March 27, 2018
San Juan Mountains, Fall Color
Story by Kathryn R. Burke
All content © San Juan Publishing Group, Inc, All rights reserved.
OH MY! SILVERTON IN THE FALL is so beautiful you can hardly bear it. The San Juan Mountains literally sing with color, a song accompanied by quaking, shivering aspen leaves from brilliant gold to farish crimson. The eye can barely comprehend so much color! Fall holds a special place in the hearts of all who live or visit here. Brilliant color comes early to Silverton, riding on the wings of September’s crisp cool nights and the first snow in the high country. For six weeks or so, from late August through early October, rivers of gold and crimson flow down the mountainsides as the aspens “turn,” their delicate leaves shivering and fluttering beneath brilliant blue skies. The tangy scent of wood smoke, accompanied by laughter from the school playground, drifts through the bright clean air.
Jeeping and four-wheeling are favorite activities during the color season. Four-wheelers from around the world plan their trips to coincide with “Colorfest,” as many San Juan Mountain towns call this time of the year. Silverton restaurants fire up their wood stoves—Handlebar’s roaring fire is in an old ore bucket—and serve hearty soups and stews along with their regular fare.
September’s Colorfest Quilt Show brings quilters to Silverton from near and far. Hunters sign on with local outfitters who take them into the high country in search of deer and elk. Campers and hikers revel in the echoing quiet—the summertime crowds departed with Labor Day, leaving the lush, colorful mountains to fall visitors.
The season is fleeting, though, and it’s capricious. Come October, the first major winter storms can blow the leaves from the trees leaving a thick blanket of snow. Silverton sits at 9,300 feet, and is surrounded by mountains to above 14,000 feet. Back in its mining heyday, when the heavy snows came, many miners moved to town for the winter. Even now, the little narrow gauge railroad that brings thousands of visitors during the summer, stops operations from mid-October to May.
If you’ve never seen Silverton, see it for the first time in the fall. If you think you know it after reveling in summer’s activities or winter’s deep snows, come back in September and October. You might just fall in love with fall in Silverton.
Page top:Chatanooga wearing her fall tapestry. ©Roger Young
Top left: Silverton from above. ©James Burke
Right: The author (in silver Jeep at the back) and friends caravan through the aspens near Silverton. ©James Burke
Bottom left: red and gold aspens and snowy peaks of Silverton. ©James Burke
The Silverton Magazine was published by San Juan Publishing from 2000-2010. All content is copyright, in perpetuity, San Juan Publishing, Group, Inc. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact the publisher.