he San Juan Mountains are this guide’s favorite place in all of Colorado. There is no other location within the state (or the country for that matter) combining so many rich photographic opportunities. Fourteen of Colorado’s fifty-eight 14,000+ foot mountain peaks reside in this unique mountain range. The day may begin at only a 5,000 foot elevation but within an hour be topping elevations well above tree-line.
Few people have seen so many stunning views as you will find on these photography tours. Views can exceed 80 miles from the mountain tops on a clear day. Meadows surrounded by 13,000-14,000 foot peaks will have you mesmerized and feeling very small. It’s a landscape photographer’s dream come true. Though the best access is found during the summer/fall months the stunning photo opportunities can be found year round.
The San Juan alpine tundra is rich with wildlife despite the harsh environment and offers photographers a wealth of opportunity to capture these beautiful creatures “on film”. Common wildlife sightings include Elk, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, Marmots, Picas, Eagles and Foxes.
Due to the high altitude of our San Juan destinations we are able to capture wild flower blossoms late into the summer months. In fact “prime time” for wildflowers in the San Juan Mountains tends to be mid-July through mid-August (this can move a few weeks earlier or later depending on rainfall). Alpine flowers are generally small and delicate, best captured with low to the ground macro setups. Some of the floral species found include: Rocky mountain columbine, Bluebells, Fairy Slippers, Monkshood, Wild Strawberry, Snow Buttercup and more.
Learn More: Alpine Wild Flowers Photography
The snowmelt continues well into late summer and as such continues to feed a large number of small streams, marshes and waterfalls. The tallest and best known of the waterfalls is Bridal Veil Falls just outside Telluride, but they all have their own beauty and personality. June is usually best for the waterfalls; however, they can still run strong into August if the previous year’s snowfall was plentiful.
There is little in the way of large towns (and no cities) in the San Juan Mountains region. Combine this lack of light pollution with extremely low humidity and high elevations and you get some of the darkest skies in the country. When the moon is new you’ll see more stars than you ever imagined possible with spectacular photos of the Milky Way Galaxy rising above snow capped mountain peaks. When the moon is full you can capture a whole other type of photo, using moon light to capture amazing landscapes with a unique hint of the surreal.
Learn More: Astro / Landscape Night Photography Tour
Hands down, the San Juan mountains are the king of “Aspen Gold” anywhere in the country. Vast expanses of aspen trees turn the mountain sides into pallets of festive colors. With the large gradient of altitudes found in the area, colors display over a longer period of time than others areas of the state. “Prime time” for leaf peeping will vary depending on rainfall that year, but will most often land between the late Sept and the second week of October.
Learn More: Fall Colors Photography Tours
If you fancy old rustic remnants of the 1800’s gold rush, you will love capturing photos of the many abandoned mines that still survive this area. From small prospector cabins to the largest mining operations of their day. The skeletons of the gold rush can be found scattered throughout these mountains.
Learn More: Gold Rush Photography Tours
For more information on specific destinations within the San Juan Mountain Range please visit the pages linked below. Most of these locations can be paired up within a single day tour or spend a few days and see them all.
Pickup from: Your Hotel (Montrose, Ouray & Telluride)
Drop-off: Same location.
Pickup and Drop-off times vary depending on the client’s scheduling needs and the destination. This will be decided during the booking process with the help of your guide.