Best Places to See Fall Colors in Colorado – Drives and Hikes

Colorado is covered in gorgeous pine and evergreen trees. Green is the one color Colorado really has all year long. So when fall comes around, it’s really exciting to go find the best fall colors in Colorado. You do have to make a little effort sometimes to go find them. Here are a few awesome places to find some great changing colors in Colorado.

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Best Time to See Fall Colors in Colorado

There isn’t an exact time, but typically colors start to change in Colorado around mid-September.

They will change sooner high in the mountains, as we noticed when we were in Breckenridge in September they had already started changing when down near Denver they hadn’t.

Usually the end of September is a safe time to go leaf peeping!

Here are some of the best places to see fall colors in Colorado.

Aspen, Coloradofor Fall Colors in Colorado

Aspen is obviously covered in…Aspens! There are other tree varieties as well, making this charming mountain town a great stop to see the Colorado fall colors. One of the most colorful trails is the Tom Blake Trail in Snowmass. This trail has all the fall colors and is just gorgeous.

Another trail is the Maroon Bells Scenic Trail. With the most-photographed mountains as a focal point, you’ll also be surrounded by greens and yellows and a bit of red.

Hunter Creek Trail also is filled with color all along the mountainside. Read about more kid-friendly hikes in Aspen to see the colors!

fall colors in Snowmass

Tom Blake Trail in Snowmass

Guanella Passfor Fall Colors in Colorado

Guanella Pass (CO Road 62) runs from Georgetown to highway 285. This is one of the most spectacular displays of color change in the Denver vicinity. This pass will take you above 11,000 feet with views of Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans, in addition to the filled passageway of colorful trees. Allow about an hour to drive the 24 miles.

guanella pass from a drone above showing fall colors

Image by Intricate Explorer on Unsplash

Kenosha Pass for Fall Colors in Colorado

If you continue west on 285 (rather than turning onto CO Road 62/Guanella Pass toward Georgetown) you’ll also enjoy a beautiful landscape of colors down Kenosha Pass.

Driving through this pass will give you plenty of colors. But if you’d like to get out and get the kids moving, there’s plenty of hikes to explore as well.

A longer, though well marked and beautiful trail is the Kenosha Pass North trail. At just under 6 miles roundtrip, this trail gets very crowded especially in fall. It’s no secret that Kenosha Pass is a goldmine of gold leaves!

Vail, Colorado for Fall Colors in Colorado

Driving along I-70, you’ll witness a thick amount of changing trees on each side of the highway. Late September usually bring the brightest and the best. If you’re heading to the mountains in the fall, driving through the Vail area really adds an extra treat.

fall colors in Vail

Head into Vail for a few hikes that will take you up close to the fall colors. Booth Falls Trail is about 4 miles round trip, and runs along a mountainside full of trees. There’s a waterfall as well, though by fall it may not be very full.
But that’s ok, the point of this fall getaway is to experience the colors as you wander through groves of Aspens. This hike is rated moderate, so be sure to take the kids when they’re a little older or to carry them in a back pack carrier if they’re smaller.

For an easier, very kid-friendly trail in Vail, check out the Gore Creek Path, which will lead you along a creek and through the trees. This paved trail is under 2 miles (one-way). Though it’s near I-70, it gives beautiful views and a nice easy walk. Bonus: This path is stroller friendly! It’s mostly used for running, walking, and biking.

For incredible views of fall colors that the whole family can enjoy, take the gondola up to the top of the mountain. From above, you can enjoy the colors of the whole area, and the kids can relax!

Rocky Mountain National Parkfor Fall Colors in Colorado

Fall colors abound in Rocky Mountain National Park. This National Park can be accessed right in Estes Park, Colorado, about an hour-and-a-half from Denver. The Aspens at higher elevations will start changing in late August, and by mid-September the whole area is painted with color. An easy place to get out and hike is Bear Lake, which is under a mile all the way around. This beautiful lake is surrounded by trees. Plus, it’s a kid-friendly trail and even stroller-friendly.

You can also just drive through the park via Trail Ridge Road. There are plenty of colors along the roadside to enjoy for this long stretch during late September through mid October (note that you cannot drive the entire length of Trail Ridge Road past mid-October due to seasonal closure)

If the kids are up for a bit longer hike, try the Glacier Gorge loop. It’s about 6 miles of an easier trail, but bursting with color all around. With lakes, flowers, and waterfalls (though they may be a bit drier in fall), there is plenty of beautiful scenery to take in alongside the colors. Take a map, as parts of the trail aren’t well marked.

Check out other fun hikes to do with kids in Rocky Mountain National Park (East Side)

Golden Gate Canyon State Parkfor Fall Colors in Colorado

Just under an hour away from Denver is Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which really comes ablaze in the fall. Located in the city of Golden, it’s also golden in color when fall comes around.

Racoon Trail is rated a moderate trail, though it’s not super long. The loop is roughly 3.5 miles and takes you through changing Aspens from late September and into October. This beautiful trail gains a little over 700 feet in elevation. Make sure to bring the water and the camera.

For a shorter, easier, and very scenic trail, try Dude’s Fishing Hole. This half-mile (one-way) hike to a small pond will leave you with many colors of Aspens all around. Enjoy great views with little effort!

Road to Monarch Lake, Granby for Colorado Fall Colors

The whole town of Granby is full of color during fall.

We especially loved CO road 6, a dirt road that goes along the side of Lake Granby and all the way to Monarch Lake. The scenery is beautiful in-and-of itself as you drive along the coast of Lake Granby, but the colors are incredible in fall! I kept thinking I had the best photo, and yet kept getting the phone out to take just one more picture.

Fall colors in Granby, CO

The road to Monarch Lake is incredibly colorful!

Bonus: Once you arrive at Monarch Lake, hike a little while along the lake (head to the left first if you don’t want to do the whole 4 miles). The colors to the left of the lake are magical!

Perfect Fall Colors in Colorado

Those are some of the popular places to see fall colors in Colorado, and for good reason! Most places will be filled with golden Aspens, ready to welcome autumn. Go take a scenic fall drive and find those beautiful fall colors in Colorado.

Let us know in the comments what you found!

Check out the best places to see fall colors in the neighboring mountain states

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8 thoughts on “Best Places to See Fall Colors in Colorado – Drives and Hikes”

  1. We are always looking for new spots to chase fall colours. Good to know there are some spots in Colorado with so many pine and evergreen trees. I love that there are hiking paths to get you some great views for leaf peeping.

    • Some of the drives are beautiful, but Being willing to hike can really get you into some colorful spots! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. All those colours are amazing. We don’t really get autumn colours where I live as we really only have two seasons.

    I’d love to hike in Colorado one day.

  3. These all sound amazing! Fall is such a gorgeous time of year, and I love seeing the beautiful colors. I would like to visit all of these, but I think Rocky Mountain National Forest is the top of my list!

  4. Yes, I love the Maroon Bells! I just visited for the first time a few weeks ago and everything was covered in snow. I can’t wait to go back next fall and actually catch the colors!

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