Fall has arrived here in Summit County! Days are shorter, mornings are colder, and more yellow leaves appear on the aspens every day. Though people flock to Summit for winter skiing and summer hiking, some of us at Colorado Adventure Guides think now is the best time of year to play in the mountains. We’d like to convince you, so we’re offering discounts on all guided adventures in October!
Though summer offers warmth and lots of daylight, it also brings the monsoon weather pattern, a hazard that’s gone by fall. The monsoon means almost daily thunderstorms, and when hiking above treeline, these storms bring lightning that can be deadly. But by this time of year, the weather has stabilized. September instead brings many clear, cloudless days—perfect weather for exploring the high country! Sure, your mornings will be a bit dark and chilly, but the payoff of a bluebird afternoon is unbeatable.
Fall typically also means another pleasant change: fewer crowds! The summer vacationers are back to school, parking lots are emptier, and grocery store aisles are easier to navigate. This change means that summer’s popular areas often become pleasant locations for finding some solitude.
To make the most of fall in the high country, keep a few things in mind. First, fall is a transition time. Summer is out, winter is coming, and sometimes, hikers can feel winter’s impending arrival. Pack warm layers for the morning hours, plan on hiking in temps in the 20s and 30s, and don’t expect to feel direct sunlight until mid-morning on certain aspects. Fall is that unique time when temps can easily fluctuate 40 or more degrees within a few hours. Also, check the weather forecast. Unlike the predictable daily cycle of summer storms, fall weather is usually either sunny and clear… or distinctly not. As winter approaches, sometimes a storm brings a preview of what’s to come with overcast skies, wind, and snow. Usually these storms are parts of larger systems that meteorologists can predict, and they usually only last a day or two.
A few resources and supplies we like for fall adventures:
- OpenSummit: This website, created by entrepreneurial weather nerd Joel Gratz, is the younger sibling to OpenSnow, which offers forecasts specific to ski areas. Use OpenSummit to access hour-by-hour graphs of predicted precip, wind speed, cloud cover, and lightning potential on Colorado’s 14ers and peaks all over the world.
- A backpacking stove, mug, and hot drink: On shiver-inducing fall mornings, ease the discomfort of an alpine start with a mid-morning break for a hot tea or coffee. Peppermint tea warms and energizes. Or go for a caffeinated hot beverage for, well, the caffeine, duh.
- Layering options: On a recent CAG guided ascent of Grays Peak, our guide could have used thicker gloves and warmer pants while hiking through a frozen creek in the morning… but also could have used shorts when the sun was overhead in the afternoon. Pack for fall adventures with options for temperature extremes.
- Reading material: Stable fall weather means a hiker can often safely linger above treeline for hours. Unlike in summer, when gale-force winds and black billowing clouds usher in the fear of getting skewered by a lightning bolt, in September a hiker can often lounge free of anxiety on an alpine ridge, far above the shelter of the forest. Plan for lounging by packing a compelling novel or at least a decent magazine. Or leave it all at home and enjoy the rare chance to simply sit and appreciate a calm, clear, warm fall afternoon at twelve or thirteen thousand feet above sea level.
If a guided fall hike, peak ascent, trail run, or day of rock climbing sounds like your jam, give us a call today. We’ll discount your October guided adventure and show you how fantastic fall days in the alpine can be.