Colorado’s Rocky Mountains know how to put on a show, and there is no single spectacle more fawned over by nature lovers than the display of autumn colors happening right now.
It happens quickly: after days of idyllic warmth and sunshine, a single night of chilly weather and by sunrise — as if someone snapped their fingers — a majority of the aspens have started to shift from green to gold.
Three of the best places to witness this spectacle are Steamboat Springs, Vail and of course, the appropriately named town of Aspen. Since we know these communities so well, we thought we’d give you a quick preview of autumn travel highlights in each one. Pack your bags: it’s time to see some fall color.
Where to See Fall Color: Buffalo Pass Road
With its mixed woodlands and the massive cottonwood trees lining the Yampa River through town, Steamboat Springs is surrounded by fall color. But to encounter an overwhelming scene of golden beauty, head north of town 20 minutes to Buffalo Pass Road. Weaving its way through the forest, the road reveals one spectacular vista after another on its way to 10,300 feet. Evening light is best.
For More Fall Color: Mt. Werner
Take the gondola from the base of the ski area to the top of Mount Werner on weekends through the fall. From the top, you can enjoy the 180-degree view of the Yampa River Valley’s mosaic of fall color.
Best Fall Activity: Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Tucked away in the woods and straddling the line between rustic and luxurious, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs are at their best — in our opinion — during the fall. A crisp chill in the air and the scents of a changing forest makes these natural pools all the more cozy.
Where to Stay: One Steamboat Place Located Slopeside, you don’t have to travel far to take in the fall colors.
Where to See Fall Color: Booth Falls
The 3.9-mile trek to Booth Falls starts with a long, challenging, but doable climb through a thick stand of changing aspen trees. Eventually, you reach the upper valley where views extend back toward Vail Mountain over seemingly endless hues of green, gold and red. While the 60-foot falls have a lower volume of water in the fall, they are no less spectacular thanks to the colorful, autumnal surroundings.
For More Fall Color: Bike ride down Vail Pass
If you are staying at The Sebastian Vail, ask the concierge to help coordinate a bike rental and shuttle on Vail Pass. Starting at the 10,662-foot summit, a paved bike path descends 1,800 feet over 8.7 miles through scenic terrain back into town.
Best Fall Activity: Golfing
Golf in the Vail Valley is at its best in the fall, when the cooler temperatures and uncrowded fairways make playing a round of 18 holes ideal. Popular courses include Frost Creek Golf Club, the Sonnenalp Club and Red Sky Ranch.
Where to Stay: The Sebastian Vail – A Timber’s Resort
Recently ranked the No. 9 Resort Hotel in the West by the readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine, The Sebastian Vail is the perfect basecamp for all of your fall excursions in Vail.
Where to See Fall Color: Ashcroft & Castle Creek Road
Maroon Lake is undeniably the most popular spot in Colorado for fall color (and rightly so), but we love to take an early morning cruise up Castle Creek Road to the ghost town of Ashcroft. On either side of the valley from this abandoned but well-preserved silver mining town lie massive stands of aspen trees. Nearby is the Pine Creek Cookhouse, and the trail to Cathedral Lake.
For More Fall Color: Maroon Lake
Seeing Maroon Lake and the majestic twin peaks of the Maroon Bells in the distance — surrounded by tens of thousands of vibrant aspen trees in full autumn glory — is a sight everyone should see at least once. Learn more about the shuttle and parking policies in advance, as it does get crowded.
Best Fall Activity: Fly fishing on the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers
Two of Colorado’s best rivers for fly fishing are at their best in late September and early October, and it is not just because of the vivid display of cottonwood trees lining the banks. Sense the oncoming winter, rainbow and brown trout are in a hungry mood. And all anglers benefit for it. (Note: A fishing license from the State of Colorado is required).
Where to Stay: Dancing Bear Aspen - A Timbers Residence Club
Situated just a couple of blocks away from downtown Aspen’s shopping, and a few blocks away from the Silver Queen Gondola, Dancing Bear Aspen’s location couldn’t be any better. Learn more about fractional Ownership opportunities and schedule an appointment.