Starting in mid-September and going through mid-October, fall begins to blanket our mountains in dazzling reds, brilliant oranges, and golden yellows that draw onlookers from near and far. “Colorful Colorado” takes on a whole new meaning when the leaves weave these gorgeous shades through our landscape. As quickly as they come, their bright hues begin to change just as fast, so you will want to make sure you are ready. Because Colorado offers so many great places to see nature’s brilliance, I’ve compiled this list to help you decide where to go this year:
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Living up to its name, this park offers more than 12,000 acres of dense forest, rugged peaks, and meadows lined with shimmery gold. From the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook, you’ll find expansive views of the Indian Peaks rising above miles of aspen trees. If you want to get a closer look, go for a hike on the Mule Deer Loop which will not only take you to the overlook, but the trail itself is surrounded by aspens.
Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
Labeled one of the oldest and most beautiful drives through Colorado, this one is particularly popular during fall, when the surrounding mountains burst to life with an array of colors. This scenic byway has plenty of places to stretch your legs, as it travels through Estes Park, Nederland, Blackhawk, Clear Creek Canyon as well as a number of ghost towns like Caribou, Hesse, and Apex.
Located outside Nederland, Caribou Ranch has been named a hidden gem of Boulder County. It includes forests, meadows, wetlands, and a historical mining complex. Best of all, it rolls through prime aspen elevation. The breathtaking landscape spans from yellow to orange and red, while colorful grasses and willows further enhance the stunning scene.
Eldorado Canyon State Park
is an oasis not far from Denver that unveils an incredible display from the annual fall gold rush. Not only will you enjoy the brilliant colors that abound, everyone will love hiking over rocks along the streamside trail, peering into caves, and watching climbers on the towering canyon walls.
A seasonal short cut to Aspen, Independence Pass climbs to 12,095 feet, providing stunning vistas around every turn. While this pass isn’t for the faint of heart, the colors that line the highway, the sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, and the aspens that light up the mountainsides behind Twin Lakes make it well worth all the white knuckling.
Begin in either Evergreen or Idaho Springs and soak up the stunning views along Echo Lake and Mount Evans. Squaw Pass Road is a wonderful option close to Denver with some truly spectacular aspen groves. Detour down to Hells Hole Trailhead to get a closer look at the glistening leaves.
If you head north out of Grand Lake and enter Rocky Mountain National Park, you immediately enter the picturesque Kawuneeche Valley, where willows and aspens decorate the winding headwaters of the Colorado River. Simply follow Trail Ridge Road to Estes Park, and you will enjoy some of the most stunning and lush golden hues littering the land.
Mueller State Park
To bask in fall glory without battling I-70, visit Mueller State Park, just outside of Colorado Springs. The park boasts an almost indulgent collection of aspens, as well as 55 miles of trails (19 miles are open to bikes).
Kenosha Pass is on Highway 285 between Grant and Jefferson. Be warned, it is an extremely popular leaf peeping stop. But it's popular for a reason. It’s not too far, there are miles and miles of aspen trees, and it's easy to take great pictures.
The 11-mile stretch of Guanella Pass Road between Georgetown and the Mount Bierstadt trailhead is lined with aspens. Admire vivid reds, yellows, oranges, and contrasting greens of aspens, willows, and evergreens, along with plenty of vistas around every switchback.