Going on a scenic drive during the fall season to see the deciduous tree leaves change colors is a tradition in the northern hemisphere. This tradition dates way back before the age of the automobile and some folks still prefer to do a horse drawn wagon ride when viewing the bright colors of fall, just for the sake of the nostalgic memories. Taking on a long hiking trail in the mountains or just taking a walk in the park this time of year is something that people naturally want to do. The experience of seeing bright tree leaf colors rustling in the breeze, while wading through crunchy brown leaves on the ground, sure does have a way of inspiring many golden memories and lucid thoughts.
The colorful tree leaf show is free of charge and it is guaranteed to happen during the autumn season every year. For those who are native to northern regions, autumn is part of the body's natural time clock. The bright color leaves are a traditional warning signal for cold blustery days ahead. Some folks say that the timing of the tree leaf color change event can be an indicator of an early winter or a mild winter. The truth about this association is better left for the individual to decide, because intuition comes into play when looking into the crystal ball. What really causes the deciduous trees leaves to turn bright colors is a combination of reduced daylight hours and increased cold night air. In mountainous regions like the State Of Colorado, the high elevations also are a factor. The shadows cast into valleys from high mountain peaks can trigger early leaf color changes. Factors like soil condition, severe drought or wildfire ash can affect the timing of the color changes too.
One of the best places to view the stunning bright colors of fall is the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Colorado has several official Scenic Byways that offer great views of the bright golden color mountainsides and of course there are a few popular favorites. The Million Dollar Highway (U.S. Highway 550) is usually chalked at the top of the list by most visitor's, because the colorful high elevation aspen tree viewing in this region is so intense!
The Million Dollar Highway runs from Durango all the way north to Montrose, near Black Canyon. This long stretch of road offers plenty of autumn season eye candy! The elevations climb rapidly on the Million Dollar Highway and some parts of the road are well over 10,000 feet up. If the tree leaves are still green in the lower elevations, all that one has to do is drive uphill to find bright yellow and orange colors on an autumn day.
The window of opportunity to view red and gold aspen leaf colors in the San Juan Mountains usually only lasts about three weeks, so those who hesitate will be lost! A lot of people do the pilgrimage to the Million Dollar Highway this time of year just to see the colorful aspen forests, so it is best to pay attention to the road. Because the busy summer season is already over, accommodations and campsites are fairly easy to find. There are a few small towns along the way that have good eateries, but roadside picnicking is by far the better choice for those who cherish making memories happen. Doing a scenic drive on the Million Dollar Highway to experience the bright colors of autumn is a worthwhile experience, so be sure to chalk this one up on the board!
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