Fall is officially here! Here's a complete guide for great spots to see fall colors in Colorado.
When do the colors peak?
Here are the average dates for peak fall color viewing here in Colorado. You might have noticed, but some of the trees up in the mountains are already starting to change color.
According to Dr. Dan West, entomologist for the Colorado State Forest Service, stress from this year's drought will likely lead to most of the leaves changing a few days to maybe a week earlier than normal.
Our suggestion would be to target the earlier dates for each region on the map above. The second, third, and fourth weeks of September will still probably be the best times to drive out for fall colors.
Fall Color Drives - Where should you go?
We've put together a list of popular fall color drives across Colorado!
Use our interactive map above and scroll through the story below for more pictures and information on each location.
Southern Colorado Drives - Mueller State Park
If you're looking for a great spot to picnic, hike, and see fall colors, drive over to Mueller State Park!
With over 5,000 acres to explore, you'll see tons of yellow aspen trees, the west face of Pikes Peak, and hike-able scenic overlooks.
The park is located a few miles south of Divide on Highway 67 in Teller County.
Southern Colorado Drives - Highway 67 from Divide to Cripple Creek
One of the best short drives for fall colors from Colorado Springs is on Highway 67 from Divide to Cripple Creek!
You'll see tons of yellow Aspen and Cottonwood trees as you follow the highway south through the hills.
There are several pull-off spots along the highway to snap a picture, and you can grab lunch or place a bet in Cripple Creek before you head home!
Southern Colorado Drives - Quail Lake
This is about the shortest and easiest drive you're going to get for fall foliage in southern Colorado. Quail Lake is located a few miles south of downtown and is surrounded by beautiful yellow and orange trees.
Quail Lake has a fantastic view of the southern edge of the Front Range leading right into Cheyenne Mountain. You can kayak, picnic, or simply take a walk on the nearly mile-long trail surrounding the lake.
The best view is along the waterfront on the east side of the lake.
Southern Colorado Drives - Gold Camp Road
You better have the right vehicle for this one. Formerly a railroad line from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek, Gold Camp Road is now a free public road popular with bikers and hikers.
The road is very steep, rugged, and windy, but features several great views of Aspen and Cottonwood trees. The easiest way to get there is to drive through Cheyenne Canyon and follow the paved road until it turns into Gold Camp Road.
A word of caution, Gold Camp is a ROUGH road with steep grades, so a 4-wheel-drive vehicle with good brakes is highly recommended.
Southern Colorado Drives - Highway 165 from Rye to San Isabel
A longtime favorite of lead forecaster Mike Daniels, this beautiful drive is great for those who live in Pueblo!
You'll see lots of aspen trees as you drive through the Wet Mountains, with plenty more fall colors around San Isabel Lake.
To get there, just navigate your GPS to Rye, and follow Highway 165 all the way to San Isabel. If you have the time, keep driving about ten minutes west of San Isabel and explore Bishop Castle!
If you've driven out to Breckenridge or Buena Vista from Colorado Springs, you should know Wilkerson Pass well. The pass is a short, easy, and scenic drive about an hour west of Colorado Springs.
From the top of Wilkerson Pass, you'll get a beautiful, sweeping view of Park County. The mountains you'll see in the distance are part of the Sawatch and Mosquito range.
Our advice would be to park at the Wilkerson Pass Visitor Center and simply explore the area, especially southwest of the visitor center.
Southern Colorado Drives - Cucharas Pass
If your schedule in September was packed and you missed a lot of the peak fall colors, drive south and give Cucharas Pass a shot!
The pass is located south of La Veta and usually peaks in late September to early October.
Cucharas Pass is not heavily traveled and gives you a beautiful view of the Spanish Peaks to the east, and the towering spines of the Sangre De Cristos to your west. The road is paved and pretty easy to drive for most vehicles.
The Maroon Bells might be the top leaf-peeping spot in all of Colorado. Often regarded as the most photographed place in Colorado, the bells sit in front of a valley covered in aspen trees surrounding Maroon Lake.
Our advice is to do your research before visiting the bells (what you need to know). Due to COVID, reservations are required this year to see the bells by both shuttle and personal vehicles.
Try to avoid going on Saturdays, and if you want to use your own car, just navigate your GPS to the Maroon Lake Trailhead. The parking lot is often very full, especially on weekends.
Crystal Mill is an old power station built back in 1893 located about 5.5 miles east of Marble. The mill sits on an outcrop above the Crystal River and has not been in use since 1917 when the Sheep Mountain Mine closed.
Crystal Mill is only accessible in the fall and summer by a rough, one-lane highway.
High clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended, but the mill can also be reached by foot, mountain bike, or guided jeep tour. Click here for more information on Crystal Mill.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Not only is it one of the most popular national parks in the entire country, but Rocky Mountain National Park also boasts amazing fall color views!
You'll see yellow aspens and fall foliage pretty much anywhere in the park, but we recommend Trail Ridge Road, Glacier George Trail, Bear Lake Road, and Grand Lake in particular.
Due to COVID and the Cameron Peak Fire, reservations are required to enter the park, and some campsites and trail systems are closed. Click here to plan your trip to the park.
Ready for a long road trip? If you're going west near Ridgway and Telluride, you should take a drive over the Dallas Divide!
The Dallas Divide is a mountain pass about 12 miles west of Ridgway. This pass is absolutely beautiful with scenic views of the rugged San Juan Mountains and tons of bright yellow aspen trees.
The road is paved and not very steep. It is an easy drive for all vehicle types.
Cottonwood Pass, Colorado's highest paved mountain pass (12,126 feet at the summit), is located just west of Buena Vista.
The pass is filled with tons of aspen and cottonwood groves and will give you a nice mix of yellow, red, and orange fall colors. Drive up and down the Buena Vista side for the best fall foliage pictures.
The road heads over the Continental Divide and spits out at the tiny town of Almont near Crested Butte. Cottonwood Pass was recently paved and is an easy drive for any car, only getting steep near the summit.
St. Elmo Ghost Town
St. Elmo and Cottonwood Pass make an excellent two-part leaf-peeping trip if you have a full afternoon! St. Elmo is one of the best-preserved and easily accessible ghost towns in Colorado.
At its peak, the town had around 2,000 residents drawn in for gold and silver mining. Now only about 43 old and tattered buildings remain. You can still buy souvenirs and snacks at the general store, which is only open seasonally.
The ghost town is located about 11 miles west of Mt. Princeton Hot Springs on an easily accessible road to most vehicles. St. Elmo and Cottonwood Pass are only about one hour apart.
Kebler Pass is considered one of the best places in Colorado to see fall colors. Not only is it home to Colorado's biggest aspen grove, but it's also one of the largest in the entire country!
The easiest way to get to Kebler Pass is to drive to Crested Butte, and then take CO 12 west. CO 12 turns into Kebler Pass. Some of the road is paved, but there are large stretches where pavement turns to dirt or gravel.
The pass summits at 10,007 feet, and despite the stretches of dirt/gravel, it's easy enough to drive for most vehicles.
If you're already driving Kebler Pass, you might as well swing south to Ohio Pass!
Ohio Pass is known for having tons of aspen groves, and a unique rock feature called The Castles! The Castles, pictured above by Tom Kackley, is a unique rock formation with distinct, sharp towers.
To get to Ohio Pass, just turn south off of Kebler Pass onto CO 730 and follow it south. The pass is a dirt road and a bit more rugged than Kebler Pass, so a 4x4 vehicle is recommended.
Boreas Pass is great if you're in the mood for a quick getaway to Breckenridge!
Once a gold mine route to Breckenridge, Boreas Pass was turned from a railroad route into a mountain pass in 1952. Boreas Pass will give you plenty of mountain views with dense yellow, orange, and red fall color clusters.
The pass is about 22 miles long, summits at 11,481 feet, and takes about an hour to drive. The gravel/dirt pass is smooth enough for most 2WD cars, but it does get bumpy in a few spots.
Kenosha Pass is probably the closest mountain leaf-peeping getaway for anyone who lives in Denver.
Located about an hour south of Denver along Highway 285, the pass is easily accessible by all cars and boasts beautiful views of golden Aspen trees.
If you have the time, we highly recommend making this and Boreas Pass a double feature, as you can follow Highway 285 down to Como and take Boreas Pass right into Breckenridge.
Last Dollar Road
Last Dollar Road is a legendary fall color destination near Telluride.
Tucked away in the beautiful San Juan mountains between Ridgway and Telluride, Last Dollar Road is one of Colorado's most scenic fall color drives. The road actually has a little fame, as it was the shooting location for the opening and closing shots of John Wayne's film "True Grit".
Last Dollar Road is roughly a 2 to 3-hour drive and only requires slight off-roading by 4x4 vehicles.
If you're driving out to Telluride, you might as well stop and see some fall colors at Ridgway!
The two photos above were taken by Lars Leber Photography on random county roads outside of Ridgway. It's a great spot to fuel up and grab food before you continue your journey to Telluride or Ouray.
We recommend just exploring around the area. Try looking for colors at Ridgway State Park or drive down county roads east and south of town.
Twin Lakes is a legendary camping spot just north of the collegiate peaks outside of Buena Vista! It's right at the base of Mount Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado.
There are tons of aspen groves on the mountains surrounding the lake, but you'll also see red and orange leaves speckled throughout. Twin Lakes is home to a semi-ghost town and all the old, dilapidated buildings make unique framing for the surrounding fall colors.
A really great weekend trip would be to take Independence Pass, which is just 20 minutes west of the lakes, all the way down into Aspen.
If you're going to drive to Aspen, why not get there in style!
Independence Pass is the second-highest paved mountain pass (12,095 feet at the summit) that connects Twin Lakes to Aspen. Despite being paved, the pass is long, curvy, and steep at times with two VERY narrow sections near the end of the west side.
The whole pass has amazing mountain views, but the best aspen colors are on the west side of the pass. If you have a little time, stop see the famous cliff jumping spot, The Devils Punchbowl!
Guanella Pass makes a great daytime from Denver, especially if you want to explore Georgetown!
The pass climbs to 11,669 feet in 12 miles and is surrounded by aspen trees for most of the drive. The trail to Mount Bierstadt, considered one of the easiest 14ers to climb in Colorado, is accessible from the summit of Guanella Pass.
The pass is fairly easy to drive for all vehicle types and takes about an hour to drive. If you have extra time, book a ticket on the famous Georgetown Loop Railroad!
Owl Creek Pass
Owl Creek Pass is a gorgeous mountain pass located about 50 minutes east of Ridgway.
The pass is a stunning drive through the San Juan mountains filled with Aspen trees and unique rock structures. Several scenes from John Wayne's "True Grit" were shot in this mountain pass, including the famous face down with Robert Duval.
Owl Creek Pass is fairly accessible to all vehicle types, but as with most mountain passes around the San Juans, a higher profile 4x4 vehicle is recommended.
Red Mountain Pass
Red Mountain Pass is an amazing section of the Million Dollar Highway in southwest Colorado!
The pass is dangerous and intimidating, but brave and careful drivers are rewarded with amazing mountain and fall color views at the summit.
Driving to and from Red Mountain Pass contains stretches of road with steep cliffs, sharp turns, and 8% grades. Take your time, and pay strict attention to the road.
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Timing when and where to see Colorado's fall colors takes both science and finesse. How do you know when it's time to go? In general, September and early October mark when stands at higher elevation (and those that are farther north) will show colors.Are the leaves changing colors in Colorado yet? ›
By the end of September, northern Colorado should see changing leaves, then early October for central Colorado and mid to late October for the southern portion of the state. The 2022 fall foliage prediction map predicts similar peak colors.Where is the best place to see the aspens in Colorado? ›
Gunnison is home to Kebler Pass, which boasts the largest aspen grove in North America and is one of renowned photographer John Fielder's favorite places.Where are fall colors peaking in Colorado? ›
Typically, colors peak in the Colorado's northern mountains throughout the month of September.Where is the best place to see leaves change? ›
Classic leafy views in Maine, New Hampshire, and New York are always a great go-to, but you can also find amazing leaf-changing action in states like Georgia and New Mexico. Oak, ash, maple, and hickory trees transform before your very eyes all over the United States. And every landscape looks like a perfect postcard.When should I watch the leaves change? ›
When do Fall Leaves Change Color. Leaves can change their color from as early as mid-September all the way through early November. Typically, the second and third week of October are the peak times, but it shifts depending on where you live and your local weather conditions.Are aspen trees changing colors Colorado? ›
When Do the Aspens Change in Colorado? The peak color of changing aspens only lasts for about a week in Colorado. However, the shoulder weeks bring to the state about a month of golds, greens, oranges, and reds from mid-September to mid-October.What month is fall the prettiest? ›
As stated above, typically fall foliage peaks along the northern tier of the country, as well as northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, in early October. In the Midwest, Northeast and the rest of New England, fall foliage season usually peaks in mid-to-late October.What is the prettiest tree in the fall? ›
- VINE MAPLE (Acer circinatum) ...
- FRANKLIN TREE (Franklinia alatamaha) ...
- WASHINGTON HAWTHORN (Crataegus phaenopyrum) ...
- APPLE SERVICEBERRY (Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance') ...
- RED OAK (Quercus rubra) ...
- QUAKING ASPEN (Populus tremuloides) ...
- DOGWOOD (Cornus florida) ...
- SASSAFRAS (Sassafras albidum)
Alaska has the earliest leaf change out of all the states. Many forests are evergreen which do not change, but many of the wildlands turn orange and red in September. Coastal areas toward the south see peak colors in early October.
The best time to visit Aspen is from December to February. The town sparkles when it's buried under fresh powder, and its slopes are ready to be taken by storm. Keep in mind that this is the most popular time to visit, so prices will likely be elevated, but you can find some deals if you plan a few months in advance.Is it worth visiting aspen in October? ›
Good choice! Autumn in Aspen is inspiring! The vivid fall foliage set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and bluebird skies is truly a sight to behold. Cooler temperatures, dwindling crowds, and lower lodging rates make September and October very special times to experience this mountain town.Where is the largest stand of aspen trees? ›
In a high mountain basin in central Utah stands the world's largest tree, Pando, a quaking aspen clone that spans 106-acres and is made up of over 40,000 genetically identical branches (aka “stems”).What is out of style for fall 2022? ›
CLOTHES OUT OF STYLE 2022
High waisted jeans, high waisted pants, high waist tennis skirts, skater skirts, knit pants, skinny jeans, hoodie sets, short blazers, leggings, fur coats, cropped leather jacket, A-style mini dresses, and cold shoulders are some of the favourite clothes out of fashion for fall 2022.
- Wider, looser jeans.
- Loafers with attitude.
- A wear-with-boots dress.
- A leather or suede skirt.
- A blue sweater.
- A chic shirt-jacket.
- A leggings replacement.
- Real pants.
According to fashion's top designers, we're in for a very regal 2022. Just look at the color palette! Royal purple, jewel-tone teal, and burning red are all trending hues incorporated on the Fall/Winter 2022 runways, each with its glamorous style.Is Estes Park Good for fall colors? ›
Whether you visit during peak leaf-peeping season or not (usually late September, depending on the year), fall is a beautiful time of year to visit Estes Park. You'll see bright yellows and oranges throughout town, on the trails at Rocky Mountain National Park, or along the Peak-to-Peak Highway.
When does fall officially begin? Astronomical fall began at 9:04 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 22, 2022, in the Northern Hemisphere, according to AccuWeather. This time also marks the beginning of spring the Southern Hemisphere.What is Colorado like in late October? ›
October weather in Colorado is beautifully clear and dry with occasional rain and snow. Average high temperatures tend to be in the low 70's°F (21°C) and average low temperatures hover around 45°F (7°C). You'll typically see the highest temps in the afternoon with the nights always cooling off throughout your trip.What state has the longest fall season? ›
Vermont's fall foliage season is the longest in the United States, starting in early September and ending around late October.
- Asheville, NC.
- Zion National Park.
- Grand Canyon.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Acadia National Park.
Areas where warm temperatures persist can see fall colors arrive later than normal, especially if they've had near-average amounts of rainfall. And right now, the U.S. is coming off its third-hottest summer on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Dry conditions are another factor.Is it better to pick up leaves or leave them? ›
Although people often rake and bag leaves to prevent their lawns from being smothered and to make yards look better, in most cases, you're fine not moving them. In fact, many environmental experts say raking leaves and removing them from your property is not only bad for your lawn but for the environment as a well.What happens if you don't clean the leaves? ›
Excessive leaf matter on your lawn going into winter is bad for several reasons. First, it will smother the grass and if not removed very soon in the spring it will inhibit growth. Second, it can promote the snow mold diseases. And finally, turf damage from critters (voles, mice) can be more extensive in the spring.What is killing the aspens in Colorado? ›
Forest tent caterpillars and large aspen tortrix eat aspen leaves, and periodic outbreaks may defoliate entire aspen canopies in early summer (Figure 2). Aspen trees commonly live for more than 100 years, with the oldest trees reaching 200 or more years.How do I know if I have an aspen or birch? ›
Birch are famous for having bark that peels back like paper; aspen bark does not peel. Whereas aspen leaves are perfectly flat, birch leaves are slightly "V" shaped and more elongated than Quaking Aspen leaves.How long do aspens stay yellow in Colorado? ›
Starting in mid-September, expect to see aspens turning gold at elevations from 8,000 to 10,000 above sea level. Later in the season in October to mid-November, you can see spectacular color down in the foothills and along the plains in Denver.Where is the best fall foliage in October? ›
- Green Mountain Byway, Vermont.
- Gatlinburg & Smoky Mountains, Tennessee.
- Poconos, Pennsylvania.
- Taos, New Mexico.
- Ozark Mountains, Arkansas.
- Brooklyn Botanical Garden, New York.
- Cape Cod & Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
- Napa Valley, California.
Red maple is one of the best named of all trees, featuring something red in each of the seasons—buds in winter, flowers in spring, leafstalks in summer, and brilliant foliage in autumn.What trees turn gold in fall? ›
Most tree-lovers would likely agree that the most spectacular yellow fall colour in a large tree comes from the ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Given that the tree is dioecious and the female produces smelly fruit, most nurseries sell only male forms. To see a tall, old ginkgo in full autumn regalia is simply breathtaking…. ….
What's great about the Purple Autumn Ash? The tiny dark green leaves turn to become a unique shade of dark purple! This color is quite rare among all trees, and especially unique as an autumn color.How much does an Aspen trip cost? ›
The average price of a 7-day trip to Aspen is $3,246 for a solo traveler, $5,830 for a couple, and $10,929 for a family of 4. Aspen hotels range from $97 to $417 per night with an average of $203, while most vacation rentals will cost $300 to $1000 per night for the entire home.How many days is enough for Aspen? ›
One week in Aspen feels like the most ideal amount of time (at a minimum) if you want to indulge in the many different activities Aspen has to offer.How do I not look like a tourist in Aspen? ›
DON'T BE A GAPER
Clunking around in ski boots during après, donning a backpack on the hill, wearing a bright-colored one-piece ski suit, and tucking on a catwalk while sticking your poles under your arms and straight up in the air like you medaled in Sochi—these are classic tourist signals.
If you prefer quiet and less crowded vacations, Aspen is the right place for you. However, if you love a more party-like atmosphere, Vail is the ultimate destination. Choosing between Aspen and Vail according to their crowds depends totally on your nature and what you personally prefer.Is Vail or Aspen better to visit? ›
Vail has one large mountain while Aspen has four smaller mountains. Vail is unique because of its back bowls, a seven-mile-wide ski slope. If you love untamed skiing, this is a great opportunity. Aspen gives you the choice of four different mountains, and each offers something different.Is it better to visit Aspen or Denver? ›
Most people prefer Aspen for its Maroon Bells and skiing trails, while Denver has a better variety of recreational spots. Regardless of whichever destination you choose, make sure to choose Blue Sky Limo for your shuttle service from DIA to Aspen.Which state has the most aspen trees? ›
Colorado. That's because we have more aspen trees in thicker concentrations than anywhere else in the U.S., from 5,000 feet in elevation where desert meets foothills to 12,000 feet above sea level, high in the mountains.What is a group of aspens called? ›
Aspens grow in groups called stands, and within these stands, a single tree will spread by sprouting new stems from its roots, often several feet from the original trunk.Is aspen stronger than oak? ›
Yes, Aspen wood is a hardwood. But it is not hard as Oak, Maple, and Cherry woods. Aspen wood has a hardness rating of 420 lbf (1,868 N) which is relatively lower than most hardwoods.
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Generally speaking, anything above 8,500 feet will be the first to change, usually in mid-September. Trees below that elevation will take an extra few weeks to get their colors around early October and fade in early November.What are the fall months in Colorado? ›
Fall in Colorado typically runs in September and early October above 8,500 feet in elevation (that is, in the mountains), and from late September to early November below 8,500 feet.Is October a good month to visit Colorado? ›
In general, the best time to visit Colorado is June through October, when visitors can enjoy Colorado's scenery with hiking trails, water sports, and drives through high-elevation mountain passes. Although lower elevations can get hot in summer, you can always escape to the mountains to cool off on sweltering days.Where are the fall colors in Colorado in October? ›
MID-SEPTEMBER TO EARLY OCTOBER ABOVE 9,500 FEET
There are aspen groves at all elevations along the trail, offering a good chance of seeing color somewhere on the mountainsides. Rocky Mountain National Park , about one hour and thirty minutes from Denver, has many groves of high aspens around Bear Lake.
When does fall officially begin? Astronomical fall began at 9:04 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 22, 2022, in the Northern Hemisphere, according to AccuWeather. This time also marks the beginning of spring the Southern Hemisphere.What state has the longest fall foliage season? ›
Connecticut boasts the longest-lasting fall foliage season.
Connecticut may be the third-smallest state in the US by square miles, but it's the state with the longest-lasting fall foliage season, making for captivating views at just about every corner.
October weather in Colorado is beautifully clear and dry with occasional rain and snow. Average high temperatures tend to be in the low 70's°F (21°C) and average low temperatures hover around 45°F (7°C). You'll typically see the highest temps in the afternoon with the nights always cooling off throughout your trip.How often does it snow in October in Colorado? ›
In fact, Centennial State has ranked the 7th snowiest state in the US. As far as when it snows here, it can occur in any given month, however, snow is more likely to be seen from October through April. When and how much it snows in Colorado depends greatly on location.
The month where Denver historically sees the most snowfall is March with an average of 11.3 inches. This is by far the snowiest month on average with April's average still a few inches behind. April brings 8.8 inches of snow to Denver and December comes in third with an average of about 8 inches.What is the cheapest month to go to Colorado? ›
Cheapest Time to Visit Colorado
If you're sticking to a strict budget, you should go during the “shoulder seasons” between peak tourism seasons. The cheapest time to visit Colorado is usually late spring (April to May) and early fall (September to October).
Southern Colorado, such as Pueblo, the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains, and the Four Corners Region typically see peak fall colors in early October. So if you're after colorful displays of changing leaves, be sure to head to the southern part of the state.What should I pack for a trip to Colorado in October? ›
- Boots. Hiking boots, riding boots, rain boots, cute boots… ...
- A Fleece or Jacket. You are going to want a warmer layer. ...
- Rain Jacket. ...
- Warm Accessories. ...
- Camera. ...
- Sunglasses. ...
- A Good Book.
Seasons change from year to year, but generally peak aspen viewing is mid- to late September for the northern mountains, the third week of September into second week of October for the central mountains and late September to mid-October for the southern mountains.How cold is Colorado in mid October? ›
THE MONTH STARTS WITH A NORMAL HIGH OF 72 DEGREES AND ENDS WITH A NORMAL HIGH OF 59 DEGREES. FOR LOW TEMPERATURES, THE MONTH BEGINS WITH A NORMAL OF 42 DEGREES AND TRENDS BELOW THE FREEZING MARK TO FINISH WITH A NORMAL OF 31.Is late October a good time to visit Denver? ›
If you have the opportunity to travel in the fall, September and October are two of the best months to head to Denver. In the mountains, the aspens start changing to gold which is a wonderful day drive. The temps drop just a bit making it so easy to bike around town. And the city celebrates all things food and beer.