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Are The Leaves Turning Sooner This Year In Summit County?

Nathan Heffel
Aspen leaves near Dillion Reservoir, Frisco Colorado. September 12th, 2014

The talk of Frisco at the moment has been quickly changing leaves, as well as the first snow on the mountain peaks. Some locals say the trees are changing particularly early with others wondering if peak color will happen sooner than normal.

So who do you ask to find out for sure? You ask a forester, of course.

"What I am seeing is fairly typical. Some trees change earlier than others," said Rick Herwehe, a forester with Ceres Landcare in Eagle, Colorado. "The willows and cottonwood trees located along the river and creek bottoms tend to change earlier than the trees on the mountain sides."

During the slow change to fall, shorter days and longer nights along with temperature changes 'trigger' the tree to prepare for winter. In doing so, Herwehe said the tree 'walls off' the leaf from the twig causing sugars and pigments to be trapped inside the leaf.

"Three pigments are present in the leaf. Chlorophyll (green), Carotenoids (yellow, orange and brown) and Anthocyanin (red)," he said.

Since the Chlorophyll degrades first, the other pigments are slowly revealed.

Now that we've got some of the science out of the way, here are a few local favorites in Summit County to see the fall colors:

  • "The Lodge and Spa at Breckenridge, 112 Overlook Dr. – just roll into their parking lot and you'll see some nice views. On the way to lodge and spa, you should see some fall colors beginning to change, and there's a nice pullout on the left. Another spot, a little further out, where leaves are beginning to change is French Gulch Road – if you take a right (go east) on Wellington Road from downtown, you just follow that uphill until the road turns to dirt, and there's aspens along the way."  - Rachael Zerowin, Breckenridge, Colorado.
  • “Several areas around the county are beautiful but Boreas Pass Road from Como to Breckenridge is a great place to drive, get panoramic views and go for a hike if you are inclined.” – Rick Herwehe, Eagle Colorado.
  • “Boreas Pass Road for a 3 or more Bloody Mary Drive (w/a designated driver of course) from Breck over to Como, then back through Fairplay and Alma and over Hoosier Pass into Breckenridge. The other is a HIKE or BIKE (mountain): pretty much anywhere in the Golden Horseshoe area, to the east of Breckenridge city limits.” - Kim Dykstra, Breckenridge, Colorado.
  • "Anywhere along Tennessee Pass. Although it's above tree line, it's still spectacular." - Mike Gillsons, Summit County.
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