Go & Do: Turn over a new leaf — places in Garfield County to enjoy the last of fall’s vibrant colors | PostIndependent.com

Go & Do: Turn over a new leaf — places in Garfield County to enjoy the last of fall’s vibrant colors

A yellow covered hill reflects in a pond near Sunlight Mountain Resort.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

As much as some of us wish it could, Colorado’s fall colors don’t last too long.

But there’s still hope. This weekend should offer the final hues of yellow, red, orange and light brown to blanket the fall season in Garfield County.

This means there’s still some time left to venture out of the house and soak in the majesty of fall before it quickly fades away.

Yellows and oranges paint the hillside above the Babbish Gulch Trail parking lot.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

For a few friendly pointers to catch the last remnants of fall, the Post Independent decided to sit down with its very own staff photographer, Chelsea Self.

Self’s fall knowledge derives from living in the valley for nearly 10 years. Since then, the Oklahoma native has developed quite the distinct eye for a good view and an even better photo. It also doesn’t hurt that her work over the years has received various accolades from the Colorado Press Association.

PI: Tell me about your background as a photographer? How did you get into it?

Self: I started getting into photography when I was pretty young. My mom was a photographer, so I was always playing around with her cameras. I started visualizing it as a career when I was in high school and was given the opportunity to shadow a Tulsa World photographer for a few months. I pretty instantly fell in love with the job and knew it was what I wanted to pursue.

A dirt road leads to a patch of yellow Aspen trees near Four Mile Park.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Oranges, yellows and greens paint the slopes above Sunlight Mountain Resort.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

PI: How long have you been in Colorado?

Self: I moved to Colorado in June of 2012 to attend the Professional Photography Program at Colorado Mountain College.

PI: When was the first time you experienced Colorado’s fall colors?

Self: Fall of 2012 was the first time I experienced the fall colors. A lot of our classes in the photo program were out in the field, so I spent a lot of time outdoors that first fall really taking in the colors and experiencing what the valley has to offer.

Aspen leaves turns various shades of yellow and orange along the road to Four Mile Park.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Water droplets collect on a yellow aspen leaf after it fell to the ground on Babbish Gulch Trail near Four Mile Park.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

PI: What separates Colorado’s fall colors from other states? What makes them stand out?

Self: I can only really compare it to Oklahoma, where I’m from, and the main difference is the variety of yellows, oranges and reds. Most trees in Oklahoma, if there even is a fall, will mostly be shades of red then brown. The sun hitting the bright yellows is just something you can’t find in most other states.

It also goes beyond the trees, however. I always fall in love with the colors of the oakbrush that paint the sides of mountains, especially through South Canyon. It truly looks like someone spilled cans of paint and just let it seep down the steep slopes. Another thing that is different in Colorado is the stark contrast of colors between the bright yellows of the aspens and the dark green of the pines; they really compliment each other.

PI: Using your experience as a professional photographer as well as a tenured Garfield County resident, where are, let’s say, the top five best places around the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys to experience fall colors?


1. Four Mile Park

2. Babbish Gulch is my favorite fall hike

3. McClure Pass and Marble

4. New Castle – Buford Road to Meadow Lake

5. Coffee Pot Road to Deep Creek overlook on the Flat Tops

The sun peaks out from the clouds, illuminating the yellow and orange leaves on the slopes at Sunlight Mountain Resort.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

PI: What — if anything — has changed about fall colors in Garfield County over the years?

Self: I’m not sure I’ve noticed a change over the years, but I will say that this year’s colors seem to be the best I’ve seen in quite a while. I believe that is due to the fact that we had a very wet monsoon season over the summer, which didn’t really happen for multiple years.

PI: Of course, seasons represent transition. What does fall symbolize for you? What comes to mind?

Self: The transition into fall and winter has always sort of been a hard one for me, mostly because I love summer. But I will admit that the crisp mornings and mild afternoons are a great change of pace after such hot summers. Fall is also the season of sweaters and hoodies, and I tend to be a jacket hoarder. So I always get excited when sweater weather comes along.

Green pine trees and yellow aspens contrast against each other on a hill near Sunlight Mountain Resort.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

PI: What’s the best advice you have for people wanting to catch the last glimpses of fall colors this weekend? Will the colors still be there? If not, what’s your advice for people wanting to go out and experience fall colors next year?

Self: My advice is to head outside while the colors are still at their peak. Go for an easy stroll around downtown Glenwood or Two Rivers Park, head to the mountains and check out Sunlight Mountain or the New Castle-Buford Road. The colors this year really are the best I’ve seen in a while.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

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