There are few things better than taking a walk through shades of yellow, orange, and red, nestled in your favorite old sweater and hearing the crunch of freshly fallen leaves underfoot. Ahh, it is fall once again. Time for pumpkin spiced hot beverages, football games, and of course leaf-peeping.
Fall officially begins tomorrow, Tuesday, September 23, on the Autumnal Equinox. The days are getting shorter, and if you’re so lucky as to not spend part of your morning commute driving, biking, riding the bus, or walking in the dark, then you might be able to figure it out by looking at the leaves. Even though it still feels like summer outside, the leaves are still turning. Actually, the color change doesn’t have as much to do with the weather as it does the length of night. Chlorophyll, which allows green plants to photosynthesize or absorb energy from light, starts to be produced less and less as night length increases, until production shuts off. Chlorophyll gives plants their green color so when there is less of it being produced, other pigments already present in the leaf begin to appear. While this is happening, the leaf is very slowly being excommunicated by it’s tree; the veins that carry fluids to the leaf are being sealed off until eventually the leaf falls to the ground.
But quick, before that can happen, get out to some parks! In Boulder County, late September and early October are prime leaf-peeping times. Almost anywhere you go with trees (as long as they’re not just evergreens), will be alive with golden color, but of course, I do have some recommendations. I’m Lizzie, and I work for Boulder County Parks and Open Space so I like to think I know some things about the parks around the county.
Since Late September is peak for colors in the Mountains, get out to the Mountains this weekend and then hang around the front range starting in October.
First off if you want to go to one of your favorite parks to check out the leaves, I recommend a park with water (creek, reservoir, lake)- that will likely mean there are willows, cottonwoods, aspen, or some other deciduous trees- they like water! And I like their brilliant golden leaves!
Here are some of my Parks Picks:
Bobolink Trail, Boulder: A short walk along South Boulder Creek on a path lined with trees. You’ll also get some great views of the flatirons and some cows.
Gregory Canyon Trail, Boulder: While the trail head is still closed, the trail is open and you don’t need to go far to get to the leaves. Mountain maples, wild plums, and other deciduous trees will “leaf” you feeling inspired.
Mud Lake Open Space, Nederland: Two short loops including a jaunt around a lake frequented by moose will lead you through aspen forests with dense undergrowth where it’s likely magical autumn fairies live.
Caribou Ranch, Nederland: After walking through pine forest, the land opens up to a large meadow surrounded by aspen trees complete with an old homestead. If you continue, the Bluebird loop leads to an old mining complex and a small waterfall on the Boulder Creek.
Golden Ponds Park, Longmont: The name might clue you into the golden leafed trees that line the water here. With 2.6 miles of handicap accessible trail, users can see water fowl on top of mountain views, and fall foliage.
Lizzie works as a seasonal for City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, spending her days among the flora and fauna of Boulder both on and off the job. When it comes to knowing what to do and whats going on in the numerous open spaces around Boulder, Lizzie is your girl. After graduating from the University of Texas with a Geography: Environmental Resource Management degree, she came to Salida, CO to work in the San Juan National Forest and surrounding areas on a trail crew. Previously she has worked for Boulder County Parks and Open Space, other trail crews, and as an environmental educator. She has a passion for spreading environmental knowledge and bringing nature straight to the people.