ASPENS ON LAST DOLLAR RD
Near Telluride, CO
During the peak fall season in Colorado, the golden Aspen trees are everywhere—on almost every ridge and in almost every valley. However, it is sometimes very difficult to capture the “essence” of the white trees with the little golden leaves. I was looking for a large clump of golden Aspen leaves that would fill up a whole frame to create the illusion that they were everywhere.
I tried tons of Aspen groves, but never could find the right composition. And then one day, when I was driving the Last Dollar Road up by the Drunken Aspens, I came upon a set of Aspens that seems to fit the bill. The image above was on the top of a hill with an Aspen grove below, thus filling the frame with nothing by golden leaves and the tops of the white tree trunks. This was just what I was looking for.
Trail Difficulty - MODERATE to DIFFICULT
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 3 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The shot of the Aspen trees above is an easy 30ft walk on the dirt road that is Last Dollar Road (T60). However the last 3 miles of the road is very rocky, goes through a few small patches of water and is narrow in a few spots. It is also IMPASSABLE when muddy.
If you continue on the Last Dollar Rd past the location of the shot - going toward Telluride, the road is very steep and dangerous in places and should only be traveled with a 4-wheeel drive vehicle.
Special Note: The Last Dollar Road (T60) in not maintained in the winter and is closed from January through May.
Download KMZ Trail File
Click Here to download the KMZ file for this location.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
9,640 Ft. Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to Golden Aspens On Last Dollar Road.
The Last Dollar Road (T60) is a dirt road that offers a spectacular adventure through some of the most beautiful countryside in Colorado. It passes along huge ranches, cuts through a grove of drunken Aspens, crosses between 2 mountain peaks (Lost Dollar Mountain and Whipple Mountain), provides breathtaking views of Mt. Wilson, and takes you through multi-million dollar neighborhoods, all on the way to Telluride, CO. It should be traveled only with a 4-wheeel drive vehicle.
The following directions are from Ridgway, CO (which is a small town in Southwest Colorado).
From Ridgeway, travel west 11.5 miles (1.3 miles past the Dallas Divide) on CO 62 until you see a small green street sign for The Last Dollar Road on the left / south side of the road (it is very easy to miss). Take a left onto Last Dollar Rd and mark your odometer. The location of the small aspen grove where I took this picture is 8 miles from the turn onto Last Dollar Rd.
For the first several miles the dirt road is fairly wide and easy to drive. After 5 miles you will come to a fork in the road (see picture below) - stay left on Last Dollar rd. A short time later you will see a sign that cautions that the road is VERY SLICK when wet. Take heed as if this road is muddy, you will get stuck!
The next 3 miles on the Last Dollar Rd gets pretty bumpy and has lots of tire popping rocks along the way. Slow and steady is the best approach. As you get close to the destination, you will go through what is known as the Drunken Aspens. This is a very intriguing small aspen grove, but there are many NO TRESPASSING signs all around. Once you get through the Drunken Aspens the location of the shot is just a few hundred yds down the road.
The location of the shot above was taken about 100yds past the Drunken Aspens. At the turn/veer left, pull over and the shot is to your right.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
For me the best time of day to shoot an Aspen grove is: 1) either on a cloudy day or 2) when the sun is low and shining through them from behind (maybe late afternoon toward dusk).
Best Time of Year to Shoot
The best time of year to shoot Aspen trees is during the fall color season (depending on the year – this ranges between the last week in Sept - 1st week in October). In this part of the country, the Aspens are mainly yellow to golden (rarely orange or red) and change at different times based on elevation and temperture.
The above shot was taken on September 27th
What Lens(es) Do You Need
The shot above was taken with a 75mm lens as it allowed for some compression, but still with a sense of depth. You can use lenses that range from 50-200mm.
As far as I know, there are no permits required. Please stay on the road as the property off the road is private.
Direction of the Shot
The direction of the shot was south by southeast @ 270°
Special Nuances of Shot
The reason I like this location is it is an Aspen grove that is going downhill, avoiding tree trunks and ground (to fill the lens with nothing but Aspen leaves). That being said, this shot is all about timing. Each year is different as to when the Aspens turn and the saturation of the colors. You may have to make this trip more than once to catch the Aspens in peak color.
Special Equipment Needed
No need for any special photography equipment.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
This spot is off of the beaten path for most photographers and it would be rare to see anyone else at this location.
The weather in Colorado is normally mild in the summer and cold (lows in the 20’s) in the spring and fall. The Last Dollar Road (T60) in not maintained in the winter and is closed from January – May.
I use Verizon and there is cell service for most of the Last Dollar Road (T60).
As far as I know, there are 2 hotels in Ridgway (they usually fill-up quickly in the fall, so make sure you plan ahead). Also, Ridgway State Park is approx. 4 miles north of Ridgway, and there are also several other hotels and lodging in Ouray, CO (approx. 10 miles south of Ridgway).
Ridgway State Park is a VERY NICE state park with lots of campsites ($24 for tent only and $32 for full hook ups) and includes pay showers, laundry, vending machines, and flush restrooms. Ridgway State Park is reservations only (800) 244-5613 or www.cpwshop.com
Nearby camping and lodging
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Ridgway State Park (4 miles north of Ridgway)
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
Chipeta Solar Springs Resort & Spa
304 S Lena St, Ridgway, CO
Ridgway-Ouray Lodge & Suites
373 Palomino Trail, Ridgway, CO
Ridgway is a GREAT little town to stay at, visit and eat. When in town, I always try to visit Kate's Place and the The Grit Cafe.
Kate's Place has a GREAT breakfast/brunch and I always try to stop there after my morning shoot. True Grit Café has a nice selection of cold adult beverages and a good menu. Ridgway was the location of the original True Grit movie with John Wayne and the True Grit Café was part of the opening scene.
I have also enjoyed a very good pizza and a cold brew at the Colorado Boy and in town, the Adobe Inn is a nice Mexican restaurant.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
615 W Clinton, Ridgway, CO
True Grit Café
123 N Lena Street, Ridgway, CO
Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery
602 Clinton St, Ridgway, CO
The Last Dollar Laundromat is located at 357 Sherman St. in Ridgway. There is also a laundry mat at the Ridgway State Park.
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest airport is in Montrose, CO (MTJ). It is a nice regional airport that services: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines.
Area Guides and Workshops