Colorado Fall Foliage – Top Drives for Leaf Peeping

Colorado Fall Foliage – Top Drives for Leaf Peeping

Denise Krenning

The first week of fall starts in a few weeks and I know like most of us, we are all ready for flannel and soup weather. The summer has been HOT. Over labor day weekend, I was giddy with excitement walking down the shopping aisles filled with pumpkins and shades of orange everywhere. Sunflowers, the happiest flower around, are showing their blooms in abundance throughout Colorado. Without question, Fall is my favorite season and I'm not alone waiting for the mountain's vibrant colors to show up. Being (almost) a native of Colorado, I know just where to head to view the changing of the Aspen trees and most of these places are not filled with people nor traffic.

Colorado Sunflower


Check out USA Adventure Gear's guide below for finding Aspen gold in Colorado!

 Boreas Pass Colorado

Kenosha Pass 

Kenosha Pass on Highway 285 between Grant and Jefferson is popular with leaf watchers and photographers because you can get amazing shots right from the highway. The Colorado Trail crosses Highway 285 here so you can hike in either direction and be in the fall colors. This place does get busy so go during the week for the best days for taking photos with less crowds. Sorry readers, this is one place that most people know about. It's a close drive from Denver and totally worth an afternoon trip.

USA Adventuregear Colorado Aspen Drives

Guanella Pass

Guanella Pass, a Colorado Scenic Byway is located between Georgetown and Grant gives fall color searchers a chance to see the colors at elevations between 9,000 and above. While the pass hits a high of 11,670, the pass is home to a 14,000-foot peak (Mt Bierstadt), so you can see the colors turning over a wide variety of elevations. With hillsides full of Aspen trees on both sides of the pass, this is a popular area for photographers. Again, a place leaf peeping can get busy however, if you happen to have a 4 wheel drive, I've got a little known secret spot. Head up through I70 from Denver to HWY 285, turn at FSR119 past Duck Creek Picnic area. Keep on the four wheel drive road and you'll find groves of Aspens. If you are looking for a great hike, there are a number of trails into the Mount Evans Wilderness Area are accessible via Park County Road 62, including the upper trailhead for Rosalie Trail #603, Threemile Creek Trail #635, Abyss Lake Trail #602, and the trail to the 14000’ Mt. Bierstadt. 

 Chimney Rock CO

Silver Jack Reservoir – Cimarron

Found in the Western Slope part of Colorado, Silver Jack Reservoir is a beautiful, remote lake located in the Uncompahgre National Forest south of Cimarron, Colorado. With well-maintained facilities, the Silver Jack Reservoir Recreation Area is a popular Gunnison County destination for day-use and overnight camping stays. From Montrose, CO drive east on U.S. Highway 50 to County Road 858 (Forest Access/Silver Jack Reservoir sign). Turn south on County Road 858 and take your time exploring this Aspen filled area. 

John Wayne loved this part of Colorado and scenes from How the West Was Won and True Grit were filmed around this magnificent area, especially during the fall season. Towering Aspens shine and shimmer against the jagged peaks of Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain. There is much to do here, whether it's a day drive and picnic, a last camping trip of the season or photography day hike, you won't find crowds here either way.  


USA Adventure Gear Colorado Aspens

Boreas Pass Area

Boreas Pass is a stunning drive you can find filled with fall colors and mountain views an hour outside of Breckenridge CO.  At the south end of Breckenridge, take Boreas Pass Road east. The pavement ends at the Boreas Pass Trailhead, a great stopping point for a hike or bike ride along the Aspen filled road.  For a longer drive, continue on towards Como, a quaint mountain town deep in history of the old narrow gauge railroad and used to be one of major centers of mining and railroad activity. Como is best known today for Boreas Pass, the Como Roundhouse, and the Como Depot & Eating House.  It’s an historic marvel and off the beaten path meaning another spectacular crowd free fall trip that's well worth a visit.

Need other Ideas? Here’s the top Colorado locations for fabulous fall foliage viewing.

Colorado Top Fall Drives

  1. Steamboat Springs, Elk River country north on County Road 129.  Also, check the view on Rabbit Ears Pass and Buffalo Pass east.
  2. Colorado 14 through the Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins
  3. Trail Ridge Road (US 34) through Rocky Mountain National Park
  4. Flat Tops country between Buford and Newcastle
  5. Tennessee Pass, US 24, from Leadville to Vail
  6. Boreas Pass between Como and Breckenridge, a 23-mile road cresting at 11,481 feet.
  7. Grand Mesa, Colorado 65 east of Grand Junction and north of Delta.
  8. Independence Pass, Colorado 82 between Twins Lakes and Aspen.
  9. Colorado 135 between Crested Butte and Gunnison.
  10. Kebler Pass west of Crested Butte on Gunnison County Road 12.
  11. Cottonwood Pass, Colorado 306 between Buena Vista and Taylor Park
  12. Monarch Pass, US 50 from Salida to Gunnison.
  13. Cochetopa Pass between Saguache and Gunnison.
  14. Gold Camp Road – Colorado 67 between Divide and Cripple Creek.
  15. Lizard Head Pass, Colorado 145 between Dolores and Telluride.
  16. Slumgullion Pass, Colorado 149 between Lake City, Creede and South Fork.
  17. US 160, Navajo Trail, between Pagosa Springs and Cortez.
  18. Platoro Reservoir, south of Del Norte and west of Conejos.
  19. Cucharas Pass, Colorado 12, from Trinidad to Walsenburg.
  20. CO 103 from Evergreen Parkway west to Echo Lake.
  21. McClure Pass – This is a spectacular 8,755-foot pass south of Carbondale along Colorado 133 and the Crystal River.

Here's to happy drives and beautiful photos!!