Fall colors should peak during the next two weeks, making weekend drives prime times to catch autumn’s show.
Esther Godson, spokeswoman for the San Juan National Forest, said, “From our employees who were out in the field this weekend, I think pretty much everywhere at higher elevation was about 10%. This coming weekend would be prime opportunity for viewing the leaves changing. Everything should really be highlighted across the board.”
Southwest Colorado is listed in extreme drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor, and stressed trees may mean leaves turn brown more quickly this year. However, Godson said nature’s colorful show should still be worth trips to the high country the next two weekends, even if the fireworks aren’t as spectacular as peak years.
“Even at lower elevations, you’re starting to see Gambel oak changing, so you’ll see some reds at lower elevations, and that’s going to continue to increase,” she said.
Rachel Brown, executive director of Visit Durango, said fall color watchers are the last wave of the summer tourism season, and she suspects pent-up demand from families that haven’t taken a summer vacation because of COVID-19 could push fall tourism numbers to above normal in Southwest Colorado.
“People really are itching to get out of the house, but families want to take their trips before the weather hits,” she said.
The Colorado Tourism Office is also conducting a campaign to encourage Coloradans to visit other areas of the state during fall to boost in-state travel, something Gov. Jared Polis is promoting, Brown said.
For its part, Visit Durango has begun “The Extended Stay Campaign,” which is aimed at providing a 15% discount per night for families and groups already visiting Durango if they choose to stay and extra night or two.
Visit Durango is also compiling a Fall Photography Guide to put online to cater to photographers.
The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad typically offers a special fall photo train, but that was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brown said Visit Durango decided to create the Fall Photography Guide to help photographers given the cancellation of the photo train.
Godson reminded drivers to pull off highways only in designated areas and to be vigilant of other drivers this weekend who might be distracted by fall’s colorful show.