Synapse formation and elimination occur throughout life, but the magnitude of such changes at distinct developmental stages remains unclear. Using transgenic mice overexpressing yellow fluorescent protein and transcranial two-photon microscopy, we repeatedly imaged dendritic spines on the apical dendrites of layer 5 pyramidal neurons. In young adolescent mice (1-month-old), 13%-20% of spines were eliminated and 5%-8% formed over 2 weeks in barrel, motor, and frontal cortices, indicating a cortical-wide spine loss during this developmental period. As animals mature, there is also a substantial loss of dendritic filopodia involved in spinogenesis. In adult mice (4-6 months old), 3%-5% of spines were eliminated and formed over 2 weeks in various cortical regions. Over 18 months, only 26% of spines were eliminated and 19% formed in adult barrel cortex. Thus, after a concurrent loss of spines and spine precursors in diverse regions of young adolescent cortex, spines become stable and a majority of them can last throughout life.