Every year in early fall, the alpine forests along the 3,300-mile stretch of the rugged Rocky Mountains already start transforming into a brilliant canvas of golds, yellows and a smattering of red. Will you be there to experience it?
The higher elevations of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado have some of the most spectacular leaf peeping scenery in North America. As a bonus, you’ll find many places to camp as the weather cools. Here’s how to chart your course.
Plan to Follow Fall in September
Rocky Mountain fall color happens every September. Some years are better than others because of yearly weather. According to The Foliage Network, ideal conditions occur when an area has experienced “a warm and wet spring, typical summer conditions, and mild, sunny autumn days with cool evenings (which stay above 32° Fahrenheit).”
Nobody can predict the exact dates that the fall colors kick-off – or even where it will start. All anyone knows is that it happens sometime in September, ends sometime in the first week of October and that higher elevations turn extra colorful at least two weeks before the lower regions.
Try to keep your travel dates and itinerary as open-ended as possible for the entire month. This will give you flexibility to follow the path of color throughout the Rockies. Allow enough time to move around without feeling rushed.
Great Places to Visit in The Rocky Mountains
Sandpoint has 8,000 residents and has been called one of the best small towns in America. With an altitude of just 2,200-feet and September temperatures in the high 60s, Sandpoint’s climate is agreeable for RVers. Watch leaves turn in the Cabinet Mountains, then tour the International Selkirk Loop, a 280-mile long scenic byway through Canada and the U.S. Nearby campgrounds close in September, but the Sandpoint Edgewater Resort RV Park is your best bet later in the season.
Grand Tetons, Wyoming
Located at the mid-point of the Rockies, the Grand Tetons are a one-of-a-kind spot to watch leaves change colors before your eyes. With kids back in school and casual tourists gone home, it’s an ideal time to camp.
The ideal place to go camping in fall is Gros Ventre Campground. It’s located within Grand Teton National Park, close to many attractions and is open through October.
Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park is on the list for many leaf peepers and for good reason. The welcome mat for Rocky Mountain National Park, the peaks surrounding this mountain town are part of Colorado’s famous Peak to Peak Byway. You can’t skip this 55-mile trek that’s guaranteed to have fall color and provide a few chances to see elk mating rituals in action.
The national park’s Moraine Campground is an ideal place to stay. It can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet all year and you’re allowed to use generators to help stay warm as nighttime temperatures dip.
You just can’t go wrong when you plan a Rocky Mountain fall color adventure. Be sure to come well-prepared for changing weather conditions and keep a flexible schedule so you’ll have an unforgettable leaf-admiring adventure wherever you decide to roam.
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Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.