16+ Must-See Spots for Fall Colors in Colorado in 2024

Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by foxintheforest

Fall colors in Colorado put on a vibrant, other-worldly display every year. Glittering aspens and waves of colorful shrubs and grasses light up the Rocky Mountains in a show that will put your jaw on the floor.

There are several amazing spots to catch the show. This guide to the best places to see fall colors in Colorado gives you an in-depth, local look at where to go, where to stay, and specific highlights in each fall color destination.

I’ve spent over 11 falls here in Colorado. As an outdoor writer and local travel specialist, I know a thing or two about where to find the best fall colors in Colorado. I’ll give you the inside scoop to fall in the Centennial state.

About this Guide to Fall Colors in Colorado

Alright. So fall is just around the corner (eek!). It’s by far my favorite season. So much so, that I decided to get married during the peak fall foliage in Colorado. Here’s what you’ll find in this guide to fall in Colorado:

  • The best dates for fall colors in Colorado
  • 12 amazing places to see fall foliage in Colorado
  • An in-depth guide to each spot including camping, nearby activities, and any special local tips.
  • Quick tips to getting the most out of viewing the fall colors in Colorado
  • Additional resources for outdoor activities in Colorado
best fall colors in colorado

When Are Fall Colors in Colorado Expected to Peak in 2023?

When the leaves change in Colorado varies year to year. In general, rainfall and snowpack plan an important role in the annual cycle of flora in the mountains.

Colorado had a wet year in 2023 – like record-breaking wet!

Most local meteorologists are saying this year will be a stellar year for fall colors in the north and central part of the state, but thanks to a later onset to the monsoon, expect to see peak colors happening 1 – 2 weeks late this year.

Local Tip: I give real-time updates on conditions I see during my fall hiking outings on my Colorado fall hikes post. Check there weekly to get the latest on the leaf peepin’.

Local Tip: In general, for the best fall colors, choose to head out the third week of September for the central and northern parts of the state. The fourth week will be great for the central areas of the state. While the southern mountains will see their peak likely between the first and second week in October.

Where Should I Go in Colorado in the Fall?

There are three main areas of Colorado. The eastern plains, Rocky Mountains, and Western Slope. When it comes to where you should go in Colorado in the fall, it really depends on when you are going and what you want to see.

If you’re in Colorado in September, then the Rocky Mountains are the place to be. You’ll be treated to brilliant fall color displays in the mountains. Be sure to check out Aspen, Idaho Springs, Buena Vista, and Crested Butte.

For visiting Colorado in October, the Front Range cities (Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and Fort Collins) are alive with fall festivities and plenty of brilliant color displays. If you want nature, then the Western Slope – Fruita, Grand Junction, and Ridgeway are stunning this time of year.

By November in Colorado most of the trees have lost their leaves. Even though the colors are long gone, it’s still a pleasant time to visit Colorado, since it’s extra quiet and you can find great lodging deals.

The Best Places to See Fall Colors in Colorado

There is a large range of activities to do in Colorado, however, leaf-peeping is at the top of the list. With so many amazingly beautiful and unique mountain areas, it’s tough to choose. Don’t worry, I did the leg work for you (thank me later). Alas, here are the 13 best spots to check out fall colors in Colorado.

1. Maroon Bells

Touted as the most photographed peaks in North America, the Maroon Bells in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness are a must-see sight for fall foliage in Colorado. Some of the most beautiful hiking trails in Colorado crisscross this stunning wilderness.

Busses run to the most popular trailheads (permit required). Don’t forget, this area is extremely popular so stop by during the week or at sunrise for the best chance at solitude.

  • To Do: Hike the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop, drive the scenic Independence Pass, visit the ghost town of Independence.
  • Where to stay: Lodging options in Carbondale and Aspen. Some of Colorado’s best free camping can be found at Twin Lakes or in the White River National Forest near Aspen.
  • Price: $12 for parking and more for a shuttle bus (age dependent) or $2 with an America the Beautiful Parks Pass.
maroon bells in fall

2. Kebler Pass

Right outside of Gunnison, you’ll find the largest aspen grove in North America. Kebler Pass is arguably one of the best fall drives in Colorado.

For starters, head out on Ohio Creek Road and make your way to Kebler Pass for a fall color display that’s simply unmatched. This unpaved pass is driveable for 2WD vehicles and offers up plenty of free camping.

  • To Do: Check out the views from Crested Butte, go mountain biking, drive the McClure Pass.
  • Where to stay: Lodging options in Gunnison, Almont and Crested Butte. Free dispersed camping along Kebler Pass or check out the Lost Lake and Lake Irwin Campgrounds.

3. Guanella Pass

One of the closest (and prettiest) scenic drives near Denver, takes you directly into the heart of fiery fall colors. Check out nearby Georgetown or opt to enjoy the fall foliage from the top of one of Colorado’s easiest 14ers, Mt Bierstadt.

  • To Do: Take a ride on the scenic Georgetown Loop railway, drive Kenosha pass for a fall colors double-whammy, hike.
  • Where to stay: Lodging options in Georgetown or day trip from Denver. Camping can be found on either side of the pass, only camp in designated spots.

Local Tip: This is one of the top three most crowded areas for fall colors in Colorado (behind Kenosha Pass and Rocky Mountain). As a result, expect heavy traffic (an hour or more isn’t unheard of) on the weekends. Plan accordingly or visit during the week.

4. Kenosha Pass

Take a stroll along the famous Colorado Trail and soak up the glittering aspen hillsides at Kenosha Pass. Located just an hour and a half from Denver, this scenic drive and hiking hot spot offers up stellar fall scenery. For activities, head east for Segment 5 or west toward Georgia Pass for Segment 6 of the trail. You don’t need to hike far to enjoy the aspens.

  • To Do: Soak in the views at the pass, visit nearby Fairplay, backpack or bike the Colorado Trail.
  • Where to stay: Best as a day trip from Denver. Camp at the Kenosha Pass Campground or enjoy dispersed camping along Georgia Pass.

Local Tip: As the premier spot for fall colors near Denver, this area sees a lot of traffic. Do your part and carry your dog poop, pack out all trash, and stay on designated trails.

fall in colorado

5. The San Juan Skyway

If you want to head out on a fall-filled Colorado road trip, look no further than the scenic-as-all-get-out San Juan Skyway. This 236-mile loop wanders through the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Known as “the Alps of America,” these jaw-dropping mountains offer up epic beauty.

  • To Do: Don’t miss the Million Dollar Highway (one of the world’s most beautiful roads), hike to Ice Lake, stop by Telluride and ride the gondola, take a trip on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
  • Where to stay: Durango, Telluride, Ouray (one of Colorado’s most scenic mountain towns), Silverton, and nearby Ridgeway all have lodging options. There is plenty of free camping throughout the San Juan National Forest including campgrounds in Telluride, Ridgeway State Park, and more.

6. The Highway of Legends

For those on the western slope, a mid-October trip through the western foothills is a must-do. Featuring some of the best fall colors in Colorado, this 82-mile scenic drive takes you up to 9,938 feet over Cuchara Pass. The views of the Sangre de Cristos will take your breath away.

  • To Do: Hike in the Spanish Peaks or Sangre de Cristos, visit the iconic Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Where to stay: Best as a day trip from Denver. Camp at the Kenosha Pass Campground or enjoy dispersed camping along Georgia Pass.

Local Tip: This area is ideal for an October trip, since the southern part of the state typically sees fall colors peak later in the season.

7. Trail Ridge Road and Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road runs across the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. The road is extraordinarily scenic and during the fall months, you’ll be able to spot (and hear) male elk bugling. If you’re looking for one of the most scenic drives in Colorado and high alpine fall foliage, you’ve come to the right place.

  • To Do: Hike one of the many trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, stop at the many overlooks, relax in Estes Park, check out dog-friendly hikes in Estes Park, or drive the nearby Peak-to-Peak Highway.
  • Where to stay: Grandby, Grand Lake, and Estes Park all offer excellent lodging. Free camping is hard to come by in Estes but there are campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park (advanced reservations required).

Local Tip: In 2024 you must purchase a timed entry pass for Rocky Mountain National Park. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to enter the park without an advanced reservation.

Local Tip: It’s $30 to enter the park or free with an America the Beautiful Parks Pass.

best places to see fall colors in colorado

8. Buffalo Pass

Hit the dirt just west of Steamboat Springs for an impressive display of fall colors. Glittering aspens dance in the breeze along this windy pass. At the top you can hop out of the car and visit nearby Summit Lake along the continental Divide. Not bad for a day in the mountains.

  • To Do: Hike the Zirkel Wilderness Area and enjoy some secret hiking trails in Colorado, soak up the views in Steamboat Springs, ATV near Rabbit Ears Pass.
  • Where to stay: Stay in Steamboat for a local, relaxed fall vibe or enjoy dispersed camping along Buffalo Pass or Elk River.

9. Vail Valley

The Vail Valley hosts an array of fall displays. From the Mount of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area to the impenetrable fortress that is the Gore Range, there’s a lot of fun (and solitude) to be had by experienced hikers. Most of the hiking terrain tends to be pretty brutal, with a few worthy adventures requiring off-trail navigation for the seasoned vet.

  • To Do: Bike from Frisco to Vail by road, hike or backpack in the nearby Gore Range and Holy Cross Wilderness, golf.
  • Where to stay: Another doable day trip from Denver or opt to stay in Vail, Edwards, Eagle or Avon. Dispersed camping and campgrounds are somewhat limited due to rugged terrain and lack of public land access.
fall colors in the colorado

10. Crested Butte

If you’re looking for a more relaxed fall adventure in Colorado, swing on by Crested Butte. Offering up world-class mountain biking, fly fishing, and a welcoming mountain town feel, Crested Butte is one of Colorado’s best-kept gems. Visit nearby Kebler Pass and if you’re arriving from Denver, take the scenic drive over Cottonwood Pass for the ultimate fall drive.

  • To Do: Check out the Crested Butte Resort Bike Park, eat at Secret Stash Pizzeria, boat at Taylor Lake Reservoir, hike stunning trails or backpack to Aspen.
  • Where to stay: Crested Butte is pricey, but there is also lodging in Almont and Gunnison. Free, dispersed camping can be found along Cottonwood Pass (far) or Kebler Pass.

11. Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

The Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway offers the perfect spot to enjoy fall foliage in Colorado if you don’t want to enter Rocky Mountain. There are ample hiking options in the Indian Peaks Wilderness that get you up close and personal with vibrant and dramatic mountains. Tack this on to a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, or opt to enjoy the road as its own fall day trip.

  • To Do: Hike in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area (fee area), check out Nederland, explore the hiking trails at the 4th of July Trailhead, scope out the Wild Basin Area of Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Where to stay: Beuna Vista offers up great lodging. There are plenty of campgrounds at Taylor Park and near Buena Vista and a fair share of dispersed camping along Cottonwood Pass if you’re willing to venture down the dirt offshoots.

12. Cottonwood Pass

I’ve always been a huge fan of Cottonwood Pass and with its newly paved road, this is a great way to get out towards Kebler Pass and Crested Butte. Worthy of a trip on its own right, there are plenty of 14ers in the Sawatch, beautiful lakes, and plenty of awesome camping.

  • To Do: Check out the many 14ers, hike to Ptarmigan Lake, soak in some of Colorado’s best hot springs, boat at the Taylor Park Reservoir, enjoy ATVing on dirt offshoots, or relax in Buena Vista.
  • Where to stay: Beuna Vista offers up great lodging. There are plenty of campgrounds at Taylor Park and near Buena Vista and a fair share of dispersed camping along Cottonwood Pass if you’re willing to venture down the dirt offshoots.
best fall colors in colorado

13. Golden Gate Canyon State Park

If you can’t get away, but still want to enjoy the best of fall, then head to Golden Gate State Park. Located 30 minutes outside of downtown Golden, this easily accessible state park brings some of the best fall colors near Denver. Hike around, take a scenic drive, and stop at Panorama Point.

  • To Do: hike the Blue Grouse Trail, visit Kriley Pond, check out the views from Panorama Point, or get big elevation gains and aspen groves at the Black Bear Trailhead.
  • Where to stay: Golden offers up the closest lodging, but this is an easy half-day to day trip from Denver. There is paid camping at Reverends Ridge and Golden Gate State Park Campground. Easy backpacking is also an option here.

Local Tip: It’s a $10 fee to enter the park or free with a Colorado State Parks Pass.

14. La Veta Pass

Located deep within the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, La Veta Pass is easily accessed via Highway 160, near the town of La Veta, and is one of the best places to see fall colors in Colorado.

After all, this incredible mountain pass sits at an elevation of 9,400+ feet and is home to one of the most scenic fall drives in Colorado.

So, plan to visit any time between late September and early October to marvel at the golden Aspen trees that line the pass through the Spanish Peaks and to take in sweeping views of the San Luis Valley.

15. Telluride (Via the Free Gondola)

Fall colors in Telluride typically peak around mid or late September and continue for an additional three weeks afterward. And one of the best ways to take in the beautiful fall foliage that Telluride has to offer is hopping aboard the town’s free gondola.

When you board the Telluride Free Gondola, be prepared for sweeping views of the vibrant Aspens and Evergreen Trees that line Box Canyon.

Alternatively, you could tackle one of the best hikes in Telluride and see incredible fall colors in Colorado along the Jud Wiebe Trail. It’s a lovely 3-mile loop that takes you through Aspen groves and past Comet Falls.

16. Dallas Divide

For gorgeous fall colors in Colorado. take Highway 62 from Ridgway, over the Dallas Divide, and to magnificent Sneffels Wilderness Area.

Along the way, you’ll see stunning views of Mount Sneffels, one of the many fourteeners in Colorado, before linking up with Highway 45 and heading to Lizard Head Pass. This is where you can marvel at Wilson Peak, a legendary mountain that was the inspiration behind the Coors beer logo.

And while the Dallas Divide is lovely at any time of year, the best time to see fall foliage here is generally around the last week of September.

Off the Beaten Path Fall Foliage in Colorado

There are several, lesser-known, must-do fall hikes in Colorado to explore. Many of these are hidden gems in Colorado that provide ample fall foliage to get excited about. A few other areas worth exploring this fall are:

Colorado National Monument

Although it’s not known for its fall colors, the cooler temps mean easier hiking in this desert terrain. Although popular, it’s often overlooked in the fall. Not to mention, the cottonwoods change colors in October, making this an ideal spot

The Lost Creek Wilderness

With close proximity to Denver, the Lost Creek Wilderness makes for an excellent spot to enjoy plenty of challenging hikes and ample opportunity for fall camping. Be sure to check out the Buffalo Creek Area and Wellington Lake area.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Often overlooked in favor of other areas, this range is stunning for those who have higher clearance vehicles. For a truly unique fall experience, be sure to spend some time at the Great Sand Dunes National Park

State Forest State Park

Near the border with Wyoming, this less-trafficked area has plenty of cabins and yurts to enjoy. There are tons of aspen groves, scenic meandering rivers, and low-trafficked hiking trails to explore.

Things to do in Denver

Is Colorado Pretty in Fall?

You bet. In fact, it’s arguably the most beautiful place to experience fall colors in the western United States. Thanks to a variety of foliage, there are plenty of stunning fall color displays in Colorado throughout the season of harvest. Many people flock from all over the world to see the brilliant aspen displays in the mountains. With huge aspen groves, hillsides come to life in a brilliant display of yellows and oranges. Just don’t wait until November in Colorado since the colors will be gone.

Tips for Leaf Peeping in Colorado

It’s worth mentioning that thousands of people flock to the Colorado Rockies to enjoy the fall scenery. Of course, there’s ample reason to, it’s literally that jaw-dropping. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Don’t carve trees. Aspens are living, breathing things. Cutting up their “skin” (bark) leaves them susceptible to disease. When trees die en masse, it puts entire forests at risk for game-ending fires.
  • Leave No Trace. Seriously. There is a LOT of bad behavior out there. The wilderness is not your trash can. Pick up trash including fruit peels, wrappers, TOILET PAPER, human waste, and dog waste. No, it is NOT okay to leave your dog poop bag on the side of a trail. Carry it with you or leave Fido at home.
  • Stay on marked trails. Trails exist to minimize human impact.
  • Be polite. Everyone deserves to be out here, so be polite, say hello, yield to uphill hikers, and be friendly!
  • Follow rules and regulations regarding camping, human waste, and fires.
  • Park in designated spots only, being conscious of not taking up endless parking spaces.
  • Arrive early or go during the week. Many of these areas are theme-park crowded. Visit at off times to avoid traffic, make the most of your experience, and get more enjoyment out of nature.
  • Don’t feed wildlife. It’s not only dangerous to approach wildlife (people die every year by being attacked by elk for a selfie), but it also makes them dependent on people, gives them diseases, and people food isn’t meant for critters.
  • Plan for traffic. An hour or more of traffic isn’t uncommon this time of year so plan accordingly.

Fall is a wonderful season in Colorado. You’ll be surrounded by magnificent beauty and nature certainly feeds the soul. Be safe, be responsible, and leave it better than you found it in order to make the most out of visiting these top places for fall colors in Colorado.

More Amazing Colorado Travel Resources

Love Colorado? I do too! That’s why I created the ultimate blog for outdoor travel in Colorado. Check out these incredible resources for planning your Colorado adventure:


Wondering where to go in Fall in Colorado? Colorado is an amazing fall destination because it's one of the best places in the USA to see fall foliage. If you're on the lookout for a perfect Colorado Fall getaway, here are some destinations you can't miss in Autumn! #Colorado #USA
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Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

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Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.