Colorado’s fall aspens display is behind schedule

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If you’re hoping to see some of Colorado’s legendary aspen trees in all of their golden splendor this weekend, be ready for a long drive.

The last weekend of September is usually a reliable time for a cruise to Cripple Creek or a hike in Mueller State Park to experience the peak of fall colors. But the leaves remain stubbornly green throughout most of the Pikes Peak region and the Front Range, so you’ll probably have to go farther west to see the hills ablaze.

“It feels to me like it’s a bit later than typical,” said Jim Thinnes, regional silviculturist for the U.S. Forest Service. But, he said, “the typical always changes because of elevation and latitude.”

As the days shorten and temperatures drop, the flow of chlorophyll to the leaves decreases and they turn yellow, their natural color. Each stand of aspen shares a root system, and temperature and moisture conditions can change from valley to valley, so Thinnes said it’s difficult to generalize why the turning is happening about a week late.

While September has been wetter than usual, he said the biggest factor is above-average temperatures.

The high country was expected to receive storms Thursday and Friday, with a few inches of snow expected each night. Snowstorms can cause aspens to lose their leaves, though the National Weather Service said most of the snow was expected to fall above 10,000 feet, higher than most aspens grow.

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