Top Places to See Fall Leaves in Colorado

fall leaves

The Corken and Company team absolutely loves fall! Come September the aspens begin to glow. This is one of the best times to tour the Rockies. The leaves usually begin changing in early September and last no longer than mid October. It all depends on the weather, so be flexible and ready to travel.

The best places to go are almost anywhere in the mountains. Some scenic drives are better than others, but even a little fall gold will brighten your day. Make sure you take an annual trip into the mountains to witness an unmatched autumn in the Rockies.


 Trail Ridge Road:

Trail Ridge Road winds high through the alpine countryside in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colors fill the hillsides and valleys nearly the whole way. While not soaking up the scenery, there are numerous things to do in the park, and around Estes Park and Grand Lake. Both towns offer charming historic districts lined with shops and restaurants.

Another perk to the park is the fall elk rut, which generally lasts from mid September to mid October. Tens of hundreds of elks gather in one spot, with bull bugling heard from afar.


Buffalo Pass:

Situated in Steamboat’s backyard, Buffalo Pass offers remarkable views of the rolling Routt National Forest. It begins winding through aspen groves almost immediately on it’s way up to 10,400 feet at Summit Lake.

The road begins as a 2WD dirt road, but gets progressively more bumpy as you’re near the top. If going all the way to Walden, it’s best to have higher clearance and 4WD, but you could probably manage with 2WD if you go slow.

Steamboat Springs is loaded with year round recreation, including two hot springs, Old Town and Strawberry Park, as well as several state parks located in the county. Fish Creek Falls is only a ten minute hike, and another chance to experience the season close up.


Flat Tops Trail:

Get away from the crowd on the Flat Tops Byway. This long stretch of remote highway passes through two national forests, on its way from Yampa to Meeker. During the journey, you’ll pass by lake after lake, and ample chances to see the leaves.

Trappers Lake is a short detour from the byway, and a worthwhile stop, though there won’t be too much color due to past forest fires. Open through October, Trappers Lake Lodge has cabins for rent, horseback riding and a restaurant/bar.


Independence Pass:

A seasonal shortcut to Aspen, Independence Pass climbs to 12,095 feet, providing stunning vistas around every turn. It’s the second highest pass, with an improved road, in Colorado (behind Cottonwood). It generally closes in early November.

Tucked almost halfway between Leadville and Buena Vista, the tiny village of Twin Lakes is home to two giant lakes and an old ghost town. There’s not much commercialization, just a general store, restaurant and some lodging.

Aspen, on the other hand, is teeming with activity, especially around this time. Maroon Bells is a must stop in the fall, as well as a great place to camp. On the Aspen side of the pass, the ghost town of Independence is a perfect place to stretch your feet.


Kebler Pass:

Secluded away in the center of the Rockies, Kebler Pass features lush hillsides of color. You’ll find the most fall foliage on the Paonia side of the pass, although Crested Butte is a town known for its natural beauty. The pass is part of the West Elk Loop, a 205 mile journey through the heart of Colorado.

Considered “Colorado’s last great ski town”, Crested Butte is an impeccable place to spend a few nights. The town is surrounded by some of the most stunning peaks in the state, and offers a plethora of dining, shopping and lodging.


Grand Mesa Byway:

The largest flat topped mountain in the world looks great in the fall. One the best drives on the Western Slope, Grand Mesa Byway rises quickly to around 11,000 feet above sea level, where it then meanders past lakes and forests. A detour west to Land’s End Overlook, (take Forest Road 100 to 105 for 10 miles/40 minutes) offers expansive views of the colorful valley floor.

Cedaredge has a few nice places to eat and stay, and it’s also not too far from Delta, one of the region’s bigger towns. Mesa, to the north, is a sleepy mountain town with another few places to dine and slumber. From Mesa you can reach Vega State Park in twenty miles.

The Fall in Colorado is fleeting, do not miss your chance to see these amazing fall colors and enjoy the beautiful state we live in!


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Rachel Sartin

Lori Corken