Colorado's Scenic Rocky Mountains

September 2020  |  Colorado

Last year the planning was a bit off and we were a bit late for the peak fall season in Colorado, when the famous Aspen trees are covering the state in a beautiful yellow and golden carpet. This year, we wanted to be there the last week of September. Due to the coronavirus situation, instead of flying, we drove across the country in two days. We were rewarded with some spectacular fall scenery.

Estes Park | Rocky Mountains National Park

Our trip started in Estes Park right at the edge of Rocky Mountains National Park. We had some time exploring the beautiful alpine lakes Bear lake and Sprague lake.

View on Longs Peak in RMNP at sunset in Colorado.

At The End Of The Day

Clouds were forming above Long Peak and coloring the peaks in beautiful light.

View on Longs Peak in RMNP at sunset in Colorado.

Fall Whispers

The Aspen trees in the foreground are illuminated and clouds are forming above Long Peak.

View on Longs Peak mountain from Bear Lake in RMNP in Colorado.

Autumn Glory

A large cloud is forming above Long Peak and reflecting beautiful light.

Reflection of Estes Cone at Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Dream Away

Colorful clouds are illuminating the mountains and forming beautiful reflections.

Reflection of the Continental Divide at Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Quiet Morning Light

The first morning light is hitting Flattop Mountain and Hallet Peak in the background.

My favorite part was our hike up to Dream lake and Emerald lake. We woke up at 4 am to arrive around 5 am at Bear lake, where our hike started. We hiked in the dark to Dream lake, which took us about 1.5 hours. I must say I was a bit nervous about hiking in the dark. The path was easy recognizable though and with our headlights it was no problem at all. We arrived in time at Dream Lake just before sunrise, it was extremely windy and cold. However, we picked the wrong day. Heavy clouds blocked the sun from getting through, so I didn’t get any light on Hallet Peak. We waited a bit and continued our hike to Emerald lake. The sun was getting harsh when we arrived. The scenery was stunning though and I definitely, would like to repeat this hike, hopefully with more luck next time.

Aspen tree in Rocky Mountains National Park during fall season in Colorado.

Natural Beauty

Sunlight hits the Aspen trees coloring them in beautiful, golden light.

Aspen tree in Rocky Mountains National Park during fall season in Colorado.

Aspen Glow

This tree was catching my eyes since the first time we drove past it on our way up to Bear lake. On the last day I decided to stop :).

Gateway

We decided to spend one night in Gateway, Colorado. Gateway is located at the border of Utah. We drove by the resort in Gateway last year and wanted to return ever since. While getting closer the landscape started to change from alpine lakes into desert landscape and canyons. The resort is located next to the red rock formations. We had a private terrace with a fire pit and enjoyed our dinner and some drinks on the terrace.

Next morning, we woke up early in order to photograph the red rock formations at sunrise. Afterwards, we had a beautiful drive exploring the canyons and Adam was able to test his car while off-roading on the dirt roads. The resort has a beautiful Auto Museum that is worth to be checked out. We were very impressed with the collection.

Reflection of Red Rock Formation in Gateway in Colorado at sunrise.

Green Garden

The sunlight creates a beautiful reflection of the red rock formation in the river.

Carbondale and Aspen

After packing up, we headed out to Carbondale and Aspen. The landscape was covered in beautiful glowing Aspen trees. I was looking forward to take a sunrise shot of the Maroon Bells at Maroon lake. Unfortunately, we were not able to get into the park. Due to covid there were more restrictions in place and access was only possible with reservation. But nevertheless, we had a beautiful time driving out to Marble, exploring the Crystal Mill. And I was able to photograph Mount Sopris instead.

View on Mount Sopris in Carbondale, Colorado at sunrise.

Frosty Fall Breeze

As the sun is rising Mount Sopris is illuminated in beautiful golden light.

View of mountain reflection in lake near Marble in Colorado.

Kissed By Sunlight

The sun is hitting the mountains and creating a beautiful reflection in the lake.

Crystal Mill in Marble in Colorado.

Ashcroft

We drove out on Castle Creek Road to Ashcroft, that is located about 10 miles south of Aspen. Ashcroft is a scenic silver mining ghost town that features the remains of several historic buildings. The drive on Castle Creek Road is very interesting too, giving away some stunning views of the Elk Mountains.

View on the Elk Mountains in Ashcroft in Colorado.

Yellow Lining

As the sun is setting the last sunlight hits the Elk Mountains.

View of yellow Aspen trees near the town of Ashcroft in Colorado.

Shades Of Yellow

We passed by these yellow glowing Aspen trees on our way to Ashcroft.

View of abandoned building in the town of Ashcroft in Colorado.

Tales From Another Time

I love the yellow plants in the foreground and how the trees in the background are shining through the window.

View of abandoned building in the town of Ashcroft in Colorado.

Ghost Memory

Historic building with Aspen trees covered in fall colors in the background.

View of abandoned building in the town of Ashcroft in Colorado.

Nature's Circle

I love the branches in the foreground and how they are growing into the building.

Million Dollar Highway

On our last days we drove out to Durango. We took the famous Million Dollar Highway, part of the San Juan Skyway and one of the most beautiful roads I have seen. The scenery was breathtaking with stunning views one after the other. There are no safety measures on this road, no guardrails and shoulders or whatsoever and some dangerous drop-offs on parts of the road.

We had just stopped at Silverton for gas when I noticed the beautiful light and clouds forming above the San Juan Mountains. Adam filled only half of the gas tank seeing my face ;). We continued our drive while hoping that the forests that only gave a glimpse of the beautiful mountain views would open up soon. We got lucky when suddenly a small park came up. I rushed out of the car and was able to catch a few shots of the mountains in the last beautiful light.

This was my favorite part of our entire trip and it made up for missing out on the Maroon Bells at Aspen. The conditions were perfect and the composition worked out great, even though there wasn’t any time for exploring. You don’t get that much luck very often, most of the time, you have to visit a location several times before having such conditions. And in my experience, we usually have the most beautiful sunsets while being on the road with no composition in sight.

Sunset above the San Juan Mountains on the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado.

A Touch Of Heaven

As the sun is setting colorful clouds are forming and illuminating the San Juan Mountains and landscape in beautiful light.

View of abandonned houses near Ridgway on the Million Dollar Highway.

Ravages Of Time

Abandoned buildings on the Million Dollar Highway.

New Mexico

We had a wonderful time in Colorado, but we had to get on our way back home again. We drove through some parts of Route 66 on our return and stopped in the ghost town, Endee. We did a Route 66 trip about 2.5 years ago and had been here before. It was our first longer trip together and I lived in Europe back then. Revisiting this location brought up some nice memories and it was interesting to see how time stood still in this place. Not a single thing changed, the cars where in the same place as 2.5 years ago.

View of abandoned car in the ghost town of Endee in New Mexico at sunset.

The Afterlife

The sunset was spectacular and illuminating the car in beautiful light.

Abandoned cars in the ghost town of Endee.