colorado's iconic photography locations.
Summit Precipice Peak
Colorado / Precipice Peak Trailhead
Drive Owl Creek Pass as far as you can go. If you have 4WD, this will mean going past the Courthouse trailhead by about 2.5 miles of bumpiness & creek crossings.