Fall color in Colorado. Photo © Mindy Sink.

It’s an annual autumn tradition in Colorado: Take a weekend or an afternoon off to see the aspen trees turn to gold, sometimes tipped with orange and even red. But exactly where and when should you go to see this natural wonder?

The when depends roughly on elevation (the higher the elevation, the sooner the leaves tend to change over), but generally about mid-September into early October. A quick day hike into the foothills from the Front Range cities of Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, or Fort Collins can yield many pretty photo ops of aspen leaves quaking in the fall breeze.

Perhaps the most dependable route is the Peak-to-Peak Highway, a 55-mile scenic drive less than an hour from Denver that showcases fall colors in a national and state parks. Begin the drive in Estes Park, gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park, or off I-70 near the Central City exit, and put aside at least three hours for the full drive. If you opt for a weekend away, try YMCA of the Rockies for affordable lodgings for groups of all sizes, with lots of family-friendly activities. They also have a location in Granby, 90 minutes from Denver, where lodging includes yurts.

Spend a weekend away in a yurt with YMCA of the Rockies. Photo © Mindy Sink.

Spend a weekend away in a yurt with YMCA of the Rockies. Photo © Mindy Sink.

When the aspen leaves are shimmering gold in Colorado’s high country, the Front Range on the eastern side of the state provides leaf peepers a second chance to see autumn’s glory. Denver’s lower elevation means that leaves change color weeks later than typically higher up. This is true in Colorado Springs, Boulder, and Fort Collins too. For those who miss peak season in the Rockies, come down to a mile high or so to check out the reds, oranges, and golds in the cities at these locations.

  • Visit the Denver Botanic Gardens to see fall blooms and the leaves of change.
  • Denver’s City Park has a Tree Walk through the park’s arboretum.
  • Washington Park offers strolls through flower gardens and many trees, including several State Champion Trees.
  • The University of Denver campus is home to the Chester M. Alter Arboretum.
  • The University of Colorado campus in Boulder is a perfect place to wander among the historic buildings while fall leaves crunch underfoot.
  • Known for its Master Gardener program, Colorado State University is also home to an arboretum.
  • While there isn’t much growing at the top of 14,000-foot Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, you can still catch some beautiful colors driving up or hiking at lower elevations on the mountain.
  • It’s hard to beat the red rock formations and brilliant fall leaves surrounding them at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
Travel map of Denver, CO

Denver

Travel map of Fort Collins, CO

Fort Collins

Travel map of Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs

Travel map of Boulder, CO

Boulder