Tag Archives: Fall Color

Colorado Fall Color – Gothic

Crested Butte to Gothic


A short but always rewarding side  trip to a Crested Butte visit. “The Butte” isn’t exactCurving Gothic Road Thru Aspenly a place you stumble upon, you get there on purpose. And, some choose to never leave. A former ghost town, Gothic is now headquarters of the Rocky Biological Laboratory, a high altitude environmental research field station. In several locations on the road to Gothic aspen line both sides of the road forming an overhead canopy. Slopes across the valley support hearty stands. Be sure to stop and view the East River goosenecking its way downstream. This same area is prolific with blossom during wildflower season. 

  • The Route – From Crested Butte drive north to Mt. Crested Butte, the community built around the ski resort. The paved road ends at the north city limits. I East River Goosenecksswear they never grade the first 100 yards to scare off city slickers. Bob suggests they actually dig holes in that section of road. After you dodge the first potholes the roadbed is generally fairly smooth going. Continue on Gothic Road three miles to the town of Gothic. The forest service road beyond the research station becomes rougher; it is car passable for several more miles but 4WD is necessary to continue up Schofield Pass.



***Warning – The north side of Schofield Pass is extremely dangerous with a history of deadly accidents. Four wheel drive vehicle and experience is essential.

Aspen Around Cabin - Gothic Road

Colorado Fall Color – Central City

Old Mining Roads Above Central City

Prospectors rushed to the area 150 years ago when gold was discovered in Gregory Gulch. Central City soon became a supply and cultural center – nearly designated as the state capital. The remains of old mining camps and abandoned Mount Baldy Cemetery in Fallmines dot the hillsides – Nevadaville, Apex, Russell Gulch, American City. Although casinos and tourists fill today’s Central City and Blackhawk much history remains in them ther’ hills. Aged tombstones in ten cemeteries relate the burdens and perils settlers faced.

  • The Route

    Central City can be easily accessed by either I-70 and the Central City Parkway or US6 and CO119 through Blackhawk. Many gravel roads such as Nevadaville, Bald Mountain and Upper Apex roads are car passable while many jeep trails wander further off the beaten path.

Caution: Remains of mines and shafts made the area dangerous for hiking off established roads and trails. Stay safe. Be respectful when visiting historic sites and cemeteries – take nothing, leave no trace.

Colorado Fall Color – Last Dollar Road

Last Dollar Road – Dallas Divide to Telluride

 I almost hate to share this personal remote treasure. Bob first took the family down this road three decades ago in our International Scout. Rough, rutted and ungraded – 4WD is definitely advised even thought I did drive it once in a Honda Accord. I had to buy Bob a much needed cold beer by the time we got to Ridgway; he earned a couple that day hefting boulders out of the road to save the undercarriage. On a map, Last Dollar Road looks like a shortcut from Dallas Divide to Telluride; but, don’t count on saving a minute of time. It’s slow going, not only because of road conditions but you’ll want to stop frequently for photos. Aspens abound along the route, their white trunks crowding the edge of the road aLast Dollar Road Aspennd branches forming an overhead canopy. When out of the groves of trees we’re treated to magnificent views of the Sneffels Range and the San Miguel Mountains. Development from the Telluride end has encroached since our first adventure but Last Dollar Road still calls, “Follow the path less traveled.”




                                                                            Image these aspen in their golden glory.        

  • The Route –  Colorado Highway 62 connects Ridgway and Placerville in Southwestern Colorado. From CO62 turn south off just one mile west of the top of the Dallas Divide. Last Dollar Road curves around the Telluride airport before intersecting with CO145 going into Telluride.

Colorado Fall Color Update

Denver to Buena Vista

September 18, 2009


Aspen on Kenosa Pass Heading west out of the Denver area on US285 we see only tinges of fall colors –hints of things to come. About five miles east of Bailey we begin to see groupings of small aspen dressed in their autumnal gold. West of Bailey we note that some of the willows along the river banks seem to be shedding their foliage without reaching peak color, their leaves a dull ochre.

Kenosha Pass Sign As we ascend Kenosha Pass color intensifies, especially the last four miles to the summit. Thick dark storm clouds are gathering to the north so the light isn’t ideal but the large number of aspen near the top of the pass have mostly transform to a wave of yellow. Color worth the drive. The Colorado Trail crosses the highway at this location, very popular with hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.

We made a quick stop in Como to snap a few roundhouse photos even though the approaching rain created poor lighting. Color in Como consists of old homes brightly painted in shades of blue, salmon and house, outhouse and birdhouse in matching canary yellow. I’m amused at the sign pointing to “Downtown Como.”

Crossing South Park towards Fairplay the grasses and scrubs give off as much color as the aspen. The thick aspen groves on the slopes east of Red Hill Pass have just begun their transformation. Good color around Fairplay, however as US285 turns southward the trees on the eastern side of the Mosquito Range are still in summer green.

Trout Creek Pass and the remaining miles into Buena Vista sport only a smattering of aspen.

***Road Delay Alert – US285/24 between Antero Junction and Johnson Village is in the final stages of being resurfaced. Signs say, “Expect 15-minute delay;” and, we did wait about 20 for our turn along a one-lane stretch. The project has only a few segments remaining but for the next few days you may have to wait patiently.

Fall Color Update – Colorado

Cottonwood Pass

Buena Vista to Crested Butte

September 18, 2009 – There’s a stretch along the east side of Cottonwood Pass that supports stands of mature aspen. We note trunk diameters as well as how tall these trees are compared to the ones seen on Kenosha Pass. The long white trunks would give photos a very different look if the weather weren’t so gray. The foliage above timberline is outstanding in rich fall color. Large patches of deep red appear to flow down gullies and drainages.

We place odds on getting rain this afternoon. A few drops sprinkle the windshield before the summit but almost  instantaneous with starting down the west side the temperature plummets to 45-degrees and corn snow pellets the car until we get below timberline. Aspen along the Taylor River are mostly turned, but those south of Crested Butte are just beginning the process. Soft, steady rain bathes “The Butte” this evening.

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

Colorado Scenic Railroads

Ride the Rails for Colorado Fall Color

Aspen1 Colorado celebrates autumn with golden hillsides of aspen, scrub oaks in hues from crimson to burnt umber  – and, the occasional dusting of snow on the high peaks. No season is more colorful for a scenic train ride – narrow or standard gauge. Many of the railroads offer special events during the fall. All aboard!

  • Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad – A steam powered narrow gauge train makes a 4-mile, 45-minute trip into the historic mining districts of Cripple Creek and Victor. This is an excellent choice for families with young children or those with limited time. Operates daily until mid-October, 10am-5pm, train runs every 40 minutes. Lots of aspens along the route make this a great fall foliage feature. Read more…
  • Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad – This popular excursion weaves along the Colorado/New Mexico border. Special fall events include the Fall Foliage Photo Train on Sept. 27, Galloping Goose Fall Colors Train Oct. 1-4, Chama Moonlight Dinner Train Oct. 2, Fall Foliage Sunday Express Oct. 4 and Chama Steam Fall Classic Oct 24.
  • DSNGR in Silverton Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – Passengers step back more than a century when they board this historic train that has operated continuously since 1882. The route through Colorado’s San Juan Mountains offers unparalleled scenery. Autumn specials include the 20th Annual Fall Photo Special & Night Photo Shoot Sept. 26-27, Cowboy Poet Train/Durango Cowboy Gathering Oct. 2, Durango Heritage Train Oct. 10, and Peanuts The Great Pumpkin Patch Express Oct. 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25 & 31. Reservations a must!
  • Train_Locomotive with Light On Georgetown Loop Railroad – Georgetown and Silver Plume are only two miles apart via highway but the elevation gain of 60o feet required amazing railroad engineering. The steep climb includes many twists, turns and trestles. Trains operate daily through Oct. 12, weekends after that date. Pumpkin Festival events held the first two weekends of October. Read more…
  • Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad – Leadville claims title to the highest incorporated town in North America (10,152’) and thrived on mining and the railroads. Rail buffs relive that golden age along the Leadville, Colorado and Southern tracks. Trains run daily through Oct. 4 with a Fall Photo Special Sept. 19. Read more…
  • Manitou Cog Railway Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway – Scales Pikes Peak on the world’s highest cog railroad. The three-hour round trip to the 14,110’ summit qualifies as the most relaxed climb up the well-known mountain. Swiss diesel locomotives ratchet bright red cars filled with tourists up slopes with grades as high as 25%. Morning and afternoon trips through Oct. 25, thereafter check the website for scheduled departures.
  • Rio Grande Scenic Railway – Departing from Alamosa and LaVeta the Rio Grande Scenic Railway gives passengers multiple trip opMMM - Rio Grandetions (distance, time and price) including a visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park. The autumn schedule includes Rails and Ales Oktoberfest Oct. 3, Fiesta Train Oct. 10 and Pumpkin Patch Ride Oct. 24 and 31. A combined rail adventure and Michael Martin Murphey’s Mountain Music Show occurs September 19.
  • Royal Gorge Route – Travels along the banks of the Arkansas River and beneath the worlds highest suspension bridge, more than 1,000-ft. above the gorge. Passengers can select seating in coach or vista dome cars, both with access to an open air car for outstanding views and photos. The Royal Gorge Route offers Colorado’s only rolling gourmet dinner service. Oktoberfest Lunch special trains run Sept. 18-20, Sept 25-27, Oct. 2-4. Read more…

Also consider:

  • Amtrak – Passenger service between Chicago and the West Coast traverses the Colorado Rockies west of Denver. The route through the Moffat Tunnel, Grand County and along the Colorado River offers superb scenery. Trips from Denver to Glenwood Springs  or Grand Junction offer getaways without driving busy I-70. Nancy’s Caveat – One shouldn’t have a tight schedule when traveling via Amtrak, delays can and do occur – especially east bound trains.
  • Tiny Town  In the foothills just off US285, Tiny Town attracts the pre-school set to the oldest kid-sized village and railroad in the United States. The miniature railroad, powered by coal-fired locomotives, loops through the village of more than 100 buildings and along the hillsides of Turkey Creek Canyon. After riding the train, investigate the 1/6-scale structures handcrafted by volunteers; be sure to peek into windows and skylights. A playground and picnic area encourages families to linger. Open weekends, 10am-5pm, during September.

Georgetown Loop Railroad – Colorado

Georgetown Loop Railroad

Train_Over View_Geo.Town The most convenient scenic railroad for Denver area residents also stands as one of the state’s great engineering feats. The historic narrow gauge Georgetown Loop recreates the dramatic climb from Georgetown to Silver Plume, both established as important silver mining regions in the 1860s.

Success of the mines depended on reliable rail lines between Denver and the mining camps. By 1877, a route was completed through Golden and Idaho Springs to Georgetown. There, engineers and construction crews faced a daunting challenge. Silver Plume, just two miles away, was 600-feet higher in elevation – up a narrow, steep canyon. The resulting six-percent grade would prove too great for most locomotives.

The solution included more than four miles of track and multiple bridges including the Devil’s Gate High Bridge rising 95-feet above Clear Creek. The first passenger train arrived in Silver Plume in April 1884, beginning a boom in tourism for one-day excursions from Denver. Abandoned by the late 1930s, the track and bridges were dismantled.

Train_George Town3.pgThe Colorado Historical Society, assisted by a major grant from the Boettcher Foundation, spent more than ten years reconstructing the roadbed, laying track and rebuilding the Devil’s Gate High Bridge. Dedication of the new facilities occurred 100 years after the original completion.

Today an oil-powered steam locomotive exhales deep, throaty chugs as it pulls passenger cars up the scenic canyon. Soon the rhythm recalls the children’s book words, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Trainman, Ron Ruhoff, willingly answers questions and interprets whistle signals; three toots for going backwards, a long and a short when approaching a trestle.

During the summer months, until Labor Day, a tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine offers an added attraction. Accessible only by train, the guided underground excursion conveys tales of hard rock miners’ difficult lives.

*Article by Nancy Yackel, first published in Buzz in the ‘burbs, a suburban Denver monthly lifestyle magazine.

Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad – Colorado

Cripple Creek and Victor Railroad

As soon as the conductor calls, “All aboard,” waiting passengers eagerly make their seat selections on the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad. Some head towards the front car to observe the crew shoveling coal into the steam engine while others are drawn to the rear to watch the receding rails. The popularity of open or closed cars depends on weather conditions. Choose wisely, there is no way to move between cars durTrain_Open Caring the 45-minute trip.

  The train follows the old Midland-Terminal roadbed, crosses a reconstructed trestle and passes gold mine sites with lively histories. Stands of aspen frame postcard worthy views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

On an uphill grade the train slows to a mere crawl before restoking provides a burst of steam power accented by pillaring black smoke. Passengers may encounter soot or tiny coal embers; wearing white is not a wise choice.

Narration along the route relates a time when the rich Cripple Creek and Victor gold mining districts supported a population of nearly 50,000 and served as the economic and social hub of the region. At the turn of the 20th century ladies from Colorado Springs rode the Midland train to Cripple Creek in order to shop for the latest fashions. The May Company opened their second department store here during those boom days.Train_Father & Child

Long draws on the steam whistle demonstrate how Echo Valley earned its name. Numerous reverberations work their way down valley with each toot.

Returning to Cripple Creek passengers find a gift shop filled with railroad themed items, including lots of ‘Thomas the Tank’ gear, and an array of local history books. Next door, check out the Cripple Creek District Museum in the original Midland-Terminal Depot.

The 4-mile round trip aboard the colorful Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad is a great choice for families with small children or adults with short attention spans. Plentiful aspen groves add autumn color and photographic highlights.

*Article by Nancy Yackel, first published in Buzz in the ‘burbs, a suburban Denver monthly lifestyle magazine.

Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad – Colorado

Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad

Fifteen minutes after leaving the Leadville depot the debris of civilization disappears and tall white aspen trunks support a golden canopy above the Leadville, Colorado and Southern train. The Continental Divide and Colorado’s highest mountains cap the westward vista.

Train_Water Tower_Leadville “Tickets,” calls Liz as she enters each car of the standard gauge, diesel-powered train. The gregarious conductor is in her 13th year welcoming passengers to the scenic trip towards Fremont Pass. Rows of seats run the length of the cars providing unobstructed viewing. From one side riders watch the headwaters of the Arkansas River snake through the valley below; while, those on the other side scan the hillside for marmots, deer and trickling waterfalls.

A 15-minute stop at the French Gulch Water Tank allows passengers to investigate nearby French Creek, take photographs or check out the historic 47,500-gallon water tank. The crew opens the caboose for inspection and encourages climbing into the cupola.

Train_Caboose The once traditional last car of freight trains has become a rarity. The Leadville, Colorado & Southern not only uses a caboose, they allow two riders (for an additional fee) on the return trip into Leadville. Relaxed in leather armchairs high in the cupola, caboose passengers travel at tree top level with unparalleled views of the train and route ahead. This unique experience makes a great gift for rail buffs or to share with a grandchild. Reserve caboose rides when you make reservations. Also inquire about rides in the locomotive.

*Article by Nancy Yackel, first published in Buzz in the ‘burbs, a suburban Denver monthly lifestyle magazine.