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Fall in Estes Park

Fall in Estes Park

Fall is a popular time of year to visit Estes Park, and for good reason.

Crisp sunny days, the bright colors of changing aspen leaves, and the elk rut are just a few highlights that make autumn a magical season.

The abundance of recreational opportunities this time of year make it worth planning a multi-day stay.

There’s more to do and see than can fit into an afternoon.

Once the monsoon season of July and August has passed, fall weather in the mountains is normally sunny and dry.

September and October often bring warm days and cool evenings that are perfect for hiking, scenic drives, and wildlife viewing.

Leaf Peeping

The sparkling golds, yellows, and oranges of autumn leaves are one of the main draws for visitors to the Estes Park area this time of year.

Drives through the national park, as well as the famous 55-mile Peak to Peak Scenic Byway south of Estes Park, are popular for “leaf peepers” to spot the massive groves of aspen trees native to Colorado showing their fall colors.

Professional and amateur photographers alike flock to this area to capture the quintessential mountain scenery. The best lighting for spectacular fall photos is early or late in the day.

Two For One

While beautiful deciduous trees are common to other areas of the country, experiencing the elk mating season, also known as the “rut,” along with the fall colors is much more unique.

Herds of elk gather throughout town and in park meadows to engage in this annual ritual, and visitors have the opportunity to view this remarkable spectacle (safely!) at a distance.

Herds can often be seen at either of the golf courses, downtown Bond Park, or crossing the road in large groups causing an “elk jam.”

In A Rut

During the rut, mature bull elk will gather cows and calves into groups called harems. Other younger or less powerful males are driven off by these bulls and occasional battles are fought over harems.

The eerie, high-pitched call of bulls is known as a “bugle” and each is as unique as the human voice. Bulls use their bugle to intimidate other bulls and communicate with their harem. Testosterone-fueled bulls can be very aggressive during this time and, as always, viewers should give wildlife ample space (75ft-about 2 bus lengths).

Fall Events

One great way to learn more about the rut is to attend the Estes Park Elk Fest, held annually on the first weekend of October. This free celebration includes live music, vendors, bugling contests, kids’ activities, and more. The Rocky Mountain Nature Conservancy and Green Jeep Tours also do special elk tours this time of year.

Plan to attend one of the weekend fall events and extend your visit into the week. Fall in Estes Park is truly glorious, so stay a bit longer and enjoy it.

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