Friday, February 23, 2024
HomeRoad TripFinal 4-Day Colorado Fall Foliage Highway Journey Itinerary – Bearfoot Principle

Final 4-Day Colorado Fall Foliage Highway Journey Itinerary – Bearfoot Principle


We’ve all seen these dreamy pictures of Colorado’s golden aspens spreading throughout mountains and valleys as fall descends on the Rockies. They’re a sight to behold, lighting up the mountainsides like hearth.

As Colorado residents (and lovers of autumn), we’ve spent lots of time roaming round our state looking for the perfect locations to view gorgeous Colorado fall foliage.

On this put up, we’ve put collectively a 4-day Colorado fall highway journey itinerary so you too can expertise the autumn colours in Colorado first-hand. From probably the most scenic mountain cross drives to our favourite fall hikes, there’s one thing for each outside adventurer.

Vital Reminder: Because it goes in the entire locations we share, please apply good path etiquette and keep in mind to Go away No Hint. This implies packing out your whole rubbish (together with bathroom paper), being respectful to others, and following the established guidelines.

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Fall in Colorado: An Overview

Rising up in Denver, it all the time appeared like the nice and cozy, lazy days of summer season immediately became darkish, snowy dredge of winter. There have been solely a handful of days with cool temps and altering leaves.

If Fall did make an look for greater than a few days, although, it was within the mountains.

Landscape photo of tall snow-dusted Rockies peaks with large grove of golden aspen trees a its base in Colorado
Lime Park | Photograph credit score: Ben Thomas

Though it‘s normally transient, Fall within the Colorado mountains is the best.

Temperatures have cooled down and the climate is steady sufficient to spend all day outdoors with out getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms (remember to pack your fall climbing layers although!).

Fall can be a shoulder season for tourism, so the crowds are principally gone and there are nice offers to be discovered. However most of all, the leaves, they’re a-changing!

In Colorado, meaning the aspens flip GOLD. Seeing the aspen colours at their peak in late September/early October is a lifetime must-do.

I’ve a private affinity for highway journeys, so under I’ve outlined the final Colorado fall highway journey. It covers your complete state, with every leg of the journey hitting the largest and finest aspen groves.

Relying in your fall highway journey time constraints, you are able to do the entire itinerary as one journey or tackle any of the person legs for a day or weekend escape from Denver whereas the leaves are altering. You’ll not be disillusioned! 

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4-Day Colorado Fall Highway Journey Itinerary

Every leg of this fall Colorado fall foliage itinerary features a bonus hike as an possibility so you may try the great thing about the autumn colours up shut and stretch your legs a bit.

Detailed driving instructions will be discovered by clicking on MAP beneath every driving leg, sending you to a Google map for that particular leg.

The driving is all on highways, so any passenger automotive ought to be capable to deal with it, no four-wheel-drive crucial.

So pack your highway journey necessities, learn these 25 fall tenting ideas, and let’s get rolling!

Map of Colorado fall road trip map screenshot

Leg 1: Denver to Vail 

  • Route: Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park and Steamboat Springs – MAP
  • Distance: 319 miles
  • Drive time: 7.5 hours

We begin off this fall highway journey with a bang.

Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado framed by golden aspen trees
  • Leaving Denver, enter the mountains by means of Golden Gate Canyon State Park. This little state park outdoors of Golden is a superb fast escape into the foothills and affords extra aspen viewing than close by Clear Creek Canyon.
  • Finally, you’ll hit the Peak to Peak freeway, heading north by means of Nederland to Estes Park and the gateway to Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park. Enter the park and head up Path Ridge Highway, the very best steady paved highway within the Decrease 48.
  • Path Ridge takes you up and over the Continental Divide, rising up by means of pine and aspen forests to above the tree line, supplying you with uninterrupted views of the altering timber all the best way over Colorado’s most well-known nationwide park.
  • As soon as out of the park, you’ll head west over Rabbit Ears Go to Steamboat Springs, taking the scenic route down again south behind the Gore Vary. When you hit I-70, head east to Vail and benefit from the Colorado alpine city in all its golden splendor.
Golden aspen trees on the side of highway in Colorado
Golden aspen timber off of I-70 close to Vail, Colorado | Photograph credit score: Ben Thomas

Bonus Hike: Bierstadt Lake in Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park

Take advantage of your park entrance price in Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park by stretching your legs on this 2.4-mile roundtrip hike.

Views stretch again into Glacier Gorge towards the Continental Divide and Longs Peak, with aspens altering under. Get extra path data right here

For different hikes within the Park, try our information on the Greatest Day Hikes in Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park.

Leg 2: Vail to Crested Butte

  • Route: Aspen and Carbondale – MAP
  • Distance: 207 miles
  • Drive time: 6 hours

This leg of the highway journey is the spotlight. Don’t get me mistaken, in all places on this itinerary is spectacular, however the mixture of Vail, Independence, McClure, and Kebler Passes may be magnificence overload.

Every cross alone may very well be a weekend (or week-long) journey. However right here they mix to type leg two of our final Colorado fall colours highway journey.

The driving distance on this leg is a bit shorter, however you’ll need each second to cease for pictures and soak within the magnificence.

Capitol Ditch Trail // Experience the best fall colors and foliage in Colorado with this detailed road trip itinerary
Capitol Ditch | Photograph credit score: Ben Thomas
  • Head east on I-70 over Vail Go and benefit from the large aspen stands on Copper Mountain. Exit the freeway at Copper and drive over Fremont Go to Leadville and its mega-views of Mount Huge and the very best peak of Colorado, Mount Elbert.
  • Leadville was as soon as thought-about for the capital of Colorado. Its historic downtown and unbelievable views warrant a cease for lunch or a fast stroll round city. While you depart, take CO-24 south to Twin Lakes, then flip west onto CO-82.
  • Head up and over Independence Go (the place you’ll more than likely see the aspens go into overdrive) after which descend down into the aptly-named city of Aspen. If you wish to cease and hand around in Aspen for a bit, ensure to take a look at our Native’s Information to Aspen for our favourite hikes, eating places, and watering holes. 
  • As soon as you may tear your self away from Aspen, drive on down the Roaring Fork Valley to Carbondale. Then, head south on CO-133 up McClure Go and the dramatic Ragged Mountains.
  • Stretch your legs on the prime of McClure Go within the aspen grove on the northwest facet of the highway. This place is magical; soak it in. As soon as you’re feeling prepared, head down to only previous Paonia Reservoir and switch left onto CO-12.
  • Saving the largest (and a few would say finest) for final is Kebler Go, dwelling of the biggest aspen grove within the state. End your day by rolling into Crested Butte and have a good time with a pizza on the Secret Stash Pizza (and have an additional slice for me).
Aspen fall foliage on Kebler Pass in Colorado
Kebler Go | Photograph credit score: Ben Thomas

Bonus Hike: Capitol Lake by way of the Capitol Ditch Path

Lose among the leaf-peeping crowds that flock to Maroon Lake close to Aspen and develop into surrounded by aspen timber on this stunning 12-mile out and again.

Heads up, the highway to this trailhead requires excessive clearance (~7 inches) 4WD for the final mileGet extra path data right here

Leg 3: Crested Butte to Pagosa Springs

  • Route: Silverton and Durango – MAP
  • Distance: 259 miles
  • Drive time: 5.5 hours

Leg 3 is one other shorter day drive time-wise, however for good motive. You’re heading right down to the western slope after which past into the San Juans, Colorado’s most dramatic mountain vary which are sometimes amplified by fall aspen leaf magnificence.

Sneffels Range in Colorado surrounded by golden aspen trees
Sneffels Vary (Photograph: Ben Thomas)
  • Go away Crested Butte by means of Gunnison, and head west in the direction of Montrose. Benefit from the views previous Curecanti Reservoir and in case you have time for a detour, try Black Canyon of the Gunnison Nationwide Park.
  • In Montrose, flip south onto US-550, having fun with the views of the Sneffels Vary because it grows from a distant tease to an impressive mountain crown! At Ridgway, keep on US-550 by means of Ouray up and over the Million Greenback Freeway of Crimson Mountain Go.
  • BE CAREFUL driving this part!  The mountains listed here are steep and dramatic and generally the highway is steep and dramatic as effectively. This can be a paved freeway, however there are lengthy, steep drops simply off the highway, so listen.
  • When you get to the highest of Crimson Mountain Go, the highway calms down and the views maintain ramping up as you drive into Silverton. Silverton is a unusual former mining city revived by the acute sports activities of ultra-trail-marathons and backcountry snowboarding. It’s an ideal place to stretch your legs earlier than the following part of this drive.
  • Past Silverton, you’ll head up and over Molas Go to Durango, with unbelievable views in the direction of the Needle Mountains into the Weminuche Wilderness, the biggest wilderness space in Colorado. When you’ve reached Durango, head east on US-160 to Pagosa Springs, persevering with to frame the Weminuche Wilderness.

Bonus Hike: The Colorado Path from Molas Go to the Animas River

This hike is a little bit backward, which makes it form of enjoyable. Begin on the prime of Molas Go and hike down on the Colorado Path to the Animas River and the prepare tracks of the Durango-Silverton Slender Gauge railway.

On the best way, you’ll cross into the tree line (and thru aspens after all) with close-up views of the spectacular Vestal Peak.

It’s 4 miles right down to the river, dropping 3,000 toes within the course of. Keep in mind, you’ll must climb all the best way again up if you happen to make all of it the best way right down to the river!

Landscape photo of Vestal Peak and the Animas River in Colorado
Vestal Peak and the Animas River | Photograph credit score: Ben Thomas

Bonus Driving Leg: Dallas Divide from Ridgway in the direction of Telluride, CO-62

I needed this highway journey to be a real loop with no backtracking. That meant chopping off a few spots that didn’t fairly match.

However Dallas Divide and Telluride are SO BEAUTIFUL within the fall, I’ve to at the very least point out them.

If in case you have the time, the views on this space are effectively definitely worth the effort to show round and head again the best way you got here.

Take a look at among the finest hikes in Telluride when you’re there.

Leg 4: Pagosa Springs to Denver

  • Route: Salida, Fairplay, and Georgetown – MAP
  • Distance: 389 miles
  • Drive time: 8 hours
Fall aspen colors on mountainside on Monarch Pass in Colorado
  • From Pagosa Springs, head east previous South Fork and into the San Luis Valley, the Rift Valley of North America. When you might take US-285 all the best way to Salida by means of the valley, I like to recommend taking the extra scenic again approach by way of routes 114 and 50.
  • Then it’s east, up and over Monarch Go to benefit from the view of two towering fourteeners, Tabeguache and Shavano, on the best way right down to Salida.
  • Head north throughout the South Park Valley, checking off Fairplay and Jefferson and up Kenosha Go. Kenosha Go throughout peak coloration is without doubt one of the finest, a becoming option to head again towards Denver.
  • However we’re not finished but! While you attain Grant, head up and over Guanella Go into Georgetown (perhaps hike Mount Bierstadt if you happen to really feel like tackling a fourteener).
  • After Georgetown, briefly hop on I-70 till Idaho Springs. There you’ll exit for Squaw Mountain Go, the place you’ll get your final repair of aspen tree glory earlier than assembly up with the Interstate as soon as once more and at last heading again into Denver.

Bonus Hike: San Luis Peak between Saguache and Gunnison

If the climate is favorable, San Luis Peak is probably the most distant fourteener in Colorado.

It’s an superior 13-mile, class 1 path that rewards hikers with some golden aspens on the best way to the highest. Get extra path data right here


Whew, there you’ve got it! Twenty-seven hours of among the prettiest fall colours in Colorado driving on this planet, actually.

Fall is probably the most great time of the 12 months in Colorado for a highway journey; now get on the market and luxuriate in!

In case you’re searching for extra Colorado highway journey assets, try these weblog posts:

Are you planning a Colorado fall highway journey? The place is your favourite place to see Colorado fall foliage? Go away a remark under!

Experience vibrant Colorado fall colors with this road trip itinerary that takes you through some of the best aspen groves in the state.





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