Colorado Fall Color – Denver Day Trips

Take to the Hills for Fall Color

Yellow Aspen Twig Fall arrives early in the Colorado Rockies. Beginning in late August aspen begin their shimmering transformation to golden yellow. Many forecasters predict an early and short color season for 2009. Even residents who rarely travel beyond the Denver metropolitan area plan a fall foliage day trip or Sunday afternoon drive. Consider these routes as you grab the camera and take to the hills.

  • Peak to Peak Aspens Peak to Peak Highway from Blackhawk to Estes ParkThis National Scenic Byway nearly parallels the Continental Divide for 55 miles between Blackhawk and Estes Park. Although it’s a continuous route various segments hold different Colorado State Highway designations 119, 72 and 7 as it travels northward through Rollinsville, Nederland, Ward and Allenspark. Some years the segment between Nederland and Ward offers especially stunning aspen color.
  • Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National ParkA rewarding road less traveled in the park, the one-way (westbound)Old Fall River Road dirt road climbs from Horseshoe Park, west of the RMNP Fall River Entrance Station, to Fall River Pass, 11,796-feet above sea level. Along the ascent the terrain changes from mountain meadow to montane and subalpine forests before reaching the wind-swept alpine world above timberline. Nine of the 11 miles are car passable (except extremely low clearance vehicles) dirt surface – posted speed limit, 15mph. Tight switchback turns make the route  Elk - Head Shot unsuitable for RVs or trailers. In addition to changing aspen you’re almost guaranteed to see grazing elk along the way. A $1 Old Fall River Road guidebook is available at park visitor centers. The road terminates when it intersects with Trail Ridge Road near the Alpine Visitor Center. Turn right to descend the west side of the park to Grand Lake or turn left to follow Trail Ridge Road back to Estes Park.
  • I-70 from Empire to the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels – Large groves of aspen paint the mountain slopes along this Interstate corridor. Watch for bighorn sheep on the rocky slopes above Georgetown Lake and Silver Plume. Fill the day with exploring the shops and historic sites in GeorgetGeorgetown - Reflectedown or  Silver Plume, take a hike up Herman’s Gulch or ride the narrow gauge Georgetown Loop Railroad. Sample wines at Canyon Wind Cellars or lunch and tea in the Silver Plume Tea Room. Make it an overnight with reservations for dinner and lodging at the Peck House in Empire – the oldest hotel extant in the state. Caution: Eastbound I-70 frequently becomes stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper on Sunday afternoons during color season. Plan your trip accordingly, consider stopping at a local restaurant for dinner or you may have lots of time to view the same grove of aspen.
Road Closing: The Guanella Pass Road, a frequent destination for leave peepers, between Georgetown and US285 closed August 21, 2009. Heavy summer rains created unsafe conditions due to rock instability. For current information, call 303-569-3251, press “2” for Guanella Pass.
  • Squaw Pass – Bergen Park to Idaho Springs – I don’t find a lot written about Squaw Pass but I think it’s a great Sunday afternoon drive, especially in the fall or on a clear winter day. From the Evergreen Parkway, CO74, head west on Squaw Pass Road, CO103. The road is paved albeit with a few rough and narrow spots along the 18-mile route to Echo Lake. The Squaw Pass Summit at 9,807’  is about half-way to the popular lakEcho Lakee.  A left turn in summer takes gasping visitors to the top of 14,264’ Mount Evans – the country’s highest paved road. CDOT closed the top four miles of the Mt. Evans Highway for the season on September 3, the lower portion remains open as of this posting. Check their website for updates. CO103 continues approximately eight miles down the Chicago Creek Road to Idaho Springs and I-70. Pick a sunny day to fully enjoy the sweeping views of mountain ranges and quaking aspen.

Check Back Soon for Additional Suggestions

  • Kenosha Pass
  • Gold Belt Tour – Florissant to Cripple Creek

2 thoughts on “Colorado Fall Color – Denver Day Trips

  1. Pam

    Awesome. Thanks for the info. Headed up I-70 tomorrow with my family. Maybe we’ll swing back around on CO103.

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