The drive from Divide to Cripple Creek along Highway 67 is quite lovely anytime of the year.
But that stretch of road becomes almost intoxicating in late September with the changing of the aspen leaves.
From now through early October, thousands of Coloradans and other visitors from around the country are expected to flock to Teller County to experience the vibrant shade of gold leaves that only aspen trees provide.
“There are a ton of people in our region who are very familiar with the changing of the aspen leaves,” said Debbie Miller, president of the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce. “You can tell by the flow of traffic on the highway where they’re probably headed.”
The aspen is the quintessential Colorado tree.
The month of September is the ideal time to witness the changing of the leaves. The color lasts only about a week in most places.
It is difficult to predict when exactly the leaves will turn in any given location.
Because of the high elevation and other climate factors in Teller County, the aspen leaves – especially along Highway 67 from Divide to Cripple Creek – tend to transform earlier than other parts of the state.
This next two weekends (Sept. 21-22 and Sept. 28-29), the 2 Mile High Club – based in Gold Camp – will be giving special Aspen Tours free of charge. Donations are encouraged and much appreciated.
The first tour departs from the Cripple Creek District Museum about 9 a.m. on Saturday.
The last tour departs around 4 p.m. Tours are on a first come, first served basis. Reservations are not accepted.
“From time to time we have people asking where to go to look at the aspens,” said Julie Matulas, office manager for the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce.
“We send them to Woodland Park and tell them to head up to Cripple Creek. That seems to be the most popular place around here.”
The 2 Mile High Club (named so because Gold Camp is about 9,500 feet elevation – just below tree line) was formed in 1931 to care for the town’s free-roaming donkey herd. Donations from the Aspen Tours are applied to feed costs and veterinarian services required for the donkeys.
The donkeys are believed to be direct descendents of those used by miners during the region’s gold rush days more than 100 years ago.
The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. plays a key role in the Aspen Tours by providing buses, drivers and opens access to private land.
The 2 Mile High Club provides tour guides and lots of local history. The buses make several stops, allowing participants photography opportunities not usually available to the public.
Aspen viewing in the Pikes Peak region is best along Highway 67 and Teller County 1. But there is also a breathtaking drive along Gold Camp Road from Colorado Springs to Divide.
Other viewing areas in southwest Colorado include US 285 from Conifer to Fairplay over Kenosha Pass; US 24 from Minturn through Leadville to Twin Lakes via Colorado 82, and back to Colorado 91 over Fremont Pass to Copper Mountain.