Shoot fall like a pro A Steamboat guide to fall hikes and photography

It won’t last long.

Some Steamboat Springs residents are already thinking past fall and bookmarking the Champagne Powder Cam at the top of Storm Peak and dreaming of snow. For those of us still savoring fall, this season is better than ever. Don’t let the warnings of leaf blight or fungus, which dull colors, scare you off. The fall show will still be worth photographing.

There are new trails on Buffalo Pass to hike on to get that postcard-worthy shot of the brilliant orange and gold aspens. And all this early snowfall means more dramatic pictures.

Here are some tips for photographers looking to make the most out of the coming weeks, as well as some ideas for new hikes.

New destinations

Dunckley Pass remains a classic, jaw-dropping fall drive in our area. But for those who aren’t feeling like making the long trek, there’s a new spot to explore close to home.

Trail crews recently completed several new trails on Buffalo Pass. And you don’t even need to get to the really bumpy part of the road to enjoy them. We asked Hahn’s Peak Ranger District recreation program manager Kent Foster which trails are the best for leaf peepers.

“I’d recommend the new Flash of Gold trail,” Foster said. A full 11 miles in length, getting most of the way to the top of Buffalo Pass, it offers great aspen colors, scenery and views. People can do an out and back and expect to see a lot of bikers also. Shorter loops near Dry Lake parking area – Panorama (1.25 miles) off of the Spring Creek Trail, and the two new loops on the north side of the parking area (1 mile and .8 mile) — Fiddlehead trail — offer great views and some aspen scenery.

The Soda Creek trail remains popular, and Foster knows of hikers who are using the newly-designated BTR trail. Foster cautioned hikers to be on the lookout for mountain bikers coming downhill.

Go low

Everyone can take a good picture of a yellow aspen tree. To make a photo stand out, look for a detail that others might be walking over. If it rained or snowed recently, look closely at the aspen leaves covered in dew, and find one basking in the sun.

Use new technology

Hoping to get that epic shot of a moose in a yellow aspen grove? Increase your chances by doing some online scouting.

We get photos sent to the newspaper weekly of the big bull moose in someone’s yard and regularly run them in the paper. I’ve also been successful searching Steamboat photos on Twitter and Instagram to sometimes get reports of where wildlife has been spotted.

It’s not a guarantee the wildlife will still be in the same area, but that next picture of a moose walking around Thunderhead Lodge might help you make the trip and successfully find your own.

Your Facebook friends can also assist. On a dreary day the other day, I saw a post from someone up at Thunderhead that indicated the sun was about to dip below the clouds, which had been over the city all day. So I headed over to the More Barn and saw one of the best sunsets so far this year.

Embrace “bad” weather

There’s no such thing as bad weather for a photographer in the fall. Snow can really add that drama you’re looking for to a fall scene. Some of my favorite photo trips have been hiking up the Uranium mine trail to get a shot of Fish Creek Falls in the snow.

Find live subjects

A fall scene can be enhanced with the silhouette of a fly-fisherman standing against a gold backdrop. Or wait until some cyclists pedal into your shot of a leaf-covered dirt road on Buff Pass.

The golden hour

The hour before sunset is prime time for fall photos. Ask Siri what time sunset will be, and plan to find a spot at least 30 minutes before then. And don’t pack up until you’re sure the sunset is over.

If only one

For those who want to pencil in only one memorable hike this fall season, local hiking guru Diane White-Crane recommends when the colors are good to head up to North Routt County to hike to either Three Island Lake or Gold Creek Lake. Both are accessed off Seedhouse Road just north of Clark.

White-Crane’s book, Hiking the Boat, also includes several other options for fall hikes around Routt County.

-Three Island Lake: White-Crane says the mix of aspens, lodgepole pines and spruce trees on stretches of this hike make it a stunner in the fall. For photographers looking for contrasts, this trek will satisfy.

Hiking time: About 2 hours to get to the lake

Distance: 3.5 miles each way

How to get there: Take Routt County Road 129 north out of Steamboat and turn right on Seedhouse Road, just north of Clark. Drive about 9 miles and turn right onto Forest Service Road 443. Drive 3.2 miles to the second signed trailhead for the lake. The trail starts on the left side of the road. White-Crane says about one-quarter mile into the hike, spur trail-1163.1A merges with the main trail from the left. Stay right at this intersection, heading east.

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