Are you the kind of person who loves going on long drives? Do you also enjoy watching the leaves change in the fall? If you answered “yes” to both questions, then you won’t want to miss out on Mother Nature’s annual autumn show, which is best viewed from mountain roads. Here’s where to go to see the best fall colors Colorado has to offer.
US 285 over Kenosha Pass
A little over an hour west of Denver lays Kenosha Pass, one of Colorado’s favorite road trips for leaf-peeping. You can drive straight through or spend the day hiking amidst spectacular aspen stands. We recommend visiting on a weekday or early in the morning if you hope to score a parking spot.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Anywhere in Rocky Mountain National Park is beautiful this time of year, but we recommend visiting two places in particular. First is Endovalley, which you can find by taking US 34 west from Estes Park. Then, turn left on Endovalley Road (about 2.5 miles past the Fall River Visitor’s Center). Two miles up Endovalley Road, you’ll find a loop with a picnic area, a great place to enjoy the afternoon.
The other stop is Kawunechee Valley. Continue past the picnic area to Old Fall River Road, a gravel road that dead-ends at the Alpine Visitor Center on Trail Ridge Road. From there, take Trail Ridge to the park’s Grand Lake Entrance to view Kawunechee Valley. This north-to-south valley runs parallel to the upper reaches of the Colorado River for fantastic views.
Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
This gorgeous stretch of Colorado highway begins in Black Hawk on the south end and travels 55 miles north to Estes Park by way of CO-119, CO-72, and CO-7. The area is filled with aspens, creating a dazzling golden quilt over the mountainside. You’ll also get a unique, close-up look at the Continental Divide on your drive, which takes about 1.5 hours.
Poudre Canyon to Laramie River Valley
Hop on Highway 14 west from Fort Collins into Poudre Canyon to take in the colorful cottonwoods. If you’re on a timeframe, feel free to turn around any time. You can also continue up the canyon 50 miles and turn north onto County Road 103. This leads to the Laramie River Valley, where beautiful aspens and willows are changing colors.
The rugged Gore Range serves as a stunning backdrop for an idyllic lake that reflects the mountain peaks—along with the changing aspens. It’s a hidden gem 100 miles west of Denver, but it’s worth the drive to see one of the most beautiful spots in all of Colorado.
Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway
Escape the city crowds and experience this wilderness drive from Yampa to Meeker. You’ll pass the White River Plateau to the north of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. We recommend pulling over at Dunckley Pass and Ripple Creek Pass for breathtaking panoramic views. And be sure to check your gas gauge before you leave because there’s nowhere to fill up between Yampa and Meeker.
There are countless scenic routes in the Crested Butte area, but most are out-and-back dirt roads that can get very crowded during leaf-peeping season. One drive that might prove less challenging takes you over Kebler Pass and continues 25 miles to CO-133 at Paonia State Park. The road takes you through one of Colorado’s most renowned aspen stands.
Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
About 15 miles east of Grand Junction is the world’s largest flat-top mountain—hence the name “Grand Mesa.” The best road for viewing fall colors in this area is the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway, a 50-mile drive from Mesa to Cedaredge.
La Veta Pass
Southern Colorado is home to La Veta Pass, which you can access by taking I-25 to Walsenburg and turning west on US 160. When you reach the pass, you’ll find panoramic vistas overlooking an open bowl. You’ll definitely want your camera to document this view! Continue on US 160 to enjoy views of the Sangre de Cristo Range to the north.
Fall Colors in Black Hawk, CO
Our favorite drive on this list is the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. Whether you begin or end your journey in Black Hawk, be sure to stop by the many casinos, hotels, and restaurants on Main Street. There’s something for everyone here, from rooftop pools and spa treatments to all-you-can-eat buffets and vibrant slot machines that rival the fall colors just outside. Come see for yourself why Black Hawk is one of Colorado’s top destinations!