There's something really special about heading up to the Rocky Mountain region during the fall season. Leaves decorating the numerous mountains that make up the Continental Divide and other ranges in the area change colors, forming a flowing gradient of yellow, orange, and red from their original, luscious green color. But where are the best places to see fall colors in Colorado?
Colorado fall colors are unmatched during this time of year, making late September and early to mid-October ideal to visit the state. What makes witnessing these fall colors even better is how they complement the other natural features hikers normally come to see during other seasons. Hiking trails look even more incredible than they ever have before, as these fall colors line their paths to accompany those who are passing by.
So whether you're planning to make just a casual day trip to Colorado Springs or travel round trip to Breckenridge, check out our list of the best places to see fall colors in Colorado!
The 12 Best Places to See Fall Colors in Colorado
1. Kebler Pass
Located in Gunnison, Kebler Pass features the largest aspen grove in North America, making it a perfect place to catch the best fall foliage. And although you'll see more fall foliage on the Paonia side of the pass, Crested Butte (known as "Colorado's last great ski town) is also known for all its natural glory.
2. Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in North America, running from Estes Park through Rocky Mountain National Park. It winds high through the alpine countryside with more than eight miles at about 11,000 feet and a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet — Its high vantage point is a favored spot for photographers, as the fall colors fall down in splotches that fill the hillsides and the valleys. There are also plenty of things to do in the park nearby near Grand Lake.
3. The San Juan Skyway
The San Juan Skyway is an incredible 236-mile loop that runs through the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, where visitors can observe the breathtaking array of fall colors. The magnificent loop also contains a 70-mile stretch called the Million Dollar Highway, and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers rides that are perfect to relax on while embracing optimal gall foliage. You can also stay in the nearby towns of Durango, Telluride, Ouray, Silverton, or Ridgway.
4. Maroon Bells
The Maroon Bells are two iconic towering 14ers (14,000-foot mountains!) located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness on the 2.3-million acre White River National Forest. They are the most photographed peaks in North America, complemented with incredible views of golden aspen trees. Keep in mind, however, that in order to behold these breathtaking views, you'll have to make a reservation.
5. Buffalo Pass
Buffalo Pass is a dirt road that lies west of Steamboat Springs, lined by rows of bright aspen groves. It goes eight miles up towards the Continental Divide and Summit Lake, where you can intake all the views of the autumn foliage around. Relax in the two hot springs, Old Town and Strawberry Park, while bursts of yellow, red, and orange leaves accompany you.
6. La Veta Pass
Lying on U.S. Route 160, the La Veta Pass is considered one of the most scenic drives in all of Colorado. It peaks at an altitude of over 9,400 feet, holding crisp, golden aspen trees mixed in with dark green pines while the magnificent Spanish Peaks and Sangre de Cristo Mountains tower over the foliage that lies in San Luis Valley.
7. Telluride Free Gondola
As one of the most popular ways to see fall colors in Telluride, the Telluride Free Gondola offers spectacular aerial views of the town, its box canyon, and the aspens and evergreens that colorfully line the valleys. With several trailheads located within the area, you can hike to submerge yourself within all the fall colors you'll see on your path.
8. Dallas Divide
Taking Colorado Highway 62 over the Dallas Divide, visitors will get an incredible view of a few mountains. Starting on Ridgway, you can see Mount Sneffels, another 14er, along with the expansive Sneffels Wilderness Area, with options to venture out further if you end up hiking. The route eventually hits Highway 45 and Lizard Head Pass, where visitors can view Wilson Peak, the mountain that actually inspired the Coors beer logo.
9. Front Range Foliage
Peak to Peak highway is a scenic and historic byway starts in the city of Boulder and is also Colorado's oldest byway. It offers views of the Continental Divide and all the fall colors that dramatically explode within. The byway, although only less than 60 miles in length, has stop-worthy points along its route, including Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Arapaho National Forest, and Roosevelt National Forest.
10. Independence Pass
A seasonal shortcut to Aspen, Independence Pass is an improved road that lies behind the city of Cottonwood. It's the second highest pass, climbing 12,095 feet, with gorgeous vistas to behold around every turn. Passing through the tiny town of Twin Lakes, you'll also encounter two giant lakes and an old ghost town while intaking all the beautiful colors around. Note that this pass also generally closes in November.
11. Guanella Pass
Just 15 minutes from Kenosha Pass, Guanella Pass is full of fall foliage to observe on its hour long journey from 1-70 to US 285. Located in Georgetown, this pass is actually one of the closest and prettiest scenic drives near Denver, taking you right into the heart of all the autumn colors. But because of how beautiful and popular this drive is, it's also one of the tope three most crowded places to see fall foliage in Colorado.
12. Grand Mesa Byway
The Grand Mesa is a large, flat-top mountain that looks absolutely incredible in the fall. The Grand Mesa Byway is one of the most scenic byways on the Western Slope and rises to around 11,000 feet above sea level, taking visitors past pristine lakes and colorful forests. If you're planning an overnight stay, you can check out Mesa, a sleepy, mountain town just up north of the byway.
Have you ever explored Colorado during the fall season? Share your experience with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!