NOTE: This post was updated October 2020 with the latest information. Before you go out, check the air quality from the Cameron Peak Fire and ensure you are practicing social distancing and following all CDC guidelines while on the trail or at a park.
Colorado has some of the densest aspen groves in the country and (not surprisingly) some of the most photographed landscapes and attractions in North America. If you already live in our beautiful state, you can probably step into your backyard or take a stroll down the street to find waves of gold, red and orange aspens in the fall. However, if you’re looking for a view that will take your breath away, we found the 12 best places in the state to view Colorado’s autumn aspens!
Photo courtesy of Walt Kaesler / NPS Photo
Trail Ridge Road was constructed in Rocky Mountain National Park in 1931. At the time, Director of National Parks Horace Albright said, “It is hard to describe what a sensation this new road is going to make. You will have the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions.” Not much has changed in the last 90 years, which makes this the perfect spot to view autumn aspen trees right here in Northern Colorado.
The driving trail covers the 48 miles through the park between Estes Park and Grand Lake. With 11 miles of the drive above the tree line, you can see the whole aspen-covered landscape for miles!
Colorado’s oldest scenic byway, Peak to Peak is a three-hour drive through some of the most historic and interesting sights in our state. Along the way, you’ll pass ghost towns Hesse and Apex, multiple mining areas, and acres of aspen stands.
Photos courtesy of Cary Ihme and Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon
In Golden, Colorado, Golden Gate Canyon offers fishing, hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, and just about any other outdoor recreation you can imagine. The canyon is also lined with aspen trees, and from Panorama Point Scenic Overlook, you can see over 100 miles of them along the Continental Divide. Mule Deer Loop is one hike in the area we suggest exploring as it leads right to the overlook, through Frazer Meadows, and along winding trails lined with aspen trees.
Photo courtesy of Travel Crested Butte
The drive over Kebler Pass — one of the most photographed areas in Colorado during fall — covers the 30 miles between Crested Butte and Highway 133. The road follows Coal Creek west from town and climbs to over 10,000 feet past the old Keystone Mine. It also passes through the once-booming mining towns of Irwin and Ruby, the lumber camp Telco, and coal mining town of Floresta. And if you’re visiting in the fall, you can admire the miles of aspen stands peeking out from between the evergreen trees.
Along the way, there are turnouts and trailheads for walking and photographing. Mt. Owen and Ruby Peak are some of our favorites, leading through greenery, golden aspens and gorgeous landscape.
photos courtesy of Chair Mountain Ranch
McClure Pass is nestled above Marble, Colorado, a charming mountain town of about 140 people just south of Glenwood Springs. One of the shorter trips on this list, this loop takes just 50 minutes and leads to spectacular views of not only the aspen trees, but the surrounding valley and mountains, including Chair Mountain, Mt. Daly and Ragged Peak.
While in the area, be sure to explore the town of Marble, where pure white marble has been mined for The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and national cemetery headstones. You can hike through the historic Quarry, itself nestled amongst aspen groves. From there, you can hike to the famous Crystal Mill — which you may recognize! Rumored to be the most photographed site in Colorado (and the third-most photographed in the nation), the mill is surrounded by aspens and is just below the town of Crystal, Colorado. The hiking or driving trail is just 10 miles and weaves through some of the thickest aspen groves we’ve ever seen!
Photo courtesy of Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad / Yvonne Lashmett
The San Juan Skyway weaves through the San Juan Mountains and travels through Durango, Silverton and Telluride — among others. While the whole trip takes about 7 hours, there are much shorter stretches you can cover while also having time to explore the mountain towns and various hiking trails throughout.
The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is one of these must-see stops. It connects the two towns, moving through beautiful fall colors and landscape along the way. It makes for an amazing day trip and the perfect opportunity to appreciate Colorado’s fall beauty!
Photo courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort / Brett Schreckengost
Telluride itself is a beautiful fall destination. The mountain town is filled with the golden trees and historic sights, but why not get above all of it? The Free Gondola carries visitors from Telluride to Mountain Village providing a 360-degree view of the San Juan Mountains and the amazing groves of transformed aspen trees in the fall. From the top, you can access hiking trails and explore the surrounding foliage close-up. The gondola closes temporarily mid-October until the holiday season, so get to Telluride and get above the trees!
Near Telluride, Lizard Head Pass stands at 10,222 feet of elevation in the San Juan Mountains, and is surrounded by fields of wildflowers and stands of aspen and fir trees. Lizard Head hiking trail is an 11-mile loop beginning and ending at the base of the mountain. It travels along the ridge of the adjacent Black Face Mountain, offering spectacular views of Lizard Head aspens in the distance and Black Face aspens up close.
Last Dollar Road weaves through a mountain valley with spectacular sights at every turn. Connecting Telluride and Ridgway, the views include Wilson Peak — made famous on the Coors logo — the historic ranch from the 1969 True Grit film, and some of the densest aspen groves in the state, especially at Dallas Divide.
Just west of Ridgway, this route is a popular biking destination. Thanks to the San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Plateau and dense aspen trees, it’s also one of the prettiest. Whether traveling by bike, foot or car, Dallas Divide has so much to offer those looking to take in fall’s beauty.
The Maroon Bells near Aspen are two 14,000-foot peaks towering above Maroon Lake. The lake mirrors the gorgeous gold aspens in the fall and the peaks — reputably the most photographed in North America. To enjoy the scenery to the fullest, grab your bike and hit the trail from Aspen to Maroon Lake as well! A local favorite, the trip is 16 miles roundtrip through spectacular autumn aspen trees.
Aspen Alley is a hiking and mountain biking trail in Breckenridge. Referred to as a roller coaster trail, bikers whip and weave through the dense aspen grove, surrounded by golds, oranges and reds in the fall. The trail was updated in 2015, making improvements for both bikers and hikers, so try it out this fall and share your photos of the colors!
In Routt National Forest near Steamboat Springs, Buffalo Pass is a 15-mile dirt road across the top of the Park Range of the Rockies. From 6,700 feet of elevation in Steamboat to 10,400 at Summit Lake Campground, you’ll pass numerous hiking trails, campgrounds and alpine lakes before arriving above tree line. We promise the trek will be worth it! From the top, you’ll find a 360-degree view of the aspen groves below.
Where do you go to see Colorado’s fall colors? Share your favorite spots in the comments below!
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