Leaf Peeping in North La Plata County

willows begin to golden as they wrap around an alpine lake in North La Plata County, Colorado.

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, and while our “mountains” were but rolling hills when compared to the San Juans, we had no shortage of amazing Autumn foliage.

Part of me misses the plethora of blasting reds, vivid yellows and burning oranges — there was just so much to take in, it could at times be downright overwhelming.

My family and I moved around quite a bit since then, often following warmer climes as soon as Fall rolled around, so leaves grew more and more scarce. We knew that the Rockies largely featured golden aspens when the time came for the chlorophyll to weaken, and yet how could we know how magnificent that would be. The valleys and blankets of yellow contrasted by our endless conifer forests just makes for such a dramatic effect. Massive, craggy mountains in the background don’t hurt either.

Every day that the leave stick around is a blessing. Gone are my long summer days of the sun magnifying itself so intensely through the thin air, and yet it’s not quite time to break out the snow tires. Fall can be a dreary drizzle or a freak early snowstorm in this part of the nation, and so the autumn leaves in La Plata County can last for a few weeks or just a day or two. Nature’s as fickle an artist as a two year old with water paints — the initial result may be vivacious, but at any point the whole mess can end up on the ground.

I try to make it a point to take at least a short hike through all of this glory every day that it lasts, but as a tribute — and perhaps place to get away come the deepest snow of March — I’m going to put up a few of my favorite photos from Autumn life among the leaves in North La Plata County over these past few years.

Autumn in La Plata County & Durango, 2023

2022

2021

2019

2018