To discover Colorado’s finest autumn splendor, follow the state’s most famous photographer to Ridgway.
IF YOU GO
Ridgway is a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Denver, but the fall scenery is worth the trip.
PLAN John Fielder’s Best of Colorado details scenic drives around Ridgway. $32, rei.com
INQUIRE Call the Uncompahgre National Forest’s Ouray District Office for fall-color reports and projections. 970-240-5300, fs.usda.gov/gmug
DRIVE The Colorado Atlas & Gazetteer is essential equipment for every road-tripper. $20,shop.delorme.com
STAY Chipeta Solar Springs Resort, from $145/night, 304 S. Lena St., 970-626-3737, chipeta.com
DINE Cimarron Cafe, 153 Highway 550, 970-626-4426, thecimarroncafe.com; Kate’s Place, 615 W. Clinton St., 970-626-9800, katesplaceridgway.com
Winter was doing its best to elbow autumn off the stage as I parked beneath Mt. Sneffels, grabbed my camera from the passenger seat, and stepped onto the dew-soaked grasses lining the dirt road. A fresh dusting of snow highlighted the fourteener’s every scar and dimple, and the air bit like November. Yet this was early October, when the leaves near Ridgway, Colorado, typically turn gold. As their fiery glow gave the illusion of warmth that morning, I aimed my lens at a swath of aspens that looked like matchsticks in dawn’s first light.
Many of Colorado’s most recognizable autumn images have been captured here, on the northern edge of the San Juan Mountains where Mt. Sneffels’ treeless pulpit towers over congregations of aspens. Those flocks of yellow amassed beneath granite faces have long attracted legions of photographers, including the state’s best-known landscapist, John Fielder, who ranks this spot among his favorite autumn destinations. Aspens grow all across the West, and their fall foliage is stunning virtually everywhere—but few places equal Sneffels for a dramatic backdrop.