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  • Writer's pictureOrion Aon

Colorado Morel Primer

Updated: May 16

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It’s been a few years since I finished my Colorado Morel Series, and I think it’s time for a refresher in the form of a very condensed summary. The series has a ton of great info and can help you find your first morels, just look at the numbers! The articles in the series have over 75,000 total views and have helped tons of people find morels in Colorado! That said, I also know that some people don’t have the mindset to sit and consume about an hour’s worth of reading, let alone try to digest all of the info contained in one go! So, this series will be a primer, just the essentials to get you going. You can revisit the series later if you want to dig into the details.

Three yellow morels found in Colorado.
Three Colorado yellow morels!

This article will cover the basic information someone should know about our morels and then jump right into the seasons starting at the beginning, our low elevation yellows, and following the progression up the foothills and mountains into our living and burned conifer forests. Let’s get into it!

Colorado Morels

Like other states, Colorado has two types of morels: yellow (or blonde) and black. These two types have different seasons and habitats but can sometimes cross over. As far as I’m aware, we only have a single species of yellow morel, Morchella americana. We have a decent number of black morel species, around 6 or 7, including both burn and non-burn, though knowing their binomials isn’t super important as they’re hard to differentiate. You can find more info about those names in the full series if you like!

Unlike the typical morel seasons in the Midwest and Eastern states, our season can stretch for many months! In ideal conditions, morels can fruit from April into September, as they did in 2021! They start in the lowest elevations and move their way up the mountains following the conditions they prefer. Also, unlike those states, our morels are a little more finicky when it comes to fruiting. There's a trade-off: a potentially much longer season that may not even start if we don't get some rain.


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Yellow Morels

Our yellow morel season is not usually as exciting as the traditional morel states. The ideal habitat isn't nearly as common, and, as mentioned above, their fruiting relies on good spring conditions. Meaning moisture and steady temperatures. That said, I can still find some yellow morels every year when I look for them! Some years, they are pretty abundant. In others, it takes many outings to find a few.

A cluster of CO morels
The best cluster of yellow morels I've ever found in CO. April 28, 2017.

The season generally starts mid to late April and goes through May or early June. The habitats to look for are riparian areas with cottonwood. That's the baseline, somewhere near a river with cottonwoods. Now, hot tip. I have also found yellow morels under ash, elm, and boxelder trees, so keep your eyes out for those as well. Most often, though, I see them near cottonwoods!

In my experience, they're almost always close to the water, say within 150 feet. Occasionally, I find them further from the water, but I think it's better to focus your search near the water in these habitats. For conditions, you'll look for soil temperatures around 50 degrees and no hotter than 60. If it's too warm, you'll need to move up in elevation into the low-elevation canyons with the same riparian cottonwood habitats.

Black Morels

This is where things get fun, at least in my opinion! Yellow morels are great, and riparian areas are chock full of delicious edible plants, but I'm a mountain boy at heart. There's nothing better than the deep, comforting smell of a pine forest just after a rainstorm, especially if there are mushrooms to be found!

We will start with the black morels that grow in the non-burned forests, often called naturals. These can be hit or miss, some years I find hundreds, other years I find just a few. It seems like the recent dry winters and late freezes have made the natural black morels struggle a little, though other factors could also be at play.

Colorado black morel
Solitary black morel. Keen eyes will notice the Doug fir cone in the back.

I like to focus on mixed conifer forests between 6,000 and 9,000 feet for natural black morels. Generally, these forests contain Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, spruce, ponderosa, and aspen. A nice mix! I start on the north-facing slopes early in the season, but I check soil temps often! If the soil is too cool, below 50, I will adjust my elevation or move to the east or south-facing slopes because these warm a little faster. Within these habitats, be sure to focus on moisture-holding features like moss, kinnikinnick, small drainages, and edges of rocks.

Finding natural black morels is about covering ground until you find what they like while still going slow enough to spot them. Remember, morels blend in like crazy, so take some time to scan an area before moving on. Go slow. I still miss morels occasionally, and I've been picking them for many years.

Burn Morels

Mapping Tip:

I use the amazing Burn Morel Maps made by my friends at Modern Forager to decide where I'm going to look for morels! As I detail in my Burn Morel Article, picking the right burns and picking where to go within those burns will offer the highest chance for success. I was in Oregon visiting friends, and we decided to go look for morels on a whim. I pulled up the Modern Forager Burn Maps, selected a couple of high-rated nearby burns, and we picked over 300 morels that same day!

This is an affiliate link that earns me a commission at no extra cost to you! Thank you!

Unfortunately, burn morels have been our most prevalent morels in recent years. At least there's a little silver lining to the intense fire seasons we've had.

Burn morels are the easiest type to pick large quantities of because when they fruit, they usually do so in large numbers! We have around five species of burn morels, including the gray morel, Morchella tomentosa. As the name would suggest, these all can be found in burned forests one to three years after the burn and starting the year directly preceding the fire. Generally, the first year has the highest chance for large quantities, gradually decreasing every year after. Eventually, these habitats will switch back to producing natural black morels.

A handful of Colorado burn morels.
A handful of Colorado burn morels.

The keyword in that previous section is 'forests.' There need to be trees in the burn for the morels to exist, so a burn like the Marshall Fire in Boulder, CO, which was mostly grasslands, would not be a good candidate for morels. That being said, not all burned forests are created equally, nor are all the areas within them. I always start on the edges of the burned area where dead trees meet the living. I look for north-facing slopes and other areas that hold extra moisture. See the theme? Moisture is key for morels and mushrooms in general!


This was lightning-speed coverage for our morels, but it should get you started! You can always come back for the full series when you want to deepen your morel knowledge!

Colorado yellow morels
Small cluster of yellow morels.

Here's a quick summary:

  • The best morel years are ones with regular rain and consistent temperatures.

  • Yellow morels are often found in low-elevation riparian areas with cottonwood trees starting around late April.

  • Black morels generally fruit in mixed conifer forests between 6000 and 9000ft starting around mid to late May.

  • Burn morels can fruit in 1 to 5-year-old burn areas that previously had trees. The edges of the burn and areas with moisture are best.

Happy hunting!


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