Autumn is a beloved season anywhere there are deciduous trees. Maples, oaks, box elder, elm and others begin to drop their leafy garments and seal their branches against the coming snow and wind. Nature’s change is spectacular, and in Colorado, singularly so.
The aspen leaves first begin to turn on the highest slopes of the mountains. The trees are visible from miles away. They shimmer like veins of gold revealed in glory by the frosty weather. At night the cold air rolls down the mountains towards the city and in the autumn sunshine, the golden wave follows.
It is as beautiful a September afternoon as the year can muster. Cool shade makes sunshine just so much warmer, and deep, forest evergreens humbly frame the aspens; streaks and pockets of gold against blanketed green. A welcome chill clears the air as I hike. Ordinary strands of tall aspens boasting various shades of emerald are now awash in a new magic. Hiking is no longer just hiking, but a race to find and capture as much of this seasonal splendor as I can.
Sunshine filters through the leaves, illuminating white boles and a carpet of bright leaves. Colorado’s glory each September is in her trails (and leaving them), and in the contrast of gold aspens against evergreen slopes and rocky, snow-patched mountains. For two weeks each fall, this gold magic sweeps through the state. Trails are flooded with eager walkers, bikers and hikers. This is the one time of the year when even those who don’t get out often are up in the mountains, savoring their weekends amid the trees.
We follow the trail around Rampart Reservoir, for once admiring the sun on the leaves more than the sun on the water. After two miles, we turn and wander back. There is no complaint for tired feet: our lungs are full of the crisp, rejuvenating air and our hearts rested by the rustling aspens.
Each event season in Colorado brings a new object of admiration: winter sports, the Labor Day Balloon Festival, and Olympic celebrations, just to name a few. But the turning of the aspens is arguable the crown of Colorado’s natural attractions.
Rampart Reservoir, Pancake Rocks, and the Santa Fe Trail all boast abundant leafy glory an hour’s drive or less from Colorado Springs. The distance is perfect for an afternoon outdoors, followed by an evening of pre-stocked tea, cocoa or coffee savored in the quiet of our cottages.