Great Places to see Fall Colors in Colorado
Fall, or Autumn, is one of our favorite times of year here in Colorado. It’s a great time to enjoy the mountains with some cooler weather and see some leaves changing. But where to go? Here are our favorite five places to see the changing foliage in Colorado:
5) Kenosha Pass is probably the most accessible from the Denver area. To get there you only need to drive west on highway 285 about 65 miles from Denver. You can’t miss it. You can hike in either direction from the road on the Colorado Trail. As you might imagine, because it’s so accessible from Denver, there are a lot of other visitors and parking can be an issue. If you like to hike, don’t stress about the crowds. I have found that if you hike just a few minutes you’ll find yourself some quiet places.
4) Golden Gate Canyon State Park is about 14 miles west of Golden and one of my personal favorite retreats. If time is short either hike the short Raccoon Trail or drive to Panorama Point to enjoy views of the Indian Peaks, but if you have time, get out and hike one of the many trails. The Mule Deer Trail is accessible almost immediately after entering the park and has beautiful sections of aspen groves. Because this is a state park, there is a small entry fee. I usually get the annual pass to all state parks, which currently $80.
3) Rock Mountain National Park is, of course, a national treasure. The east side of the park offers easy access from Denver and you can visit the Hidden Valley area, hike Twin Sisters for Glacier Gorge, or just drive Bear Lake Road. You can also drive up Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest continuous paved road in North America. This will take a while and it will be cold at the top, but you’ll get an amazing vantage point.
2) Maroon Bells near Aspen are two of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, affectionately referred to as “14ers”. Don’t worry, you don’t have to hike to the top to enjoy the changing colors (and if you do, be sure you plan and prepare well!). This is one of the most photographed areas in North America. If you go on the weekends, you’ll have to ride the shuttle to the lake area where you’ll have access to several trails that start with an easy 1-mile Scenic Trail and increase in difficulty from there.
1) Kebler Pass, which runs out of Crested Butte, Colorado, is part of the West Elk Loop scenic byway, and is one of John Fielder’s favorite places to photograph. The road quickly becomes unpaved, so be sure to have the right vehicle. 4-wheel drive probably isn’t necessary in dry conditions, but avoid the pass in low-clearance vehicles like sports cars. As you drive through Gunnison National Forest you’ll see one of the largest aspen groves in the United States. There are a couple of lakes and plenty of hiking and camping opportunities along the way. If you continue, in a couple hours you’ll reach Paonia and you can travel on to other destinations from there including Aspen.
This is by no means and exhaustive list. The San Juan range in southwest Colorado near Durango, Telluride, and Ouray has several places to go, as does the the northern mountains like Steamboat.