When people imagine the leaves changing color in the fall, they most often picture New England or the Appalachian Mountains, known for their extensive forests and brilliant foliage. But when it comes to viewing the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of the changing leaves, Colorado stands out as a place of exceptional beauty.
Along with Utah, Colorado has the most aspen trees in the United States — making it a standout for the unique golden hue of the aspen leaves in the fall. In addition, the state has five different climate zones just within a few hours of its capital, Denver, adding to its appeal as a diverse state where forests in the fall can take many different shapes and sizes (and colors).
This also means that Colorado fall foliage can be viewed for much longer than in other areas — though the ideal time is from mid-September to mid-October. However, trees will lose their leaves faster in mountainous areas than in Denver, for example, so don’t wait until Denver trees are perfectly golden to check out trees in other regions — chances are they’ll already be bare.
Some regions in Colorado in particular draw more visitors to view foliage in the fall than others. Kebler Pass, Buffalo Pass and La Veta Pass are all popular areas where Colorado’s vibrant colors are on full display, as well as places where visitors can experience gorgeous mountain scenery and a variety of fall activities.
On the Western Slope, Grand Mesa — the world’s largest flat top mountain and Colorado Wine Country allure with unique offerings, while the Maroon Bells — two 14,000-foot mountains that are the most photographed peaks in North America — offer hiking trails that are accessible by car and even by bus.
Colorado is also full of scenic drives, and these can become even more spectacular in the fall when the roadsides are lined with trees of shimmering gold. The San Juan Skyway, already popular for its 70-mile stretch known as the “Million Dollar Highway,” lights up in the fall as the leaves change color. You can also experience the fall colors by rail through the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, or by zip lining through the aspens.
Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in North America, winds through Rocky Mountain National Park and is a favorite for photographers. And the Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway, which was established in 1918 and is Colorado’s oldest byway, takes in views of the Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain National Park, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.
South of Denver and just 18 miles away from Colorado Springs, the city of Woodland Park provides another great base for viewing fall foliage, as the views of Pikes Peak and the Rampart Range add a scenic backdrop to the aspens of Pike National Forest. The Pikes Peak region is known as a hotspot for fall colors, and numerous state parks as well as reservoirs and national monuments provide hiking trails and scenic byways for experiencing the season.
Rainbow Gulch, a 2.6-mile out-and-back trail follows the path of a stream near Woodland Park, and in the process it boasts of some of the best aspen groves that you can find in the Pike National Forest. Other trails include The Crags about an hour away from Colorado Springs and the Seven Bridges Trail just past Helen Hunt Falls are also popular destinations.
When deciding where to stay in the region, Bristlecone Lodge in Woodland Park provides comfortable accommodations in a rustic atmosphere to perfectly complement your fall stay. Centrally located in the center of the city but a short drive away from Pikes Peak and numerous wilderness areas, the lodge is the ideal location from which to explore the various routes and locations for viewing fall foliage listed above.
The Lodge itself has a wood-burning stove, vintage dining tables, comfortable couches and a full kitchen. You can also rent a cabin or camp out in the lodge’s RV park if you’re interested in different types of accommodation. However you plan your stay, the Bristlecone Lodge will make sure you get the most of your time in Colorado’s fall season.
So what are you waiting for? Get your hiking boots on, fill up the gas tank in your car and plan your stay in Colorado today. Then, all you need to do is sit back and let the leaves on the trees change color.