When autumn arrives in Colorado, the entire state features bright fall colors. With such a diverse landscape and a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees, fall is a beautiful season for Colorado. Shades of gold, red, and orange are found in all kinds of landscapes, from the Rocky Mountains to rolling hills. Here you will find 10 places where fall foliage is peaking in Colorado and why they’re worth checking out.
The fall color change starts high up in the mountains and works its way down as the temperature drops in lower elevations. There are about five weeks from October to November when the color of leaves is at their peak then they quickly start to fall in mid-November. While most of the state is abundant in nature, the best place to see fall colors is anywhere in the mountains. Some areas are only for scenic autumn drives, while others offer things like hiking and camping.
When is the Best Time to See Fall Foliage in Colorado?
October is the perfect month in Colorado to see beautiful autumn colors throughout the state. A few areas in the state’s central, north, and west regions are at their peak in the first two weeks of October. For most of Colorado, the best time to see fall colors at their peak is during the last two weeks of the month. By the beginning of November, the fall foliage will be at its peak in the state’s southeastern corner.
1. Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Located about 30 miles west of Denver are 12,000 acres of aspen trees and pine forests in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. This is a great place to see some incredible fall colors with large patches of Colorado’s signature golden aspens. Hiking trails passing through the dense aspens and evergreens offer a perfect up-close look at their changing leaves.
The Lariat Loop trail is a 40-mile loop of the road offering the best scenic drive in the park with a few great stops along the way. By far, the best stop on this drive is the summit of Lookout Mountain, with breathtaking views in every direction. Hiking along creeks and rivers with great viewpoints of snowy mountain peaks and vast forests makes this spot ideal for taking in the incredible fall foliage.
2. Kenosha Pass
About 65 miles southwest of Denver is Kenosha Pass, a high mountain pass that sits at an elevation of 10,000 ft. in central Colorado. Due to the high elevation, this area’s fall colors are at their peak during the first weeks of October but remain colorful until early November. Hiking on the famous Colorado Trail or camping at the Kenosha Pass campgrounds are the best things to do here. Spectacular views of the aspen hillsides make it a popular spot during autumn.
3. Kebler Pass
Found a few miles north of Gunnison, Colorado, is Kebler Pass. Here you will find one of the largest aspen tree groves in North America. The beautiful mountains and dense forests make for an incredible drive through this mountain pass. Fall colors are more diverse on the western end of Kebler Pass around the Paonia State Park. Located in the central area of the Rocky Mountains, this mountain pass has views of some of the brightest-colored aspen trees in all of Colorado.
4. Million Dollar Highway
Within the 236-mile San Juan skyway is a stretch of road between Silverton and Ouray known as the Million Dollar Highway. This section of highway provides one of the best scenic drives that feature bright fall foliage in Colorado. Winding its way through the southwestern mountains, landscapes of steep cliffs, snow-covered mountains, and golden hillsides make this place a must-see during the fall. Shades of dark orange, bright red, and golden-yellow paint the landscape. The fall colors are brightest during the last three weeks of October, reaching their peak at the end of the month.
5. Maroon Bells
The two famous mountain peaks in west-central Colorado near Aspen are the Maroon Bells. Covered in dense groves of aspen trees, Maroon Lake provides one of the most beautiful autumn landscapes. In this area, visitors can get close looks at the snowy mountain peaks and vast golden sea of fall foliage.
Camping is available here as well as hiking trails with some of the best views in Colorado winding through the area. The Maroon Bells scenic loop is a popular hiking trail in the fall because of the incredible fall view of Colorado’s fall colors. Due to the high elevation of this area, the first two weeks of October are when this area’s fall foliage is at its peak but will stay colorful until the end of the month.
6. Cottonwood Pass
Colorado’s highest paved mountain pass is Cottonwood Pass, located west of Buena Vista. The abundance of aspen and cottonwood groves gives this area a great mix of fall colors. Various shades of red, orange, and yellow fill the landscape for miles. Hiking trails that lead to lakes like Ptarmigan Lake allow visitors to surround themselves with the beauty of autumn nature. High elevation means Cottonwood Pass is at its most colorful during the first weeks of October but can be enjoyed throughout the month.
7. Guanella Pass
About 60 miles west of Denver is the stunning Guanella Pass. Take a scenic drive and enjoy the vibrant fall foliage filled with shades of red and the signature gold and yellows from the aspen tree. Instead of driving, visitors have the option of taking a ride on the scenic Georgetown Loop railway. This is one of the more crowded scenic areas during fall because of the wide range of autumn colors.
8. Peak To Peak National Scenic Byway
Made up of about 60 miles of road, the Peak to Peak National Scenic Byway is Colorado’s oldest scenic byway. This byway is famous for its breathtaking display of nature and incredible stops along the way. Fall is the best season to enjoy this scenic drive because of its wide array of fall foliage and vibrant autumn colors. Hiking trails are found along this route, with spectacular up-close views of the surrounding mountains and colorful plant life.
9. Buffalo Pass
Located just west of Steamboat Springs is Buffalo Pass. Offering incredible views of the surrounding fall foliage, like the abundant aspen groves, this mountain pass has lots to offer when it comes to scenery. This dirt road winds its way up to Summit Lake, and the fall colors become brighter as the elevation gets higher. One of the best hiking trails in the area is the Zirkel Wilderness Area’s Three Island Lake Trail. Taking hikers through forests and meadows, past glacial lakes, this trail is one of the best ways to view spectacular fall foliage in Colorado.
10. Rocky Mountain National Park
This area is gorgeous year-round, but Rocky Mountain National Park is breathtaking in the fall. One of the best ways to enjoy the colorful fall foliage is by taking a drive on Trail Ridge Road. A dense forest filled with yellow, orange, and red leaves fills the park making basically anywhere you go a picturesque autumn view. Elk are especially abundant this time of year and are constantly spotted among the trees. Peak times for fall foliage can vary here, but from the beginning to the end of October, vibrant colors are seen throughout Rocky Mountain National Park.
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- Fall Foliage in Colorado (1970) 10 Places Where Fall Foliage is Peaking in Colorado
- Rocky Mountain Fall Trips, Available here: https://www.nps.gov/romo/plan-your-fall-trip-to-rocky.htm
- Leaf Peep in Colorado, Available here: https://www.coloradoinfo.com/blog/where-fall-leaf-peep-colorado?gclid=Cj0KCQjwhsmaBhCvARIsAIbEbH67Kj-vst_QQgaBSSXd3s7SwvmBLfno7ynavX9oP4leswVKiEP4ZxAaAioAEALw_wcB