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Leaf-Peepin' Time In The Mountains Of The West


As autumn arrives, the Northern Hemisphere tilts farther and farther away from the sun – a shortening of the day's light that curbs photosynthesis and produces the brilliant yellows and reds of aspen trees in the Mountain West.

One of the best ways to check out the fall colors is to take a drive up to ski and snowboard resort country that is mostly above 6,500 feet – the lower limit for aspens. The viewing season typically runs mid-September to mid-October, depending upon weather and elevation.

Most resorts in the West have aspen groves in the area, but here are a few resorts SnoCountry.com found where the aspens should be resplendent this fall.

Start out with the obvious: Aspen and surrounding Colorado high country live up to their name. A gondola ride up either Aspen Mountain or Snowmass gets you up in the groves. Or, head up toward Ashcroft and hike up under the Maroon Bells for spectacular colors.

A colorful companion in the autumn are the oaks, which are on full display in southwest Colorado around Durango and Purgatory Resort. Mix in plenty of aspens, and you can soak in a brilliant red-yellow palate while riding the chair or hiking around. Catch the Durango & Silverton tourist train at the right for a vast canvas of color along the Animas River.

Forest managers have set up a network of hiking and biking trails around Idaho's Sun Valley to take advantage of the large aspen forests there. Or, take a drive up toward Galena Pass to see autumn's splendor.

Squaw Valley's gondola gets you into the color country quickly. The Tahoe-area resort's mid-mountain High Camp has trailheads for hiking into through the aspen groves, especially toward Shirley Lake with waterfalls and rock formations along the way.

Another gondola, this one at Jackson Hole, delivers you to the resort's pinnacle for an expansive view of the colors on the skirt of the Grand Tetons. More red, purple and orange aspens here than most places in the West. 

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