Colorado Fall Color: Best Hikes For Every Desire

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Find a hike on the map.

Fall has the most incredible colors for hiking. And Colorado has Aspens everywhere!

Check out this guide to fall hiking and enjoy some of the awesomeness Colorado has to offer!




Whether it’s by foot, by car or with a frosty beverage of some kind, whether you’re deep in the woods or just a hop, skip and a jump from Denver, there are all manner of great ways to see the autumn colors in Colorado this year.

It’s one of our favorite times of year, and we want to help you enjoy it!

We have put together a list of a few great ways you can get out and check out the state’s changing colors and fall foliage.

First up, here’s a look at 20 great fall color hikes, with descriptions courtesy of  Denver meteorologist Chris Tomer and Digital Content Editor Will Holden. An avid mountaineer, Tomer gives you a look at 10 hikes that are off the beaten path, while Holden, a weekend warrior at best, gives you a look at 10 approachable hikes, most of which are near the state’s biggest population bases.

For your reference on the interactive map, the “off the  beaten path” trails have been marked with a green hiker while the “approachable” hikes have been marked with a purple camera.

Screenshot 2015-09-29 09.30.52

Off the beaten path: Cathedral Lake Trail

This is a stunning hike near Aspen with plenty of colorful aspen trees. It’s roughly seven miles roundtrip and the lake sits at the base of Cathedral Peak. On a calm day the lake takes on a glass-like appearance and is a beautiful green/blue color.

Off the beaten path: West Snowmass Trail

Before the newer Capitol Creek Trailhead was developed, this was the standard route up Capitol Peak.  This trail branches off from the popular Snowmass Trailhead and offers solitude and incredibly dense pockets of Aspen trees. You can wander as far up this trail as you like.

Off the beaten path: Lead King Loop

One of my favorite places in Colorado. It’s a huge  loop that starts near the town of Marble. The amount and placement of Aspen trees will blow you away along with the world famous Marble Mill.

Off the beaten path: Triangle Pass

A stunning all-day hike near the Conundrum Hot Springs. The vista from the top allows you to see the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak, Conundrum and Castle Peaks. There are more Aspen trees than one can count on the way up to this Pass.

Off the beaten path: McCullough Gulch

This is the closest Fall Color hike to Denver among our 10 tougher hikes. It’s really colorful and offers some great views of Quandary Peak’s northeast slopes and Inwood Arete.

Off the beaten path: Steamboat Lake Loop

A real stunner. Huge pockets of colorful Aspen trees line Steamboat Lake. There are no bad photos. And you can find lots of easier hiking trails that circumnavigate the lake.

Off the beaten path: Steamboat Mountain Thunderhead Trail

A classic. This strenuous hike climbs Steamboat Ski Mountain while giving you amazing views of the entire Steamboat Valley. You can see all the way to the Flat Tops. Aspen trees are everywhere.

Off the beaten path: Holy Cross Wilderness

The 14er Holy Cross is a world icon and the wilderness contains big pockets of Aspen trees. Bright golden aspen trees remain through early October in this area. Just hike in as far as you want.

Off the beaten path: Grizzly Peak “A” via McNasser Gulch

This is the highest 13er in Colorado, but it’s the approach to the peak that interests me. There are fiery Aspen trees everywhere.

Off the beaten path: Big South Trail, Poudre Canyon

Though the complete trail isn’t massively challenging, it’s a solid 20 miles roundtrip. You’re accompanied by the Poudre River and aspen groves for the length of it, making it one of the best places to see fall colors in northern Colorado.

Approachable: Devils Head Lookout Trail

The gorgeous fire lookout at the top of this three mile out-and-back affords 360-degree views of the changing fall colors below. And it’s less than 45 miles south of Denver.

Approachable: Denny Creek Trail

This trailhead is an easy drive from Buena Vista in the heart of the Sawatch Range, a hotbed for fall color, and the amount of aspen groves leading up to about 12,000 feet is significant. Take in the views near the “Closed for Restoration” sign, head back and you’ve got yourself a 4-5 mile roundtrip hike.

Approachable: Cub Lake Trail

Loaded with ferns, aspen groves and beaver damns along the Big Thompson River, the Cub Lake Trail is one of the most popular fall color hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Just make sure you get on it early before everyone else does.

Approachable: Catamount Open Space

Just 25 miles northwest of Colorado Springs with a trail network that provides moderate and easy hikes, this area not only provide great views on foot, but equally-great views on the drive up Edlowe Road.

Approachable: Elk Falls Overlook, Staunton State Park

One of the state’s newest parks happens to be less than an hour southwest of Denver, just off U.S. 285. Feeling ambitious? Hike the whole 10-mile out-and-back to Elk Falls. If not, hit another one of the park’s expansive trail network and enjoy the fall foliage.

Approachable: Kenosha Pass Trail

This three-mile pathway may well be the most traversed portion of the 500-mile Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango — and for good reason. The stunning fall colors against a backdrop of imposing 13ers and 14ers is stunning.

Approachable: Miners Creek Trail

Speaking of stunning backdrops, the white, chalk-like cliffs on this hike provide just that to the bursting colors on this 7-mile hike. And while Creede isn’t exactly close to to any major population centers, it may well be the epicenter for fall foliage viewing in the Rio Grande National Forest.

Approachable: Crag Crest Loop Trail

The Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway is one of the best places to see the fall color if you’re going on a driving trip from Grand Junction. And this trail network on the Grand Mesa is one of the best places to stop and stretch your legs.

Approachable: Bear Creek Trail

There aren’t too many places in the world that boast mountain hikes this draped in fall color departing from the center of town. All the more reason Telluride needs to be on your fall foliage bucket list.

Approachable: Lower Maxwell Falls Trail

This trailhead is just over 45 minutes from Denver. And not only will you be rewarded with fall color, you’ll get a look at one of the biggest waterfalls within an hour of the metro area.

Fall officially arrives on Sept. 23, and peak viewing times for fall color typically last from the third or fourth week of the month through the middle of October.

However, trees could peak early if an unexpected cold snap or high winds happen during this time.

Thanks to  Will C. Holden and Fox31 Denver:
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