The Best Ways to Find Fall Color in Colorado

Whether you’re ready or not, FALL IS HERE. The peaks of the Colorado Rocky Mountains are popping with the bright yellow of fall, the air is crispy in the morning and the wildlife is busy preparing for winter. This is the perfect time of year to head into the mountains — the crowds are manageable, you are likely to see wildlife and the mountains are on fire with color.

There are a variety of ways you can take in the beauty of fall here in Summit County, Colorado. From road tripping to hitting the trails, there is an option for every activity level. Below you’ll find detailed information on the most popular ways to find fall in the Rocky Mountains.

Finding Fall Color in Colorado - Hiking with Dogs

Road Tripping

One of the quickest ways to see the yellow aspens is while you’re driving. The mountain passes offer up groves of aspen as your drive as well as sweeping views at the summit. 

Pros: Anyone and everyone can enjoy fall from the road and you can do it all with snacks right next to you! You can make the leaf peeping part of a necessary drive, simply add a little extra time to take the winding mountain roads.

Cons: Driving gives you a big picture view, but not an up-close and personal experience with the fall leaves. You may run into congestion in the most colorful areas.

Safety Squirrel’s Tips: If you are going to pull over to get photos of the fall leaves do so safely! DO NOT pull onto the shoulder of the interstate [way to risky, for you and other drivers!]. DO make sure you’re in a legal pull off and completely off the road to avoid causing accidents or congestion. DO be respectful of private driveways and property. DO NOT hiking or bushwhack into roadside aspen groves, find a trail instead.

Hiking + Trail Running

For an on-foot experience lace up your hiking or running shoes and hit the trails! Getting out onto the trails will give you an opportunity to stroll through bright yellow groves of aspens as your crunch over fallen leaves. Many trails in Summit County will also take you up to stunning views or out to an alpine lake. If you’re not sure where to hike you can start your adventure with this downloadable PDF of the Best Fall Hikes in Summit County, Colorado.

Pros: This is a great excuse to get outside and explore the mountains. There is something magical about standing in a grove of aspens and looking up through the golden leaves to the blue sky. Alpine lakes are also stunning when surrounded by fall colors.

Cons: You’ll need to put some physical effort into getting to the best views, lakes and colors. This also requires some planning as it is more taxing to re-start a hike than it is to simply drive to another pull off.

Safety Squirrel’s Tips: Be aware of wildlife — they are very active as they prepare for winter. DO use the “thumb rule” on all wildlife [if you hold your thumb out in front of you and close one eye your thumb should hide the animal…if it doesn’t, you’re too close!]. DO NOT approach any wildlife, including elk, moose, bear, fox, deer, etc. DO keep your ears alert, you’ll often hear wildlife before you see them. DO NOT feed wildlife or leave any food behind for wildlife.

Finding Fall Color in Colorado - Biking

Biking [Road, Mountain + Downhill]

The fall weather is perfect for biking here in Colorado. Nearly every day is a Goldilocks day, not too hot and not too cold. The bike paths offer views of the surrounding mountains as well as occasional jaunts through aspen groves. If you’re looking to get onto the trails many downhill parks are open through the end of September and the cross-country trails are primed for leaf peeping.

Pros: You can cover more ground on a bike than you can on foot, so get channel your inner five year old and hop on a bike! There is a variety of ways to bike around Summit County, so everyone in the family can find a way to enjoy themselves in the saddle.

Cons: Some skill is required, especially if you want to get onto single track trails. Biking does require a bike, so if you are traveling with one you will need to rent one.

Safety Squirrel’s Tips: All of the hiking tips apply…but be more alert because you’ll be approaching wildlife faster! WEAR A HELMET! If you’re taking a road bike or cruiser onto the bike paths or roads, follow all traffic laws and be aware of the other bike path users. If you’re taking a mountain bike out, be aware of the difficulty rating of the trails your riding. To get a feel for the local ratings start out on an easier trail than you think you need.

Water Sports [Sail, Paddle + Kayak]

To get a wide angle lens experience of the fall colors venture out onto a lake. While you do not get close to the leaves of fall, you will be able to see full ranges of mountains from the water. All the water sports available in Summit County are pretty low impact, so nearly everyone can enjoy them.

Pros: On calm days floating on the lake doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion, making it great for anyone looking for a mellow adventure. The mountains looks different from the water, giving you a unique perspective of the surrounding area.

Cons: Sailing requires the knowledge and skill to control a larger boat, but pantoons are a good alternative. Additional gear is required for all water sports, but it is all available for rent if you aren’t traveling with what you need.

Safety Squirrel’s Tips: DO wear a life jacket. DO NOT underestimate the weather, getting stuck on the water with a headwind is exhausting. DO get familiar with your boat, paddle board or kayak before you hit the open water. DO NOT forget your snacks and water.

However you plan on adventuring this fall, I hope you get outside and into the colors. If you are feeling stressed about making the most of your adventures I am here to help. I offer an array of services from travel consultations [where we chat about what you love to do and how you can find that where you are traveling] to full itineraries [where I plan all the logistics and you have all the fun]. I do this to give everyone a level playing field when it comes to adventure…no need to start your vacation stressed or end it feeling like you missed out on all the good stuff!

Get started with the downloadable PDF of the Best Fall Hikes in Summit County, Colorado by filling out the form below…the PDF will be in your inbox by the end of the day.

Let us get you started with a list of the best trails to find  fall colors…

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Or, if you’re looking for more assistance planning your next adventure pop over to the Book Now! page to begin the process. You can also send me an email at hello@adventurefeetfirst.com with any questions or custom planning requests. I am here to ensure you have more fun when you’re exploring the world!

Looking for fall hikes beyond the Summit County area? Check out this article: Six Fantastic Fall Hikes in Colorado.

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