A Rocky Mountain Autumn

Colorful Colorado shows off its of brilliant hues throughout the year. Vibrant red rock formations tower over the front range, evergreen forests shake off the dusting of an early winter snow, and broad blue skies stretch over the state year round. And while Colorado is colorful year round, these colors are even more accentuated in Autumn.

Mountain slopes explode into color as the summer-green leaves on the trees fade through the spectrum and glowing aspen groves provide flashes of brilliant gold in otherwise evergreen coniferous forests.

While much of the state erupts in color, there are some vantage points that provide the quintessential Colorful Colorado views. Today, I’m sharing three of my favorite spots to catch the colors in Colorado during peak foliage season.

Maroon Bells

Colorado Foliage - Maroon Bells

image courtesy of Jonathan Burch

Outside of Aspen, Colorado lies two of the most picturesque peaks in the Rocky Mountain region; the Maroon Bells. The Bells are reported to be the most photographed spot in Colorado and it’s easy to see why – the towering, bell shaped peaks ring out over a glacial alpine valley filled with a still, clear mountain lake. Beautiful in any season, this vista flashes its brilliant colors in fall when the aspen groves ringing the lake begin to shed their leaves.

The view has become so popular that vehicle entrance to the park is restricted, and most visitors will arrive via shuttle bus. Besides the iconic view, there are miles of trails providing alternative vantage points of the bells for both day hikers and serious back packers.

Fish Creek Falls Trail

Colorado Foliage - Fish Creek Falls trail near Steamboat Springs

Located just minutes outside of the popular Steamboat Springs resort in northwestern Colorado, it’s only a short walk down from the parking lot to the lower fish creek falls – a cascading curtain of water plunging into the canyon below. While the base of the falls can get crowded, those seeking similar surroundings (and brilliant fall foliage) in relative solitude head across the canyon and up the hill to the Fish Creek Falls hiking trail.

Colorado Foliage - Fish Creek Falls

From here, the trail winds two and a half miles through evergreen forests, along rocky ridges, and through dense aspen groves until it reaches Upper Fish Creek Falls. While the lower falls are often marred by crowds and hidden in the shadow of the canyon, the upper falls are relatively isolated and warmed in Colorado sunshine where hikers can take in the autumn colors in relative peace while wading in the cool, clear pools at the base.

Mount Evans Wilderness

Colorado Foliage - Mount Evans Wilderness Area

At less than an hour away from downtown Denver, the Mount Evans wilderness area serves as the playground for the residents of Colorado’s largest city. In the summertime, adventurous travelers can drive (or even hike) to the summit of Mount Evans, one of the tallest peaks in Colorado.

Colorado Foliage - Rosalie Trail

Hikes to Chicago Lakes, the Rosalie Trail, or to Abyss Lake all provide plenty of fodder for camera-toting color seekers. But many spectacular views are even accessible from the window of a car. Guanella Pass and Highway 285 both provide plenty of color for those who prefer to take in the scenery from the comfort of a vehicle. Entire hillsides are lit with the glow of peak season Aspen trees and the intense blue of the high country sky provides a stark contrast to the yellow leaves below.

And the best part about foliage season in Colorado? Because of of the variety of altitudes found across the state, different regions are peaking at different times. When leaves at the highest elevation are struggling to cling to the branches, the groves closer to Denver and Boulder are still in full-on summer mode, providing plenty of opportunities to catch the autumn colors before the first snowfall.

John Andrew (5 Posts)

John Andrew is a Colorado native who spends the majority of his days on the road for business and leisure. He chronicles his journeys and tricks for making the most of every travel opportunity at his site Travel Rinse Repeat. John is also an ambassador and contributor to Mountain Reservations. Connect to John: Twitter or on Facebook.

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