Colorado's fall color display should be at its peak in many places this weekend, though many popular areas are off-limits to the public due to flooding.
The aspens on Pikes Peak were about one-third changed last weekend and should make for an impressive display, whether along the Pikes Peak Highway or Barr Trail on the east side or near Pancake Rocks to the west.
At Mueller State Park, a popular spot in Teller County to hike among the aspens, about 40 percent of the trees had changed colors by midweek.
Other areas that should be nearing the fall color peak include the Sawatch Range in Lake and Chaffee counties, Summit County, Crested Butte, Guanella Pass, Boreas Pass and the San Juan Mountains near Telluride, Ouray and Silverton.
The fall colors are taking their time to the south, so a trip to the Spanish Peaks region or Sangre de Cristos would be ideal the following weekend.
Leaf-peepers heading north to see the colors need to watch the weather. A winter storm was bearing down on areas north of Interstate 70 in the high country, with up to a foot of snow expected Thursday.
Great aspen-viewing hikes
Dome Rock State Wildlife Area
This loop a few miles south of Divide in Teller County offers two completely different hikes - a long stretch through an aspen forest, with views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and a winding route through a stunning rocky canyon. Bring water shoes as your feet will get wet.
To get there: Drive U.S. Highway 24 west to Divide. Turn south on Colorado Highway 67. Drive 5.8 miles to Four Mile Road. Turn right onto County Road 61 and drive 2 miles to the sign for Dome Rock State Wildlife Area. Turn right at the sign.
The hike: If fall color is your goal, hike the loop clockwise, through the golden glades and west to the rock known as Dome Rock. Cross a large stream and follow the loop east, crossing the creek several times, to return to your car. The hike is 9.6 miles with 1,300 feet of elevation gain.
Heizer Trail/Barr Trail
A fantastic 11.6-mile shuttle loop can be done from Cascade, through some of Pike Peak's more scenic and unvisited terrain, which includes seemingly endless groves of aspens.
To get there: Leave one car in Manitou Springs and park another along Emporia Avenue in Cascade. Hike up Park Street to the Heizer Trail.
The hike: Follow the Heizer Trail up Cascade Mountain, head into open meadows and turn right below Manitou Reservoir and take trail No. 638 as it winds up and down secluded valleys that last weekend were teeming with gold. Turn left at the Barr Trail junction and hike down to Manitou.
The flat rock formations that give this trail its name are a great overlook from which to survey the autumn colors of Teller County. And there are quite a few trees on the 5.5-mile in-and-out hike.
To get there: Take U.S. Highway 24 west to Divide and turn south on Colorado Highway 67. After you pass the closed Little Ike Tunnel, look for a parking area on your left.
The hike: Turn right at an intersection .75 miles in and follow the good trail 2 more miles to the rocks. Return the way you came.
Great aspen-viewing drives
This dirt road between Como in Park County and Breckenridge runs over an historic rail route, and it's a great way to enjoy the golden aspens and higher peaks without getting out of your car. Stop at the historic Section House at the summit, cruise through Breckenridge and enjoy a second round of aspens as you drive over paved Hoosier Pass.
To get there: From U.S. Highway 285, turn right at Como and follow Boreas Pass Road over the Continental Divide into Breckenridge.
Colorado Highway 67
This winding road to Cripple Creek is paved, but you'll still feel like you're deep in the high country as you cruise through endless aspen forests.
To get there: Take U.S. Highway 24 west to Divide. Turn south and continue 20 miles to Cripple Creek. Make a grand loop by taking Teller County Road 1, also not lacking in aspens, to Florissant.
The Spanish Peaks region in southern Colorado usually hits its fall color peak a week behind areas to the north, so mark your calendar for next weekend. This splendid drive takes you past the former Cuchara Valley Ski Area and far onto the lower flanks of the majestic Spanish Peaks.
To get there: Take Interstate 25 south to Trinidad and then Colorado Highway 12 west through the San Isabel National Forest and over Cucharas Pass. Pass through the hamlet of La Veta and turn right on U.S. Highway 160 to return to the highway.