Colorado has diverse climate types: tundra, subarctic, continental, humid subtropical, semi-arid and cold desert in the various regions of the state. New Mexico in the south, Arizona in the southwest, Utah in the west, Wyoming in the north, Nebraska in the northeast, Kansas in the east and Oklahoma in the southeast share borders with the state. Colorado is one of the Mountain States, which is part of the American Wild West and has diverse geography of alpine mountains, valleys, high plains, deep canyons, mesas, forests, rivers, and deserts.
Colorado, the Centennial state, consists of the Western slopes, and the Eastern plains along with the Front Range foothills. The Continental Divide splits the state into the western and eastern parts, each with different sub-climatic zones. The Eastern Plains are semi-arid (Köppen climate classification BSk) with clear skies and abundant sunshine. Day temperatures often range in the 90°F (32.2°C) to 100°F (37.8°C) range in the summer. The hot and dry climate creates a vast difference between the daily high and low temperatures, often to the tune of 30°F (-1.1°C) or higher. The annual rainfall in the plains averages between 15" (381mm) to 25" (635mm).
Seventy percent of Colorado's population resides in the Front Range urban corridor that lies on the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains. The high mountain range protects the region from the storms that blow from the Pacific Ocean. Summer in the Front Range is hot with high temperatures regularly crossing 95°F (35°C) while winters in the plains are severely cold with low temperatures often in the -10°F (-23.3°C) to 25°F (-3.9°C) range. West Colorado is mostly mountainous with a few desert lands. North Colorado consists of high plains and mountains while South Colorado is a mix of deserts and mountains.
Average snowfall in the state is in the range of 60" (1524mm) to 100" (2540mm). The high mountain ranges often register more than 120" (3048mm) of snowfall annually. Colorado receives ample sunshine and registers about 250 sunny days in the year. The state experiences wildfires, thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes during late spring and early summer. Chinook winds keep the temperatures warm in the Front Range areas during the winter. Strong winds blow across the vast plains until they encounter the high mountain ranges that provide natural barriers and create temperature extremes.
Bennett recorded the highest ever temperature of 118°F (47.8°C) on July 11, 1888, in Colorado while Maybell recorded the coldest temperature of -61°F (-51.7°C) on February 1, 1985.
The best time to visit Colorado
The best time to visit Colorado is in the spring from March to May and autumn from September to November. Spring and autumn seasons are cooler than the summer, which tends to be hot in many parts of the state. While the spring sees refreshing rain, the fall is the time for a dash of brilliant colors across the landscape. Summer experiences thunderstorms and an increase in tourist population while the shoulder seasons give much-wanted space and have better weather conditions. Winter is mostly cold in Colorado with severe weather.
The worst time to visit Colorado
Winter is the worst time to visit Colorado as the majority of the state experiences severely cold weather and extreme temperatures. Snow is frequent and accumulates in vast amounts in the highlands, and the mountains experience intense cold with vast amounts of snowfall that cross 120" (3048mm). Colorado experiences arctic and subarctic type of weather conditions on many of its mountaintops as the entire state lies at a high altitude. Winter low temperatures are below freezing in many parts, the conditions are harsh, and the cold is severe - scanty rainfall has contributed to the creation of cold desert regions in a significant part of Colorado.
Colorado is vulnerable to wildfires, thunderstorms, tornadoes in late spring and summer. Hailstorms are strong and mostly affect the Eastern Plains. The plains are also part of the Tornado Alley of America and witness flooding in spring and summer due to thunderstorms and melting of snow - the Denver Flood of 1965 and Colorado Floods of 2013 are notable examples. Wildfires of severe intensity are frequent in the summer due to lack of precipitation that contributes to dryness in the majority of the state - the Hayman Fire of 2002 was the largest wildfire in America at the time. Colorado is also prone to frequent earthquakes of low intensity that measure 2 to 3.5 on the Richter scale.
Weather in January
January is the coldest month of the year in Colorado with the temperatures even below 0°F (-17.8°C) in many parts of the west. The average low temperatures are between -8°F (-22.2°C) to 22°F (-5.6°C) while the average high temperatures are in the 25°F (-3.9°C) to 49°F (9.4°C) range. Denver, the capital in eastern Colorado, averages between 17°F (-8.3°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) while Alamosa in western Colorado is cold and averages between -2°F (-18.9°C) to 34°F (1.1°C). Snowfall is heavy in the west, and places such as Steamboat Springs and Crested Butte register about 40" (1016mm). Days are short with fading sunlight and nights are severely cold. January is mostly dry, and rainfall scarcely registers above 1" (25.4mm) statewide. Chinook winds help Front Range cities to maintain relatively warm conditions. Microclimates exist in Colorado that range from alpine to cold desert type and conditions may be radically different in the space of a few miles. Skiers and snowboarders find the thick snow fascinating in the Colorado Mountains. New Year attracts a few tourists, but overall, January is an off-season for tourism.
Weather in February
February is a chilly winter month in Colorado as the state is in the clutches of the cold weather. Day temperatures are in the range of 30°F (-1.1°C) to 50°F (10°C) and rarely go above 55°F (12.8°C). Nights are bitter and routinely plummet below 0°F (-17.8°C) in many areas. The mountains experience alpine conditions and gather loads of snow. The eastern plains are also cold and accumulate an average of 5" (127mm) to 7" (177.8mm) of snow. Sunny days are rare in February, and it is an odd year where they number more than 10 in the month. Humidity is low with the absence of moisture in the air. Snowstorms register occasionally but are rarely violent. Sleigh riding, snowshoeing, ice-skating and snow tubing are popular winter activities besides skiing on the mountain slopes. Daylight, though short, is sufficient to enjoy the numerous adventures on the white snowy landscape - pack the warmest winter clothes and drive carefully on the icy roads!
Weather in March
March is cold at the start of the spring season in Colorado. Day high temperatures average in the warm 42°F (5.6°C) to 60°F (15.6°C) range across different regions of the state but the nights are cold with average low temperatures in the 4°F (-15.6°C) to 34°F (1.1°C). Early spring is not immune to cold fronts and frosty nights and mornings are common. A little amount of rain to the tune of 1" (25.4mm) usually falls in March, and the rest takes the form of snow and ice. Snowfall is ample in the Rocky Mountains and western Colorado while it tapers down on the eastern side. March is mostly dry, and the sun shines on the horizon for an average of 18 to 20 days in the majority of the state. Durango in the west is cold and averages between 24°F (-4.4°C) to 53°F (11.7°C) while Boulder in the east is relatively warm between 29°F (-1.7°C) to 56°F (13.3°C). Dress in warm clothes as the conditions are still on the colder side and nights in Colorado often see a sharp drop in temperatures!
Weather in April
April sees warm temperatures and moderate rain with the advent of the spring season in Colorado. The average high temperatures are generally in the warm 50°F (10°C) to 60°F (15.6°C) while nights are on the colder side in the 25°F (-3.9°C) to 41°F (5°C) across the state. April witnesses a bit of rain with an average of 1" (25.4mm) to 2" (50.8mm) in the state and is the last month of sizeable snowfall. Spring sees the early thawing of snow by mid-April in the lower plateau regions while the mountaintops keep their icecaps intact for long periods. Lakes, springs, and rivers appear to be bubbling with freshwater as the snow starts to meltdown gradually. The sun shines for more extended periods and is regularly over the horizon for an average of 18 to 20 days in April. The floral blossoms cover the ground, and the awakened hibernating fauna is in a quest for searching food everywhere. Pack layers of warm clothing when exploring the high mountain trails as the nights are cold and the climate is alpine at high altitudes.
Weather in May
May is a beautiful warm month with long sunny days in Colorado. The average high temperatures are in the warm 60°F (15.6°C) to 75°F (23.9°C) range while the average low temperatures are in the mild 30°F (-1.1°C) to 50°F (10°C). The western part is colder at night in the mountainous regions and arid desert lands and sees a rapid drop in temperature compared to the day. Glenwood Springs in the west averages between 39°F (3.9°C) to 70°F (21.1°C) while Boulder in the east is between 44°F (6.7°C) to 72°F (22.2°C). Rain is moderate to the tune of 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm) and mixes with the last remnants of snow. May has an average of 22 days with ample sunshine while a few of the areas have cloud cover in the rest of the month. The fishing season draws visitors and so do other activities like kayaking, canoeing, and river rafting, especially in the deep canyons. The fresh air of spring is a great time to visit Colorado and explore its beautiful national parks. Be alert as the first of the thunderstorms generally strike in May!
Weather in June
June brings warm summer temperatures in Colorado that draw tourists from all over the country to its wilderness and natural beauty. Average high temperatures are between 70°F (21.1°C) to 87°F (30.6°C) while the average low temperatures are around 35°F (1.7°C) to 55°F (12.8°C). Aspen in the west registers comfortably warm average temperatures in the 42°F (5.6°C) to 73°F (22.8°C) range while Pueblo in the east is relatively hot in the average range of 53°F (11.7°C) to 87°F (30.6°C). June has an average of 24 long days of abundant sunshine. Humidity is low, particularly in the west, and the skies are clear and bright. Moderate rain to the tune of 2" (50.8mm) accumulates in June. Colorado summers are prone to frequent thunderstorms and tornadoes as the Eastern Plains are a part of the Tornado Alley of the country. Hailstorms accompany thunder and destroy the crops. June is the peak season for tourism, so be ready to fight the crowd for a coveted spot at Pikes Peak.
Weather in July
July is generally the hottest month of the year in Colorado. The peak summer weather is scorching hot in the plains and the desert lands. The average high temperatures in the state are around 78°F (25.6°C) to 94°F (34.4°C); many places touch 95°F (35°C) and a thermometer reading of 100°F (37.8°C) is common - in fact, Colorado records many days continuously over 95°F (35°C). Summer nights have comfortable temperatures of 45°F (7.2°C) to 60°F (15.6°C). Tourists arrive in droves for camping, fishing, biking and trailing in the national parks - the Rocky Mountain National Park buzzes with visitors, and the camping grounds and lodges are scarcely vacant. Rain is scarce in Colorado, and July registers no more than 1" (25.4mm) to 2" (50.8mm). The average humidity seldom exceeds 50% in the summer, as long days with 15 hours of daylight are the norm. Brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies are the features of Colorado summers - wear light clothing with full sleeves and hats to combat the blazing sun.
Weather in August
August is a hot summer month with raging temperatures in Colorado. Grand Junction in the west averages between 61°F (16.1°C) to 90°F (32.2°C) while Colorado Springs in the east is between 56°F (13.3°C) to 82°F (27.8°C). The average temperatures statewide are in the 48°F (8.9°C) to 90°F (32.2°C) range with an average of 24 days with ample sunshine. Rain is scarce to the tune of 1" (25.4mm) to 2" (50.8mm) as the summer air is dry and the skies are clear. While the plains and deserts experience tropically high temperatures, the foothills and higher altitudes experience entirely different microclimates and have much cooler nights. August nights are perfect for camping, and the open skies are marvelous for stargazing. Light summer clothing is usually sufficient in August, and it is a fantastic time to traverse the canyons or the high mountain trails. Watch out for wildfires in the dry season and thunderstorms at least until the end of the summer season!
Weather in September
September is one of the best times to visit Colorado, dressed in the colorful cloak of autumn. The temperatures are moderate, and the weather is pleasant in the absence of a blazing sun. The usually brown landscape adorns beautiful colors, and the scenery looks heavenly in the backdrop of the white snow-capped peaks. The average high temperatures in early fall are in the warm 70°F (21.1°C) to 80°F (26.7°C) range, and the average low temperatures are in the mild 40°F (4.4°C) to 50°F (10°C) range. Rain rarely hits peak numbers in Colorado and September hardly receives to the tune of 1" (25.4mm) to 2" (50.8mm) in the majority of the state. Mountain trails are open, and the state and national parks dazzle with the changing shades of the wild flora. Autumn is a wonderful time to visit Colorado as the weather is pleasant, and the days have comfortable temperatures while the clear nights are ideal for campfires and stargazing.
Weather in October
October lies in the middle of the autumn season in Colorado with warm day temperatures and cold nights. The average high temperatures tend to be comfortable in the day in the 55°F (12.8°C) to 65°F (18.3°C) range but the nights are cold with the average low temperatures in the 25°F (-3.9°C) to 40°F (4.4°C) range. Western Colorado is mostly below freezing temperatures as the nights become frosty. Alamosa in the west averages in the 25°F (-3.9°C) to 62°F (16.7°C) range while Canon City in the east is between 37°F (2.8°C) to 68°F (20°C). October gathers the first snow of the season in the form of snowflakes as high altitude places like Aspen, Leadville and Telluride register up to 10" (254mm). Aspens turn color by October, maples, and willows join them to display the full palette of orange, red, purple, yellow, and gold colors during the fall - Aspen Grove, Colorado and the Million Dollar Highway are great places to witness the peak fall foliage in October. Wear warm clothes, as the fall season is windy at times!
Weather in November
November is the end of the autumn in Colorado that sees a drop in temperatures in the state. The average high temperatures are in the warm range of 40°F (4.4°C) to 55°F (12.8°C) while the average low temperatures drop well below the freezing and range in between 10°F (-12.2°C) to 30°F (-1.1°C). Places like Boulder, Burlington, Denver and Colorado Springs in the east average between 25°F (-3.9°C) to 55°F (12.8°C) while Alamosa, Aspen, and Gunnison in the west are between 12°F (-11.1°C) to 47°F (8.3°C). The mountain ranges gather serious snow with most of them registering above 20" (508mm) while the rest of the state records healthy numbers from 5" (127mm) to 8" (203.2mm). Cold fronts are common in November including the areas of the remote northwest and the south. The days become short and the average number of sunshine days drops to 18 to 20. The tourist numbers dwindle by late autumn, and the only visitors are winter adventure enthusiasts looking for thick snow useful for winter activities. It is an excellent idea to bid goodbye to Colorado by the end of November for people who are unaccustomed to severe cold.
Weather in December
December brings the dreary cold of winter in Colorado with the average high temperatures in the 27°F (-2.8°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) range and the average low temperatures in the cold -4°F (-20°C) to 23°F (-5°C) range across the state. The average temperatures in Crested Butte in the west are between -4°F (-20°C) to 27°F (-2.8°C) while those in Fort Collins are between 15°F (-9.4°C) to 41°F (5°C). Rain is negligible, but snowfall is substantial, particularly in the west and the mountainous parts of the state. Vail in the west registers about 29.2" (741.7mm) of snow that is perfect for skiing. December sees an average of 10 sunny days with a reduced number of daylight hours. The skies are mostly clear, but the December sun is weak and radiates about 60% to 70% heat of the normal. Winter is an off-season that hardly draws tourists except for the visitors who like skiing and related adventure activities. Overall, the severe cold makes December the worst time to visit Colorado. [Resources]
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