One of the most amazing things about living in Northern Colorado is having the ability to jump in the car without having to drive very far at all, and soon find yourself being surrounded by gorgeous scenery and landscapes, breathtaking views, and one heck of a peaceful escape.

Having only lived in this state for seven years, I am now making up for lost time and taking advantage of all of the wondrous adventures that Colorado has to offer. Every excursion is a totally new and different experience, and I continue to be blown away by the beauty that is right in our backyard. Whether you have a set destination in mind before leaving the house, or just hit the road until you find an intriguing location that draws you in to further explore, there are so many areas close by that are not only guaranteed to leave you in awe after visiting, but will make you just a little bit more grateful to be living in a state as dynamic as ours.

While my explorations of Northern Colorado usually take place during a long afternoon, I tried out something a little bit different this past weekend, and am very happy that I did so. We all know how stunning the sunrises can be, especially with the neighboring wildfires adding extra intensity lately. So, to fully take in the awakening light show in the sky Sunday morning, a friend and I hopped in the car around 4 a.m. and made our way up the winding Poudre Canyon in order to find the perfect spot to watch as the sun would eventually rise above the Rocky Mountains. We had no real destination in mind of where to watch, we just wanted a clear and unobstructed view to be able to take it all in. We ended up pulling over and setting up at Joe Wright Reservoir, an extremely scenic location right off of Highway 14, featuring a majestic backdrop of calming waters, bordered by thick Ponderosa pines, whimsical wildflowers and greenery galore. Being able to watch the sunrise, while completely encompassed by nature's walls, hearing only the sounds of chirping birds, is so refreshing and relaxing– I highly recommend taking the time to experience this at some point if you never have. Something else that made this adventure even more special was the full moon hanging low in the sky, which significantly helped to light our path, as it was still pretty dark out.

After the sun comes up, you can still continue on with your exploring and make a whole day out of it. If you're the adventurous, outdoorsy type, there are a slew of hiking and biking trails throughout the canyon, for all skill levels. You might want to bring a change of clothes since it's still going to be chilly in the early morning, until the sun heats things up. There are also great spots for fishing, including the reservoir. If you're still feeling sleepy from waking up so early, it's just as fun to stay in the car and take in the raw beauty of the canyon while driving. There are plenty of overlooks where you can park and hang out for while or take pictures. Depending on how far you are willing to drive, quaint towns such as Rustic and Walden, are located a little ways out past the canyon, and are filled with homey restaurants to stop and get a bite to eat before either continuing on or heading back home.

Kelsey Nistel/TSM

Another reason I love exploring the canyon is for the hope and excitement of seeing wildlife. I've been pretty lucky on most trips, usually seeing a bighorn sheep or herd of elk along the way, but on this most recent morning drive, not only did I see my very first moose– I saw three! The best time to catch a glimpse of wild animals is around dusk and if you do happen to see a moose, it's best to keep your distance as they can be very aggressive. We were standing about fifty yards away from this big boy, and he was definitely aware that we were there, and not too happy about it either (or maybe more so with the obnoxious kissing noises that I was making trying to get it to look at me). Always keep your eyes peeled for animals on the side of the road, or in some cases, on the road if it's still dark out– you just never know what might be roaming around, and that's the thrill of it.

As Fall brings the changing of the leaves from bright green to burning yellows, oranges and reds, there is not more of an ideal time to take advantage of the beautiful colors and Western scenery. Be spontaneous and set out on your own adventure to witness first-hand the charm and beauty that can be found right here in Northern Colorado. Where will you go, what will you see?