By: Sarah Grace Jordan
Fall colors of Colorado
When you enter Colorado you will see signs that welcome you to Colorful Colorado, which means different things depending on the season. We have bright white snow in winters, clear blue waters and evergreens in the summer, and my personal favorite, the ever changing colors of autumn trees. The burnt red, coppery oranges, and bright yellow foliage brings people from around the world. Leaf peeping season starts around Mid-September and runs till about Mid-November. Mid-September you will see the colors changing in areas with elevation levels of 8,000-10,000, but in the later season the colorful views will be in the foothills and closer to Denver.
Staying in Denver?
Clear Creek County is a great place to see these colors without making a long commute and avoiding large crowds. There are hikes, drives, and multiple activities to do in this area that will get you right up in the action.
Mount Evans Scenic Byway: This drive is considered the highest paved road in North America. There are great views and winding roads full of colorful Aspen trees.
*Pandemic Planning: call ahead to see if they are allowing vehicles at that time, they also close this highway if it is snowing at high altitude.
Fall River Road: This Road takes you through old historic towns, past waterfalls, and through loads of Aspen trees. You would take this road in order to get to Saint Mary’s Glacier. A great place to stop along this drive would be Silver Lake to either fish, picnic, or simply relax.
Echo Lake: If you head up towards Mount Evans you are in the perfect spot to stop for a quick and easy hike near Eco Lake. While up there you can enjoy a nice picnic, fish a bit, and even stop in Echo Lake Lodge for some food and views. A little to know about this trail, free parking, restrooms in the parking lot, and right by the entrance to Mount Evans.
Saint Mary’s Glacier: You can drive most of the way and enjoy a short mile long hike to the glaciers. A little to know about this trial, they allow dogs ( leashed), $5 for parking, convenient restrooms in the parking lot and outstanding views.
Other Leaf Peeping Activities
Bike Riding: Biking is a great way to explore beautiful terrain, fly past the changing colors, see historic towns, beautiful lakes and more. Bike from the base of Loveland Ski Area to Georgetown or Idaho Springs for a fun downhill, leaf-peeping adventure.
Zipline or Via Ferrata: Idaho Spring offers a beautiful Cliffside Zipline through the trees and natural cliffs. At the top you will have a clear shot view of the Continental Divide. This is a great activity to do for a little bit more adrenaline while enjoying the Fall colors. If you like to enjoy a bit of climbing with ziplining the Via Ferratta is the best way to go. You can have those views with a unique adventure.
Georgetown Train: The Georgetown Loop is great for the whole family. This train brings you through the mountain side and between the trees. They have options for open cars or closed depending on the weather and season. If you are really into it you can also purchase a package with mine tour and gold panning experiences.
Staying near Summit county?
Summit county and its surrounding areas are popular places to visit whether you are leaf peeping, skiing, hiking, rafting, etc. Traveling from Denver up to summit county for a day/weekend trip is common due to it being the first destination in the larger mountain ranges.
Loveland Pass: This pass is the perfect detour off of I-70 to get to Keystone and surrounding areas. Stop to take a photo next to the Loveland pass/continental divide sign at the top of the pass. You are able to get a wide variety of views such as mountain tops, unique foliage, and sometimes off season snow.
French Gulch Road: This drive is right outside of Breckenridge area and in one of Colorado’s most fertile mining regions. Along this drive there are historic mines and abandoned towns along with the colorful variety of trees. You can also make reservations at Country Boy Mine to do a mining tour while you are out this way. Most vehicles are able to access this dirt road, however, all wheel drive and 4 wheel drive may be best.
A full loop of views: A great loop drive in the area would be from Boreas Pass to Fairplay to Hoosier Pass. These areas are surrounded by extensive aspen forests. This loop will be about 55 miles so allow several hours to pull over and take lots of tree pictures for your social media. South Platte River is a great place to stop along to take in the fresh air and possibly stop for a picnic.
French Gulch area: If you do decide to take this drive mentioned above you will find B&B trail and X10U8 and Minnie Mine Loop right across from one another. B&B trail is the foliage along this train consisting more of pines and spruces’, however, there is a beautiful overview of the aspen groves. The Minnie Mine loop is facing west so you will see more of those back-lit Aspen trees.
Aspen Alley: This trail will be along your loop drive listed above, closest to Boreas Pass. This is known as one of the best fall trails in Breckenridge. It is a shorter hike, so everyone in the family will be able to take in the beautiful sights while not having to push themselves to the limit.
Carter Park to Jacks Cruel Joke: If you are looking for a trail in the town of Breckenridge this would be a great go to. It ventures through an Aspen Forrest. You can hike or bike this steep switchback trail through those fall colors. There are great views of the Ten Mile Range and Breckenridge resort area.
More Leaf Peeping Activities near Summit County
Scenic Float Trips: Through the beginning of this leaf changing season, you can venture over to Kremmling, CO (about an hour from Breckenridge) and hop on Stand-up paddle boards, Kayaks, or a Raft on the Upper Colorado River. You’ll be able to take a relaxing float while checking out the clear waters. We also have to mention the stunning drive to get to this river. You’re in for a perfect fall treat with this adventure!
Off-Roading: In Kremmling, CO there is also trail riding in the open views of the unique terrain. The Aspens may not be right in your face but there are good views of the mountain tops and Gore Canyon. These 4 seat vehicles can host your entire family, so you all can enjoy the views.
Zipline or Via Ferrata: As mentioned above in our Denver section you too can check out the Ziplines and Via Ferratas in Idaho Springs. Idaho Springs is located about 35-45 minutes from Summit County just depending on where you will be staying. This is a great way to have some adrenaline while flying through the trees and having the amazing view of the Continental Divide.
Horseback Riding: If you venture south of Summit County you could very well end up in the Granite or Buena Vista area. Why not check out the leaves on horseback? Mt. Princeton Stables will bring you through the fiery colors, past waterfalls, or even on a nice sunset ride. After you finish this wonderful ride you can either Lodge at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs or simply enjoy their hot springs.
The fiery colors of fall leaves are packed into a short season so book your trip soon and don’t forget to book your extra activities while you are at it. The colors in Colorado are unlike anything I have ever experienced and you don’t want to miss it.