As a photographer, and Missouri native, when I moved to Fort Collins I was told I would have to change my style of shooting. I initially rolled my eyes in disbelief at this comment but soon found it to be very true. In Missouri, I had relied heavily on golden hour, the hour before sunset when the light is softest and easiest to manipulate. Whereas is Colorado, the golden hour is shortened when the sun tucks behind the mountains. Simply put, the further away from the mountains, the better the golden hour.
This is why I fell in love with Colorado sunrises, and for the first time, I actually understood what “purple mountain majesties” meant.
When watching the sunrise from Estes Park, I would highly recommend viewing it from the valley. From the valley, you can see how the rising sun reflects off the clouds, making deep tones of purple, orange and pink. The way the sun gently hits the mountains creates soft hues of purple.
The drive to Estes Park from Fort Collins is about an hour, so you must leave town very early in order to make it to the park before sunrise.
A much closer drive, Horsetooth Rock, is an incredible place to watch the sunrise. The hike is about an hour long, and headlights or flashlights, as well as a little rock climbing, are necessary.
While hiking, you can see the city of Fort Collins light up brighter and brighter as the sunrise approaches. Once on top of Horsetooth, you’ll have a birds-eye view of the entire city and the foothills, as the sun braces itself against the city lights and over into the reservoir.
“I think I prefer sunrises over sunsets because they require more effort. I’ve been awake for almost every sunset in my life, but I’ve slept through so many sunrises. There’s just something about consciously making the effort to wake up and watch the sunrise that makes it that much more beautiful,” said Colorado State University student, Katy Long.
Red Rocks Amphitheater is also among the best places in Northern Colorado to watch the sunrise, and also get a morning workout in at the same time. You’ll find many people starting off their day by running and lunging up and down the amphitheater’s steep seating and stairs. It is also very accessible for dogs if you choose to bring your canine companion.
While watching the sunrise from the amphitheater I saw the most unforgettable cotton candy clouds. The way the soft golden sunlight touches the rocks just after rising makes the rocks appear to be an even deeper red.
Estes Park, Horsetooth Rock and Red Rocks Amphitheater are among the many incredible places to in Northern Colorado to watch the sunrise.