As the leaves begin to change and the air grows crisp, fall is my favorite time to escape the hustle and bustle of Denver and head out into nature. Fortunately, some incredible day trips from Denver offer stunning views of fall leaves and outdoor adventures. From scenic drives through the mountains to hiking trails surrounded by golden aspens, there are many ways to soak up the season’s beauty. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, photographer, or simply looking for a break from the city, these autumn escapes will surely leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. So grab your sweater and a pumpkin spice latte and get ready to experience the best of Colorado’s fall colors.
PEAK SEASON FOR COLORADO FALL FOLIAGE
Colorado’s fall colors generally occur between mid-September and late October. The peak time to see fall colors in Colorado can vary based on the location’s elevation. At higher elevations, such as above 9,000 feet, the change of colors usually occurs earlier in September due to shorter days and cooler temperatures. The peak time typically occurs in mid-elevations between 6,500 and 9,000 feet in mid to late September or early October. In lower elevations, under 6,500 feet, the colors usually peak in early to mid-October. However, weather and temperature variations can cause differences in peak times from year to year, so it’s always best to check local leaf trackers to see when the colors are most vibrant.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Peak Fall Colors: Late September to Early October
Rocky Mountain National Park offers spectacular views of fall foliage. Here are some of the best places to see fall colors inside the park:
Bear Lake Road
Here, you will witness various colors, including yellow, orange, and red, particularly in the groves of aspen trees.
Trail Ridge Road
The nation’s highest continuous paved road is an ideal place to spot fall colors. The panoramic views will leave you speechless.
This short hiking trail is surrounded by changing colors, including maple, aspen, and sumac.
The surrounding alpine tundra and aspen groves change to brilliant colors in the fall.
Peak Fall Colors: Late September through October
Georgetown, Colorado is the perfect destination for a fall foliage adventure. As summer fades away, the aspens of this quaint little town transform into a vibrant display of gold and oranges. Georgetown has many perfect spots where visitors can take a stroll, hike, or a scenic drive while surrounded by an array of colors.
Georgetown Loop Railroad
Riding the Georgetown Loop Railroad into the mountains provides an excellent view of the golden aspens.
Guanella Pass Scenic Byway
Driving the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway is an ideal way to experience the beauty of the Rocky Mountains without having to hike for miles. Hikers can choose from various trails at different difficulty levels along the route. The Abyss Lake Trail and Square Top Lakes Trail are popular options and offer panoramic views of the mountain landscape.
Kenosha Pass is the ultimate leaf-peeping destination, offering picturesque views of changing aspen groves on the mountain slopes. Try the Kenosha Pass Trail for a scenic hike, an out-and-back hike that winds through meadows and aspen trees. If you’re looking for something more challenging, take the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop, which traverses the rocky terrain of the Pike National Forest.
Silver Plume, Colorado is a hidden gem just a few miles from Georgetown. Some of the best places to take in the vibrant fall colors are the local cemetery and the Herman Gulch Trail. Other activities in Silver Plume include exploring the historic Main Street and visiting local shops and cafes.
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO
Peak Fall Foliage: Early October
Colorado Springs is another city great for leaf peeping near Denver. The town is situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, offering easy access to scenic driving routes and hiking trails that showcase the changing colors of the leaves.
North Cheyenne Cañon Park
North Cheyenne Cañon Park is a scenic canyon with towering rock formations and cascading waterfalls surrounded by gorgeous aspens, Gambel oak, and Ponderosa pines.
The Garden Of The Gods
The Garden of the Gods is famous for its red rock formations, which contrast beautifully with its abundant display of fall colors.
Pikes Peak Highway
The Pikes Peak Highway offers one of the most exquisite spots to witness fall colors. Visitors can enjoy scenic views, indulge in activities like hiking and biking, and see nature’s changing hues from high elevations. The highway spans over 19 miles and offers various spots for fall colors, including Crystal Reservoir Overlook, Glen Cove, and Top of the Peak.
DENVER METRO AREA
Peak Fall Foliage: October
The outskirts of Denver are more famous for the fall foliage, but you don’t have to leave the city to catch the end of the fall season in Northeast Colorado.
During fall, the canyon offers breathtaking views of autumn foliage with a mix of oranges, reds, and yellows. Visitors can immerse themselves in nature as they trek through miles of trails that follow the South Platte River. The park is also known for its abundant wildlife, including bighorn sheep, deer, and birds.
Visit City Park in Denver to enjoy fall colors with over 2,500 trees, including cottonwoods, elms, maples, and oaks. The park’s open spaces, ponds, and trails offer additional opportunities to witness nature’s seasonal splendor. It’s a convenient place to escape city life; you can take a leisurely walk or bike ride to enjoy the colorful scenery.
Cheesman Park is a popular spot for fall foliage enthusiasts due to its breathtaking natural beauty and urban charm. The park has many tree species, including cottonwoods, maples, and oaks, which turn into vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red. The park also offers stunning city views, which makes for a unique and picturesque autumn experience.
With abundant large, mature trees, Washington Park is a beautiful place in the fall and is conveniently located in central Denver. The park is easily accessible by public transportation or car. Visitors can stroll, bike, picnic, or sit on a bench to admire the beauty of the changing leaves. The park’s lakes provide stunning reflections of the foliage.
COLORADO STATE PARKS
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a great fall foliage destination for various reasons. The park offers a variety of experiences, from leisurely strolls to challenging hikes on over 35 miles of trails. Fly fishing for trout in the clear streams is also popular in the park. Addtionally, campers can enjoy the crisp, cool nights while cozying up around a campfire.
Eldorado Canyon State Park And Clear Creek
Eldorado Canyon State boasts breathtaking landscapes that showcase vibrant autumn leaves. The park also features scenic hiking trails, wildlife, and a beautiful river, adding to its picturesque charm.
Chatfield State Park
Chatfield State Park is located just Southwest of the Denver Metro Area, making it a convenient and accessible location for day trips amidst the golden aspens. Chatfield Lake is a beautiful centerpiece, providing a stunning backdrop of golden leaves. The park is excellent for hikers and bikers, camping, kayaking, fishing, and picnicking.
Mueller State Park
Mueller State Park is home to over 5,000 acres of aspen and conifer forests, making it a prime location for leaf-peeping in the fall. Mueller State Park is also known for its abundant wildlife, offering visitors the opportunity to see elk, mule deer, and black bears.
JEFFERSON COUNTY AND Small Towns on the FRONT RANGE
Coal Creek Canyon
Coal Creek Canyon is a fantastic fall destination due to its stunning nature views, outdoor activities, and quaint small-town charm. Visitors can enjoy scenic drives or hiking, all while taking in the gorgeous fall scenery. The area is also home to countless wildlife species, making it an ideal spot for nature enthusiasts. Additionally, the small towns in the area offer unique shops, cozy cafes, and local events that add to the area’s charm.
With its stunning autumn scenery, abundant outdoor activities, and vibrant cultural scene, Boulder is undoubtedly a great fall destination. Several fall events and festivals include the Boulder Mountain Handmade Festival and the Downtown Boulder Fall Festival. Foodies will love the range of seasonal produce at the local farmers’ markets and farm-to-table restaurants. For those looking for a slower pace, Boulder has numerous art galleries, museums, and cultural centers to explore.
Golden, Colorado is nestled in the foothills of the Rockies, providing a picturesque setting for autumn colors. Golden has numerous parks and trails, such as Clear Creek Trail and North Table Mountain Park. In addition to its natural beauty, Golden hosts several fall events, such as the Wild West Oktoberfest and Autumn Fest, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the season to the fullest.
Idaho Springs’ landscape transforms into a splendid burst of colors from mid-September through mid-October. Among the best hikes to admire the fall colors is the St. Mary’s Glacier Trail, a moderate hike leading you to one of Colorado’s most beautiful glacier lakes.
THE LOST CREEK WILDERNESS
Lost Creek Wilderness is a hidden gem in the Colorado Rockies that is particularly striking in the fall. Hikers can enjoy a variety of trails that showcase the fall colors, including the Goose Creek Trail and the Lost Park Trail. Visitors can also enjoy fishing opportunities or a picnic surrounded by the vibrant fall foliage.
MOUNT BLUE SKY AND ECHO LAKE PARK
Peak Fall Foliage: Mid-September To Early October
The Mount Blue Sky Byway, formerly Mount Evans, is a famous drive to capture the beauty of the fall foliage as the highway passes through the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests. The Mount Goliath Trail is a cherished hike known for its picturesque views of the silver fir and bristlecone pine groves.
Additionally, visitors can hike one of the many trails around the Mount Blue Sky Wilderness Area. The Echo Lake trail is a popular hike just outside the entrance of Mount Blue Sky and offers spectacular views of Echo Lake amidst a backdrop of golden aspen trees.
PEAK TO PEAK SCENIC AND HISTORIC BYWAY
Peak fall colors: late September and early October.
The Peak to Peak Scenic Byway is a great fall destination due to its breathtaking fall foliage, scenic mountain views, and abundant outdoor activities. The byway, which stretches for 55 miles through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, passes through charming mountain towns and offers multiple access points to hiking trails and recreation areas. Visitors can take in the stunning autumn colors of aspen and maple trees, view wildlife such as elk and moose, and explore historic sites like the mining town of Black Hawk.