Fall doesn't technically begin until September 22nd, but the leaves will start turning in Colorado well before then. For many Coloradans, Fall is a special time of year. And the first sign of Fall is always that wave of colors along the Colorado Mountainsides. 

As the air gets crisper and the pumpkin spice lattes start frothing - it's time to start thinking about some of the best leaf-peeping spots in the state.

When do Leaf Colors start to Change?

Starting in mid-September, expect to see Aspens turning gold at elevations from 8,000 to 10,00 ft above sea level.

Typically Northern Colorado peaks first, and a wave of color moves South through the state. However, keep in mind that moisture levels significantly affect when leaf colors start to change. With statewide drought conditions, peak leaf season could be 4-8 days earlier this year. Again, local news sources such as 9 News will have the most up-to-date information.

In most parts of Colorado, the last week of September/first week of October is a safe bet for spectacular colors.

Later in the season, from October to mid-November, you can see beautiful color down in the foothills and along the plains in Denver.

Best Places to See the Leaves Change in Colorado

Affectionately known as leaf-peeping, below are some of our very favorite Colorado locations to see the leaf colors change.

Jim Creek Trail

This popular hiking trail is just 3 miles South of downtown Winter Park. The trail follows Jim Creek into the James Peak Protection Area. The sound of the creek creates a relaxing trek into the woods. The trail is approximately 7 miles round-trip, gains 1,225 feet, and is considered to be moderately difficult. The trail opens to beautiful meadows with views of James Peak and dozens of aspen groves that cover the mountainside.

Buffalo Pass

Situated in Steamboat's backyard, Buffalo Pass offers remarkable views of the rolling Routt National Forest. It begins winding through aspen groves almost immediately on its way up to 10,400 feet at Summit Lake. The road starts as a 2WD dirt road but gets progressively more bumpy as you near the top. If going all the way to Walden, it's best to have higher clearance and 4WD, but you could probably manage with 2WD if you go slow.

Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park

Just an hour-long drive from Boulder, Trail Ridge Road is a scenic, 48-mile byway that takes travelers through the national park between Estes Park and Grand Lake. Reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet at its peak, Trail Ridge Road offers plenty of places to pull over, take photos, and enjoy the sea of colors that blanket the surrounding hills. Reservations are required for all vehicles entering the park.

Golden Gate Canyon in Golden, Colorado

For those in the Denver Metro area looking for a spot to see the trees without traveling too far, Golden Gate Canyon is a great option. Here, you can hike, bike, camp, fish, and even ride horses while surrounded by the bright yellow leaves. It's an underrated area to see lots of Fall Color without dealing with leaf-peeping traffic along I-70.

Take a Gondola up Vail Mountain

From picturesque Vail Village, enjoy a scenic ride up Gondola One to Mid-Vail, which offers breathtaking views of shimmering aspen groves and the majestic Gore Range beyond. It's a great way to see the changing fall colors from a different vantage point.

Kebler Pass near Crested Butte

Kebler Pass spans the 30 miles between Crested Butte and Highway 133. This road is one of the most photographed locations in Colorado during the Fall. So pack your camera and hit the road to snap some pictures of the beautiful fall foliage.

Aspen Alley in Breckenridge

The name says it all: Aspen Alley is one of the best places to see the leaves change colors in Summit County. So hop on a mountain bike and ride through this rollercoaster of a trail, dipping and curving through the forest of yellow, green, red, and orange leaves. 

The San Juan Skyway near Telluride

Take in the sights of The San Juan Skyway as you weave through Durango, Silverton, and Telluride. The golden colors of the aspens can be seen throughout the seven-hour drive. 

We hope you enjoyed the article, make sure to send us some of your best leaf color photos!

Posted by Ryan Penn on


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