Brilliant Fall Foliage + Snow in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado

September 2016 – Chasing the late September fall foliage season in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains high up at a lofty altitude of 10,000 feet brings hillsides filled with shimmering golden aspen leaves.

Fifth wheel trailer fall colors San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

What a beautiful place for an RV road trip – The San Juan Mountains in late September!

Sometimes vivid colors sparkle in the sun, but fall in the Rockies can also bring snowstorms. We woke up one morning to whiteout blizzard conditions and soon found our RV surrounded by three inches of snow

Snow in the Colorado Rocky Mountains San Juan Skyway

Hey, it’s snowing!!

The fall foliage season in Colorado is spectacular when the sun is shining and the air is warm. But a layer of pure white snow makes it ever so much more dramatic.

Snow and fall colors San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

Fall color in the snow… beautiful!

The skies were gray and gloomy, but the leaves were vibrant and bright

Yellow aspen fall leaves San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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The temps in the mountains were bitterly cold, dropping into the twenties at night. This prompted us to run our furnace as well as our vent-free propane heater and put together a blog post about how to heat an RV in cold weather!

But it was oh-so-beautiful. The juxtaposition of spiky evergreens, trimmed in white snow, against a backdrop of vivid orange and yellow was sensational.

Orange aspen San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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The scenery in every direction was magnificent.

Autumn leaves fall color San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountain

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Up close, each aspen branch held a little layer of snow.

Aspen leaves fall color San Juan Skyway Colorado

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After the snow stopped falling, the wind blew, and the yellow and orange aspen leaves fluttered to the ground and settled on the snow.

Aspen leaves in snow

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The craggy rocks on the mountainsides were covered with a lovely dusting of white lace.

Rocky Mountains in autumn San Juan Skyway Colorado

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Autumn color aspen trees San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Colorful hills San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Out on the Million Dollar Highway, a portion of the San Juan Skyway that goes from Durango to Silverton to Ouray, the views from the passenger seat were awe-inspiring.

Million Dollar Highway autumn color San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Snow on Million Dollar Highway San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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As the roads dried and people got back on the move in their cars again, we saw a few small trailers go by.

RV fall colors San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

Heading into the mountains.

Travel trailer San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains fall color

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The hillsides were blanketed in color everywhere we turned.

Aspen hillside fall color San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Golden aspen and pine trees San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains fall foliage

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Pine trees and golden aspen San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains fall foliage

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The San Juan Mountains are part of the Colorado Mining Belt that was mined intensively for silver and gold in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The rivers in the area run orange from minerals leaching out of the tailings piles left behind by the mines.

Waterfall on the San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

The river water runs orange here.

After the snowfall, the reddish water was filled with snow covered rocks and surrounded by evergreens clad in white. Pretty!

Snowy River Colorado Rocky Mountains San Juan Skyway

The Uncompaghre River.

Eventually the clouds began to dissipate and patches of blue sky began to appear.

Snow and Autumn Color San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

Our truck is dwarfed by this incredible mountain. Yay for some blue sky appearing!

Snow and fall leaves Million Dollar Highway San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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 Rocky Mountain Fall Color San Juan Skyway Colorado

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Autumn is gorgeous in many parts of the country, but fall in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado is utterly breathtaking.

The cool thing for RVers is that you can catch the fall colors in Colorado in late September and, if you’re willing to hustle, you can get to other beautiful areas in far distant states to catch their fall foliage show a week or two later in early to mid-October.

RV autumn leaves and snow San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Aspen leaves in fall San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

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We haven’t done that yet, perhaps sometime in the future. For this year, we savored the colors in Colorado, and were amazed that the mountains seemed to change shades right before our eyes.

Snowcapped mountains autumn leaves San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Colorado Fall Foliage San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains

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The snow left puddles behind that reflected the trees around them

Reflections of autumn leaves and aspen trees San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

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And all the leaves on the ground were covered with tiny water droplets.

Water droplets on golden aspen leaf

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By the time we left this part of Colorado, our eyes were tired from staring so hard and taking so many photos!! But what a wonderful kind of fatigue it was.

San Juan Skyway Snowcapped Mountains autumn color Rocky Mountains

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If you haven’t experienced a fall foliage season in the aspen filled Rocky Mountains of Colorado, it is something that deserves some special planning!

Snowcapped mountains fall folilage San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

Happy campers surrounded by astonishing scenery. How wonderful!!

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16 thoughts on “Brilliant Fall Foliage + Snow in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado

    • We always do a lot of hiking around our rig, so faraway shots are easy to get. If we’re in the process of parking, I am often outside somewhere helping Mark, so that’s how we get those. I learned long ago to have my camera around my neck at all times!!

  1. Great photos, Emily! I’ve ridden that highway several times during the Bicycle Tour of Colorado, but it never looked like that in late June. My wife and I will have to take in the Colorado fall foliage sometime in the near future.

    • We did it on the Bike Tour of Colorado too back in ’02 or ’03. There was torrential rain the day we rode from Durango to Ouray. Some of us got picked up by a bus as a mudslide was barreling down the mountain. The bus had to swerve wildly to miss getting hit as the mudslide crossed the road. It was quite a thrilling adventure!

      • I was on that tour. They stopped us at the top until they could figure a way around the mudslide. We did some trekking through the woods (with our bikes) to pass it, then rode the rest of the way into Ouray car-free. Good thing, too, as I shivered the whole way down! lol

        • Unbelievable, David!!!! We’re living parallel lives!! We were at the front of the pack and when it started raining we started shivering uncontrollably on the big descent, so we stopped and tred to flag down a ride in the pouring rain, but all the drivers zoomed past, waving a big friendly hello back at us, unaware we needed help!! Luckily, we got picked up by the bus, as all we had on were shorts!! Dozens of frozen cyclists and their bikes got on that school bus, lol. The driver wasn’t sure she could make it around the mudslide, but everyone started yelling, “Go, go, go!!” I thought we’d end up as a headline in the news, for sure!! When we got to Ouray we set up our tent in driving rain. The funny saving grace to it all for me was I met an old high school friend in the food line that night — hadn’t seen her in 25 years…!!! I can’t believe you hiked through the woods in cycling shoes with your bikes. What a crazy tour that was!!!

          • Yes, it was a crazy, yet memorable day. The rain came to me just after leaving Silverton. I waited out the heavy rain with others in an old barn, just before the climb of Red Mountain Pass. When it eased, up the hill we went, staying warm from the effort. Then the aforementioned mudslide. Interesting to hear of your exploits on the bus! I’d not heard anything about that. It’s never fun to set up your tent in the rain. It’s even worse when you find out it leaks! Ah, the joys of weeklong bicycle tours!

          • I still can’t believe we were both on the mountain that day. What a wild time! Those bike tours are the best, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Do you remember Wolf Creek Pass was under construction? I did a swan dive off my bike on the chip-seal pavement and took an ambulance ride to the bottom and got five stitches in my forehead! Mark was ahead of me at the bottom asking everyone that came down, “Did you see a girl in blue?” because he didn’t know I’d crashed, and then I showed up in the ambulance!! But it was Slumgullion Pass that really took the cake for us. I didn’t think that climb would ever end, lol! What a great and memorable week of cycling!! Enjoy your Thanksgiving, David, and thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  2. Brrrrrrr! We are one of your full time readers, M & M, and continue to enjoy your pics and wonderful articles! Some cold weather adventures are better seen through your eyes; rather than ours, though.

    Thankfully, you confirmed our wise decision to avoid Colorado in October, and instead, enjoyed our stay at the Verde Valley here in Arizona. And then went on to the Colorado River, for a few days. Then back to our Sun City home, until after the Holidays. Then on to new adventures, probably around Yuma, for awhile. Will save Colorado, and the Northwest for our Spring, Summer, and Fall travels next year.

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving here in the Valley of the Sun! And keep those wonderful articles coming, too. Best to you both!

    • Thank you so much, Glen & Bette. I’m glad to hear you’ve been cozy warm in your travels this year and have saved Colorado and the northwest for next. You will have a blast there!! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  3. Awesome, awesome, awesome. We’ve been there in the Fall and we’ve been there when there was snow everywhere, but we’ve never been there for this combination. It’s gorgeous! Thanks for the post!

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