Living in Colorado for 29 years... and in the mountains for the past 6 - I've done my fair share of leaf peeping! Aspens thrive at our high elevations and show off their golden hue in the fall. It's a spectacular time to visit my adopted state! All 8 of these areas on my list have been tested (driven, hiked, walked, biked or photographed) by yours truly!
Since I live here - it deserves to be #1! 🙂 Take a stroll down our main street or throughout town to take in the yellows and oranges sprinkling the mountainsides. Venture on a small hike to Rainbow Lake and you'll be walking amidst the aspen trees (even though it's an easy hike - make sure to look down once and a while, as the trail is covered with tree roots!)
2. Boreas Pass
A few miles south of Frisco... drive through Breckenridge and take a left on Boreas Pass Road (County Road 10). As the road climbs you'll overlook gorgeous, golden views of Breckenridge and it's famous ski resort. After a few miles the paved road will change to gravel and you'll drive through "tunnels" of fall foliage. At this point there are a few pullouts if you choose to turn around. To extend your adventure keep going (gravel the rest of the way) to connect with highway 285 near Fairplay.
Steamboat is one of those mountain towns that's hard not to love! During the autumn it's ski runs are surrounded by colorful aspen. I suggest riding the gondola or hiking the trails between the ski runs to take in the views! I spent a fall weekend in Steamboat a few years ago - you can read more about it here.
4. Rocky Mountain National Park
I recommend you enter the park coming from Grand Lake. It's a cute town to make a pit stop or grab a bite to eat! After you've driven Trail Ridge Road (take a jacket - it's chilly up there!) and descended in altitude a bit - you'll be driving through yet more fall foliage. Be sure to take some of the secondary roads as you make your way out of the park. Watch for wildlife, as elk are abundant in this area! If you go during a fall weekend; be prepared for crowds as this is the park's most popular season.
5. Peak to Peak Highway
This 55 mile road between Estes Park and Black Hawk is a perfect drive to combine with your visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. It's a scenic byway with close up views of Longs Peak, elk sightings likely and those perfect autumn hues to soak in!
6. Independence Pass
Starting in Twin Lakes - stay on highway 82 to climb Independence Pass on your way to Aspen. Keep in mind there is a length restriction for this road (it's steep and winding, but paved the entire way). This is such a spectacular drive that I try to do it each fall (don't miss a stop at the summit)! Once you descend toward Aspen you'll be surrounded by blazing yellow and orange aspens! There are a few turnouts on this road (be careful as there quite a few blind curves) to enjoy the beautiful aspen groves!
It lives up to it's name - Aspen isone of the most spectacular areas in Colorado for leaf viewing! After driving Independence Pass your eyes won't get a rest as you head toward Maroon Lake (underneath the famous Maroon Bell Mountains). From highway 82 (and after passing through town) take a left from the roundabout on Maroon Creek Road. During busy times there is a shuttle you'll have to take, but after 5pm you can drive in (about 10 minutes) for a $10 fee. As our leaf peeping season is very short in Colorado - it's bound to be busy, but so worth the view!
About 40 minutes from Glenwood Springs lies the small community of Redstone. For some off the beaten path leaf peeping - drive from Redstone to Marble (the marble quarry is a bonus!) or McClure Pass. To stretch your legs a bit - there are some great hikes near Redstone where you'll be surrounded by Colorado's famous golden aspens!
For more Colorado love - click here to read why you should visit Colorado in the fall (besides for leaf peeping!). 🙂
Until the next adventure - bon voyage!