Trip Report: Colorado Fall Colors 2016


Quaking Aspens along the Grand Lake Side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

We hit the peaking Aspen Trees right at the perfect moment this year on my Colorado Fall Colors Photography Tour & Workshop. Rocky Mountain National Park was alive with golds, greens, reds and brilliant oranges. The sky was a deep cobalt blue, the temperatures were warm during the day and frigid at night – a perfect mixture for some epic Rocky Mountain Photography!

We had a really fun group from New York, Ohio & Toronto and everyone had a great time as we explored the high-country on both sides of Rocky Mountain National Park. Rocky Mountain has two distinct slopes that run down either side of the continental divide. On the Eastern Slope sits Estes Park which is closer to the metropolitan world of Denver / Boulder and thus more crowded. On the Western slope sits the quaint and rugged mountain town of Grand Lake which has a unique log-cabin, rustic western style about it. Forests of Aspen abound on both sides of the park however the Eastern slope has more small mountain lakes and jagged scenery than does the Grand Lake side. The Grand Lake side makes up for this with its sweeping forests, waterfalls and seemingly endless hiking through spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery. Also, there are usually more Moose on the Western slope of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The draw of this trip is to witness the dramatic contrasts of the changing Aspen leaves as they paint the landscape with their fiery colors. Our luck was running high because not only did we have great dramatic skies during this trip but we also even got some snow on the latter half of the trip. When one is lucky enough to get snow in the Colorado high-country during Autumn it makes for one of the most dynamic and multi-faceted landscape photography situations in the world. There is just so much going-on! Mountain Lakes, Towering Peaks colored with deep green lodge-pole pines and painted with multi-colored Aspens that are capped with a serene white layer of snow…it’s just unbelievable.


Ken & Marsha Photographing the East Inlet on the Grand Lake side of the park.

Aside from the Aspen show there is also the annual Elk Rut that happens this time of year. The males spend the month of September battling it out for mating rights with the females. This can be quite a spectacle as they lock horns and sound their high-pitched battle cry (known as a bugle). This year was no exception as we were thrown right in the midst of a few active evenings of Elk photography and everyone got some great shots! It was a bit dark and so we all had to boost our ISO settings higher than we would have liked but it was worth it overall!

The group explored several lakes on the Eastern slope including Bear Lake, Sprague Lake and The Loch. We also photographed Alberta Falls and Trail Ridge Road. The best Elk photography was in Moraine Park and we found good Aspen Forests all over the place. On the Eastern Slope we had some great luck along the Inlet Trails and the Colorado River. We had a great time staying at the classic Grand Lake Lodge in our cozy cabins and eating at the restaurant overlooking Grand Lake after long days out on the trail.

For more information on this trip please click here. I will be offering this exact itinerary at least in 2017 and 2018. Dates for my Colorado Fall Colors Photography Tour & Workshop are September 24th to 29th, 2017.


Fiery shades of color along the shores of Bear Lake @ Rocky Mountain National Park.


A picturesque alpine meadow on the Eastern Slope of Rocky Mountain National Park.


Paul, Marsha & Ken photographing Aspen Trees.


A massive Bull Elk bugling in Moraine Park at dusk.


Excellent leading lines! This creek leads from Dream Lake to the peaks in the distance.


Jeff, Marsha & Ken focused on their photography.


Ken & Marsha along the East Inlet.


A stunning view of the East Inlet as it winds through beautiful alpine meadows near Grand Lake, Colorado.


Don’t Miss the Next Session of BCJ “Live”

Backyard Bird Photography: Simple Techniques for Wildlife Close to Home

with Russell Graves
Tuesday, March 9th, 2021 at 11 am (Mountain)

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