If you are a lover of fall foliage, then you will absolutely love seeing the fall foliage in Colorado! The cooler temperatures bring gorgeous colors of red, yellow, and orange to the foliage throughout the state. Of course, Colorado’s beloved Aspen tree is the star of the show as it glimmers with leaves of gold.
As the weather starts to cool from mid-September through mid-October, the fall colors will be at their peak. The higher elevation area in the northern mountains begins to change first. As the cold makes its way down the elevation, fall in Colorado seems to take over the state, sometimes happening overnight.
I love visiting my family in Colorado this time of year, but I always try to keep my travel plans flexible so I can catch the turning of the leaves! Let’s dive into all of the gorgeous places to spend fall in Colorado so that you can don’t miss this incredible season.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park offers up gorgeous scenery any time of the year, but it is especially incredible in fall. One of my favorite drives in Rocky Mountain National Park is Trail Ridge Road, the highest continually paved road in North America. If you want to see fall foliage in Colorado, then Trail Ridge Road will not disappoint you.
Start your journey by entering the national park through the entrance of Estes Park, a small mountain town located about an hour outside of Denver. Once inside, follow Trail Ridge Road as it winds its way through Rocky Mountain National Park to the small town of Grand Lake. Reaching an elevation of over 12,000 feet at the summit, Trail Ridge Road allows for a great vantage point to see the colors of fall.
This time of year is also when the elk are in a rut (the males are competing for the females). Seeing the elk, and hearing their loud bugling is a bonus to the beautiful fall colors of the area.
2. The San Juan Skyway
The San Juan Skyway is an incredible 236-mile road that loops through southwestern Colorado in the San Juan Mountains. Head to the stretch of road that is in between Silverton and Ouray known as the Million Dollar Highway to see some of the best fall foliage in Colorado.
The Million Dollar Highway is an incredible drive any time of year as it twists and winds through the mountains. The steep cliffs offer up amazing vistas dotted with fall color when you visit in autumn.
If you would rather not drive, then consider booking a trip on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The railroad offers trips that coincide with the changing of the leaves in this area, which generally occurs in late September.
Pro Tip: No matter what, you need a car if you want to see the fall colors in this area of Colorado. The closest international airport to the area is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, about 3.5 hours away. There are regional airports located in Durango and Montrose which are about 60 miles from the area.
3. Kebler Pass
Boasting one of the largest aspen fields in Colorado, Kebler Pass is a fabulous place to visit if you are spending fall in Colorado. The pass, which covers 30 miles of land between Crested Butte and Highway 133 seems to have aspen trees everywhere you look. The road climbs to over 10,000 feet and leads you through the aspens, old mining towns, and lumber camps. All of this is why Kebler Pass is one of the most scenic drives in Colorado.
Start your journey at Ohio Creek Road so that you can see the remnants of volcanic ash known as “The Castles.” The Castles were formed when mud and volcanic ash erupted from the West Elk Volcan over 30 million years ago!
Pro Tip: Kebler Pass is one of the most photographed areas of Colorado in the fall which means the pass can get crowded. Always use caution when parking and exiting your vehicle. It is also important to note that some areas of the pass are unpaved and closed in the winter months.
4. Steamboat Springs
The Colorado mountain town of Steamboat Springs is truly a delight any time of year, but if you are visiting Colorado in the fall, then you won’t want to miss the gorgeous fall colors you can find here. Buffalo Pass is a dirt road just west of Steamboat Springs that winds up 8-miles toward the Continental Divide passing through an awesome array of aspen trees.
Another great option for leaf peeping in the Steamboat Springs area is the Steamboat Lake Loop. The highlight of this loop is seeing the colorful aspen trees reflect off of the lake with Hahn’s Peak in the background.
If you fly into Denver International Airport, you can take a connecting flight to Yampa Valley Regional Airport which is located 22 miles from Steamboat Springs. If you would rather drive into Steamboat Springs from Denver International, it is a 160-mile journey.
5. Peak To Peak National Scenic Byway
The Peak to Peak National Scenic Byway is Colorado’s oldest scenic byway and is easily reached from Denver. As the byway winds its way from Boulder up through the Continental Divide, you find yourself immersed in the incredible colors of fall thanks to the incredible terrain that the 60-mile byway encompasses.
I love that the Peak to Peak Byway allows visitors to enjoy so many of Colorado’s breathtaking places. Enjoy the twists and turns and schedule strategic stops in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Roosevelt National Forest, and Golden Gate Canyon State Park as you enjoy fall in Colorado.
Telluride, Colorado draws visitors from all over the country during the winter months thanks to the great ski slopes found here. While skiing in Telluride is fabulous, I would venture to say that witnessing the fall foliage in Telluride is just as fabulous!
Telluride’s valleys and canyons come to life with colors of orange, red, and yellow. One of the best ways to see them is by hitting the many hiking trails located throughout the city. If you aren’t up for hiking, then take a ride on the Telluride gondola. Soaring over the city definitely gives you a bird’s eye view of the fall colors in Colorado.
The closest airport to Telluride is Montrose Regional Airport, which is located about 65 miles away. There are connecting flights from Denver International throughout the year or you can rent a car at Denver International to make the seven-hour drive.
7. Guanella Pass
Guanella Pass is a 22-mile stretch of road between Georgetown and Grant. Since the road winds its way through both the Arapaho National Forest and the Pike National Forest, you know you are going to see some amazing fall colors if you visit during autumn. The fall foliage seems to surround you as you make your way through the mountain pass.
For an extra treat while in this area, consider taking a trip on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. The Georgetown Loop Railroad takes visitors on a scenic train ride from Georgetown to Silver Plume. In addition to the gorgeous fall colors, you will also get to see old mining towns and incredible mountain views.
The best part about this area is that it is only about 1.5 hours outside of Denver!
8. Aspen And Maroon Bells
When the town is named after the aspen tree, you can bet that the area will have a fabulous showing of fall colors. Aspen, Colorado, is the place to go if you love the brilliant bronze and yellow colors of the aspen trees turning for fall. One of the best places to see this amazing display is Maroon Bells.
The Maroon Bells are two 14,000-foot mountains that are set in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The mountains and changing trees reflecting off of Maroon Lake make for a postcard worth photographing. Not only that, but the surrounding 2.3-million-acre White River National Forest allows for many other opportunities to get up close and personal with the fall leaves in this area.
While it is possible to fly directly to Aspen, it is often cheaper to fly into Denver International Airport and then drive to Aspen. The drive from Denver International Airport to Aspen is just under 4 hours.
9. Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Golden Gate Canyon State Park comes alive in the fall thanks to over 12,000 acres of pine forest and aspen trees. The colors of the changing leaves seem to paint the canyons with hues of yellow, bronze, red, and orange.
One of the best vantage points in the state park can be found at the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook. Once at the overlook, you can enjoy sweeping views of the canyons and the hillside of the Continental Divide. The view is truly breathtaking!
Since the park is located about 45-minutes from Denver, it makes for a quick and easy day trip if you are using Denver as your home base to explore the fall foliage in Colorado.
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