So summer may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean you still don’t have an awesome lineup of things to do in Colorado in fall. In fact, fall is prime for exploring Colorado’s gorgeous scenery.
Not to mention, there are plenty of awesome festivals to scope out near Denver during the cooler fall months. Plan the perfect weekend in Colorado with a dose of mountain magic and a vibrant city scene with this round-up of the best things to do in Colorado this fall.
Wow, I can’t believe I’ve lived in Colorado for almost 12 years. This is the longest time I’ve lived anywhere in my life, and as such, I know virtually everything there is to do in the great Centennial State. As an avid outdoors woman, professional outdoor writer, and travel nerd, I’ve got you covered.
About this Guide of the Best Things to Do in Colorado this Fall
When it comes to visiting Colorado in the fall, there are plenty of things to to do. From festivals to secluded camping, you’ll be spoiled for choice. In this mega-awesome local Colorado travel guide you’ll find:
- Things to do in Colorado in fall
- Information about Colorado’s fall weather
- Quick tips for visiting Colorado this fall
- Additional planning resources
The Best Fall Activities in Colorado
If you’re searching for things to do in Colorado in fall, then you’ve come to the right place. From undiscovered fall hikes to the greatest beer festival in the Americas, there’s a lot to get stoked on.
Elk Fest in Estes Park
Every October (3rd and 4th in 2020) Estes celebrates their favorite neighbors, the elk! The elks’ mating season actually happens in October. Each year, if you get up early enough and get into the wild, you can hear these magical creatures bugling.
Learn all about these amazing animals at Elk Fest in Estes Park. Activities include educational opportunities, beer garden, live entertainment, kid’s games, and local native American story telling.
Local Tip: Don’t forget to also spend some time in Rocky Mountain National Park to properly celebrate these magnificent creatures. Even the best hikes in Estes Park will be dotted with elk if you’re lucky!
Take a Scenic Drive
Colorado’s scenic drives are in their absolute prime during the fall. So hit the road with one of these fantastic scenic drives. Keep in mind, some roads are open weather-dependent so be sure to check conditions before heading out. A few local favorite fall drives in Colorado are:
- Trail Ridge Road
- Million Dollar Highway
- Yankee Boy Basin
- Peak-to-Peak Byway
- Kebler Pass
- Cottonwood Pass
Drink Up at the Great American Beer Festival
Like beer? Then you’ve got to check out the Great American Beer Festival. Every October the city of Denver transforms into a celebration of brews and fall.
With free and paid events going on throughout the city, there’s a lot to get excited about. The main event is the largest beer festival in the Americans and features tens of thousands of delicious, frothy brews.
Although I don’t drink anymore, I’ve attended the Great American Beer Fest for several years and it’s always a reason to celebrate the fall season.
Local Tip: For 2020 the GABF has been cancelled. But don’t worry, it’ll be back.
Go for a Fun-Filled Fall Hike
Get up close and personal with the changing of the seasons on one of Colorado’s best fall hikes. There are so many amazing hiking trails to discover this fall from the Front Range to Telluride.
Traffic can be a bit of a pain, so plan on getting an early start or opt to camp the night before. A few areas worth checking out include:
- Golden Gate State Park in Golden
- Aspen area
- Vail area
- Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range
- Sawatch Range
Soak in a Hot Springs
After a long day hiking and exploring, why not treat your body to a relaxing soak in one of Colorado’s best hot springs? There are countless hot springs throughout the state, from fancy resorts to tiny pool of hot water bubbling in the mountainside. Book a massage, enjoy a nude hot spring, or visit a family-friendly pool.
Glow in the Gardens
Get into the spooky spirit at the Denver Botanical Gardens for a frightful and fun night. Glow at the Gardens, going at night from October 19th through the 25th features a spooky, lit up performance throughout the gardens.
Get enchanted with light shows, jack-o’-lanterns, dancers, musicians and more. Tickets cost $7 to $21 for non-members. Advanced ticket purchases are recommended.
Summit a Mountain
Early fall marks summit season in many of Colorado’s mountain ranges. From the solitude of Colorado’s best 13ers to the most beautiful 14ers in the state, there’s a peak for every enthusiastic hiker and climber.
Keep in mind, although the afternoon thunderstorms are long-gone, snow and ice can make for tricky conditions. However, without the threat of storms, you can enjoy a later start, or go after longer peaks.
Crush Walls Street Art Festival
One of the best things to do in Denver is wandering the streets and scope out the street art. Every September, the RiNo Arts District goes all out with a fantastic display of street art. Crush Walls is happening from September 14th through the 20th and celebrates incredible local artists as they color the streets.
Come watch the artists at work, or wander the streets and grab a brew with a bite at one of the area’s great outdoor eateries.
Hit the Crag and Climb
It may be getting chilly on Colorado’s tallest peaks, but fall marks the start of the climbing season in the lower elevations. Colorado is home to world-class rock climbing. There’s a crag for everyone from the mighty multi-pitch trad walls in Eldorado Canyon to pumpy limestone along Shelf Road. A few of the best areas include:
Pro Tip: Hire a guide to learn the ropes! Guides are a great resource to learn how to rock climb. Even if you’re a newb, you can get out and enjoy the fall climbing season!
Go Fall Camping
Literally one of the best things to do in Colorado in fall is to head out on a fall camping trip. Enjoy the fall colors with a wonderful weekend among the Aspen groves. There is an endless amount of camping in Colorado, including several secret spots where you can get the best free camping in CO.
Visit the Colorado National Monument
Many people overlook the Western Slope and that’s a huge mistake. In fact, you’ll find some of the most beautiful hikes in Colorado along the western side of the mountains.
Spend the day marveling at sandstone rock formations that rival even the best of Moab. The Colorado National Monument is a must-visit attraction featuring beautiful desert hikes, climbing, and plenty of scenic driving.
What is the Weather Like in Colorado for Fall?
The weather in the fall is a bit of a mixed bag in Colorado. In general, it’s sunny with the occasional unexpected snow storm. The first snow in the lower elevations typically happens in mid to late-October, while the mountains can see a dusting of snow as early as the first week in Septmember.
Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins are generally still quite warm (80 to 90 degrees) until mid-October, while the mountain towns tend to be cooler (60s to 70s). Overnight lows vary, but in the mountains expect very cool nights (30s to mid-40s is not uncommon).
Dress in layers and bring plenty of sunscreen to enjoy fall in Colorado. Definitely check the weather frequently, since it can be a bit un-predictable.
Quick Tips for Visiting Colorado in Fall
There are countless places to enjoy fall in Colorado. Before you get out and explore, keep these quick tips in mind:
- Fall leaf-peeping traffic is real. Budget an extra hour each way for traffic if you plan on heading to the mountains. It really doesn’t matter where you are, traffic will be horrific. Start early and come home early to avoid crowds
- Plan any campsite, lodging, or festival reservations well in advance. Coloradans love the fall and local travel is super-popular in September and October.
- Choose the best time to visit Colorado for fall colors. This varies year to year, but in general, early September is best in the north, the third week in September sees peak colors in central Colorado and late-September to early October for the southern mountains. The cities see fall in early to mid-October.
Additional Colorado Content
Planning a fall trip to Colorado? I’ve got you covered with this list of Colorado travel resources:
- How to Visit Colorado Like a Local
- 21 Colorado Road Trip Stops You Need to Make
- Your Colorado Bucket List