West Is Best

The west side of Rocky Mountain National Park is certainly where the most fall color can currently be found. This aspens near the south end of the Kawuneeche Valley are just about at peak right now. The east side of RMNP continues to improve but there should be lots of fall color on the east side showing up in the next two weeks or so. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 14-30mm F4 S Lens

Quick fall color update for those interested in the current conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park as of yesterday. The title sums it up best at this point. The west side of Rocky Mountain National Park is defiantly has the best autumn colors. The Kawuneeche Valley, the aspen trees around the west entrance to RMNP and the area around Grand Lake are all looking very good right now. Lots of brilliant yellow, oranges and some nice reds to be found.

The east side of Rocky is still petering along at this point. As of yesterday, about 45-50% of the hillside above Bear Lake had started to turn. This area around Bear Lake should really start looking good by this weekend.

The Bierstadt Moraine at this point might at best have about 10% of it leaves starting to change. For the most part its all green with a few trees here and there that have turned. The Boulder Brook area is mostly green with some small areas here and there changing much like the Bierstadt Moraine. Glacier Gorge around Alberta Falls is starting to look very good and the aspens along Trail Ridge Road just above Hidden Valley are now at or near peak.

Overall, signs of autumn are becoming much more prevalent now in RMNP, but as it stands and if the weather pattern holds we should have some great fall color pushing into the next two weeks or so. If that holds, I would say that would mean we are running about a week behind the traditional fall color change. Regardless, the next few weeks in Rocky and many parts of Colorado should be both interesting and beautiful.

Pockets Of Fall Color

The start of the autumn season in Rocky Mountain Natiional Park this year has been slow to get going. A few cold nights and were starting to see some good color showing in pockets. I opted to photograph this small stand of golden aspen trees this morning along Trail Ridge Road at sunrise. I’d expect really good fall color conditions in RMNP by the end of the week into next week. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 S lens

Fall color change has been running behind in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s running so far behind that up until the last few days with few exceptions it was actually difficult finding even small pockets of fall color.

With a few cool nights over the weekend the leaves and color seemed to have picked up steamed and there are now some smaller pockets of decent color to be found in Rocky.

This morning I opted to pass on other locations to photograph this small stand of aspen trees along Trail Ridge Road above Many Parks Curve. It’s certainly not the most impressive stand of aspens in RMNP, but the color of this stand was one pretty nice and the sun was going to rise directly behind these aspen trees. Add in some clouds and I opted to pass on the grand scenics to photograph this small scene.

There are now some nice pockets of color on the west side of Rocky, some decent patches near Hidden Valley along Trail Ridge Road and aspens starting to change over in and around Bear Lake.

At the current pace, I would expect conditions to start to get really nice towards the end of the week into next week. The elk rut is also very active right now as well so although autumn may be a bit behind, the first day of fall today certainly felt every bit the part.

Charging Into Fall At RMNP

An Imperial Bull Elk charges across the meadow of Moraine Park in an attempt to run off two other large bull elk during the autumn rut in RMNP. While fall color is running behind schedule in Rocky Mountain National Park, the elk rut is ramping up nicely and offers photographers some great opportunities right now in RMNP. Technical Details: Nikon D850, Nikkor 500mm F4 AF-S VR G lens

Here it is September 20th and one would have to guess that signs of autumn must be all over Rocky Mountain National Park at this point in time. Usually by now, the Bear Lake area is nearing peak and good hints of color are showing along the Bierstadt Moraine. The elk are deep into the rut and the underbrush around Lake Helene and The Loch are now a striking yellow and red.

This would be a spectacular weekend to visit RMNP and take in all of the beauty of fall right?. Not so fast. While I would love to tell you that Rocky is currently covered in fall splendor, it actually looks a lot more like Labor Day right now than one’s typical impression of Rocky Mountain National Park is autumn.

Here’s an update on the fall color status of RMNP as it stands today. As far as color change goes when it comes to deciduous trees go there is little to report. It appears that we are at least a week behind historical fall color change in Rocky.

For example, there are only a handful of aspen trees that have started to change at Bear Lake. Normally, this weekend would be expected peak color at Bear Lake. There is almost no color change along the Bierstadt Moraine and only a few splashes of color around Glacier Gorge. Some of the River Birches in Moraine Park have started to change as have the smaller willows at higher elevations. With that said, there is still only minimal color change to report as of today.

The elk rut however, is well on its way. While many of the elk are still up in the higher, snowless elevations of the park, many are starting to fill into the meadows of Horseshoe Park and Moraine Park. As always, early mornings and late evenings when the temperatures cool, the elk become much more active and leave the shaded cover of the forest.

While fall is slowly showing up in Rocky Mountain National Park, a photographers best bet right now is to either delay their visit to RMNP a few days or figure on concentrating on photographing the elk and fall rut.

One last note regarding my RMNP Photography Tours. While I am nearly booked the next two weeks I do still have a few openings for Rocky Mountain National Park Photography tours. Shoot me an email and I’m happy to let you know if I have availability to help you photograph all the wonders of Rocky Mountain National Park. I have a few sporadic openings the next two weeks and more openings during the second and third weeks of October. Feel free to contact me and I’m happy to help with scheduling a photography tour or just giving a quick update on currnet conditions.

With fall running behind schedule, we should have great conditions for photography well into the middle of October. Looks like this year we will just need to excercise a little paitence waiting on mother nature to cooperate.

Summers Entering The Back Nine

It’s hard to believe but Summer is entering the tail end here in Rocky Mountain National Park. Though fall season is only a few short weeks away, I’m taking advantage of all the great access available in the higher elevations of Rocky such as these beatiful tarns which I photographed at sunrise on Tuesday morning. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 14-30mm F4 S lens

It’s been a beautiful week here on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. There is a definite change in the air as late summer unfolds over the park. Subtle signs of the completion of summer and the entrance of autumn can be found if you know where to look.

The summer crowds and families have thinned out a bit during the mid week (weekends are still very busy). Elk can be heard starting to bugle in the meadows of the Kawuneeche Valley and up on the tundra though I would not say the elk rut has officially started as of yet.

Frost can be found on the grasses in the valley and low lying areas and the ground cover is changing color. This is also true of the alpine tundra above 11,000 ft where the short lived green grass is now quickly turning golden and auburn welcoming in fall at this highest elevations of RMNP.

The question most people have, and of course the one most photographers want to know is if there are any signs of fall color amongst the aspen trees of Rocky Mountain National Park as of yet.

There are in fact subtle signs of aspen trees starting to change color in some locations of Rocky. Some aspens above Hanging Valley near Trail Ridge Road are showing some golden leaves now as are some aspens roadside near Hidden Valley. No need to panic as this is typical for any given year and its not uncommon to find a few trees here and there changing color even as early as Labor Day weekend.

While I enjoy seeing the signs of autumn filter in RMNP, I’m still quite focused on working on adding to my portfolio of summer images of the park. The season in the high country is so short, that summer flies by in a blink of an eye each year and before you know it these beautiful and sacred places are covered over in snow and difficult if not impossible to access until next May or June depending on the winter.

We still have at least a month or so of good weather to look forward to. Sure, we could have a snowstorm or two mixed in but access to Rocky Mountain National Park’s higher elevations should be good for another 4-6 weeks.

With that in mind I headed out on the alpine tundra on Tuesday morning to photograph what was one of our best sunrises of the summer. Alpine tarns reflecting the beautiful colors of the sunrise combined with majestic mountains and thick summer grasses are some of my favorite subjects. These are also some of my favorite locations to spent time in during the summer months in Rocky.

Watching a late season summer sunrise unfold over the high landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park and understanding how fleeting these moments are is both intoxicating and bittersweet. You never forget mornings like this one, while at the same time you understand well that summer is coming to a close and this precious moments in the park are fleeting as always.

One last note. I still have a few morning openings left for my Rocky Mountain National Park Photography tours this fall. As of this writing I still have the morning of 9/16,9/18,9/24, 10/2,10/3 and 10/4 open. If you are interested in any of those dates or dates before or after for a photography tour of Rocky Mountain National Park please contact me via email or phone.