The 5 Best Spots to see the Golden Aspens in the Colorado Rockies

When the weather cools off in the Rocky Mountains, a certain kind of magic steps in. The aspen trees display vibrant yellows, golds, and reds on their leaves creating incredible scenery and views that are swoon-worthy. Meanwhile, the summer crowds empty out, leaving behind a charming, slower-paced feeling in mountain towns from Breckenridge, to Frisco, and Buena Vista. Take your pick of scenic drives where you can make a pit stop to see a historic ghost town, pull over at a hiking trailhead, or take a soak in a hot spring near Kremmling. Whether you are looking for incredible views, hiking trails, or ride a horse, these are the best places to get a glimpse of the annual aspen spectacle in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Be sure and bring your camera or smartphone to get some great photos that might be perfect for your holiday cards.

1. Cottonwood Pass

Take the scenic pass along the Continental Divide to see the stunning fall scenery! Reaching an altitude of 12,126 feet, this pass is the highest in altitude on the Continental Divide and offers incredible 360-degree views. This route passes through both Almont, a quintessential mountain town, and Buena Vista, which is a hub for whitewater rafting since the Arkansas River flows right through town. Or, find hiking trails, camping areas, mountain biking rides, and relaxation in the Mount Princeton and Cottonwood hot springs along the way of this scenic pass!

2. Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Take in the views of the changing leaves from the summit of one of the eight fourteeners (There are 52 peaks exceeding 14,00 feet within the state) that can be found in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. Filled with mountains named after some of the country’s most prestigious universities, this is the perfect place to enjoy the changing seasons while exploring a hiking trail and maybe even knocking a fourteener off your Colorado bucket list! After you reach the summit and make it back to your campground, grab a celebratory pint at a local brewery in Buena Vista, which sits less than 30 miles away from this hiking haven!

3. Independence Pass

Boasting 32 miles of stunning scenery, Independence Pass is one of the best drives for getting a glimpse of the breathtaking fall foliage and Roaring Fork River. Sitting just outside of Aspen and a short drive from Buena Vista, this pass can be accessed near top destinations for leisure and outdoor adventure in the Centennial State. For a challenge, you can pedal your bike to the top of the pass that reaches an altitude of 12,095 feet and coast all the way down. Or, find more fall-spirited fun at the Independence Ghost Town where you can take a self-guided tour of the 1800's gold mining town that still features the remnants of stables, a general store, and a cabin.

4. Boreas Pass

Starting in the historic railroad town of Como, this 22-mile scenic drive winds you through the Rockies and down into Summit County. Along the hour-long drive, you reach a summit of 11,481 feet and enjoy views of the aspen trees that can be found along the sides of the road. Pull over, lace up your hiking boots to set your course along the Baker’s Tank Trail, or the Aspen Alley Trails to see the fall splendor on foot. When you reach the end of your scenic excursion, you won’t want to miss exploring the dining and shopping hotspots of popular tourist towns like Breckenridge and Frisco. Stroll down Main Street in either of these charming mountain towns to browse quaint local shops, breweries, and delicious eateries! 

5. Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway

Follow this breathtaking drive along the Colorado River! This route will also lead you past Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, and Lake Granby, offering plenty of opportunities for fishing and getting out on the water along the way. For a day of relaxation, make a pit stop to soak and enjoy the natural hot springs outside of Kremmling that can be found on the banks of the Colorado River or indulge at the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa.

No matter if your ideal fall activity involves a scenic drive, a hiking expedition, or a ride through the forest on horseback, getting into Colorado’s Rockies to see the changing leaves is a memory worth making! Once the leaves begin to change, the aspens only hold onto this magic for a couple of weeks, so pick your route and hit the road to get a glimpse of this Rocky Mountain spectacle!


The Perfect Summer Weekend Exploring Frisco and Breckenridge

Summertime in the high country is full of adventure. From paddle boarding and kayaking on Dillon Reservoir, to hiking to one of Breckenridge’s breathtaking alpine lakes, to enjoying the quaintness of their historic mountain-town charm, summer in Summit County is unbeatable! And of course getting on the river for some whitewater rafting is always a must. Elevated at 9,097 feet, the town of Frisco offers constant adrenaline-pumping adventures among the wildflowers and scenic twists and turns of the captivating mountains. When visiting the area, Frisco and Breckenridge are definitely towns you won’t want to skip.

Frisco

The natural location of Frisco connects a mineral-rich canyon with a rolling river valley, and boasts towering peaks in every direction. Once a mining town and railroad stop, Frisco is nestled between Mount Royal and Dillon Reservoir with an incredibly charming Main Street, set in the 1800’s. Nestled between a few ski resorts and 14’ers, Frisco offers breathtaking mountain views, outdoor adventures, and quaint shops and restaurants to help you refuel for the next adventure. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in true local Colorado mountain town culture, Frisco is the perfect weekend getaway!



There’s lots to see and do in Frisco, so we’ve come up with a few ideas for the perfect mountain weekend. Start your first day in the mountains off right at The Butterhorn Bakery for delicious breakfast favorites, freshly-baked pastries, and lunch from 7:30 am until 2:30 pm with tent, patio, and indoor dining options.’

With some good food in your belly, be sure to get your whitewater rafting boat time booked at online here https://whitewatercolorado.com/book-now/ or give us a call at 877-747-RAFT.

Lace up your hiking boots and head up to Rainbow lake for a casual ~2 mile hike to take in the views and wildflowers along the way. For lunch and an award-winning brew, drop by Outer Range Brewing Co for top-notch IPA’s and tasty Thai Fried Chicken. If you’re a craft beer lover, Outer Range is a must! Head back to Frisco Main Street and stroll the shops – some of our favorite locally owned gems are Next Page, a bookstore with great Colorado books, gifts, and guide books, Foote’s Rest Sweet Shoppe which often has live music outside during the day for you to enjoy with some hand-churned ice cream, and Funky Trunk Boutique for resale clothes and accessories. Enjoy dinner at Grecco’s Pasteria and order a pizza with their unlimited topping choices or opt for the chicken parmesan – you won’t regret it! Retire for the night at the top-rated, family-owned Frisco Lodge which has been around since 1885. This bed and breakfast is located right on Main Street and has a hot tub and outdoor fireplace to end the day with some relaxation. Best of all, during summer 2020 Main Street just outside the door is closed to vehicle traffic, making the Frisco Pedestrian Promenade a perfect backdrop for people watching at a distance.



As every good morning starts with coffee, head to Bread + Salt bistro and grab a cup of local- brewed joe and unique Colorado-grown breakfast options. When you look at their menu but can’t decide what to order because the entire menu looks so good, you know you’re in the right spot! After fueling up, walk towards the east end of town, and you will run into the Frisco Marina. Rent a paddle board or kayak to explore the islands and coves of Dillon Reservoir for the day.

Looking to stay on land but still want to experience the lake? Try renting a bike to ride the 18 mile loop around the lake, although even riding just a part of the loop is worth it! Hard to believe, but there is actually an entire town under the reservoir that used to be home to 800 people back in the day. Denver Water needed to create a new dam which put ‘Old Dillon’ 250 feet under water. After a long day, you’re probably looking for a place to grab some yummy appetizers and maybe even a drink. Try the Island Grill located right at the marina – they have awesome food and great views of the reservoir. For a night cap, enjoy sunset at Sapphire Point for incredible mountain views.


Frisco’s quaint charm is rooted in its location nestled in the mountains. Frisco is located at the north end of the Ten Mile Mountain Range which connects Frisco to Breckenridge. When looking at Frisco, the first mountain on the left is Mount Royal, the next peak is Mount Victoria, and then shoots up to Peak One of the Ten Mile Range. Continuing south, you can see the rest of the peaks in the Ten Mile Range, ending with Quandary Peak, the southernmost and highest point in the Range at 14,271 feet. The end of this mountain range puts you in Breckenridge.

Breckenridge

Breckenridge is home to the largest historic district in Colorado as its rich and colorful history is full of gold finds and mining exploration and adventures, brothels, saloons, booms, and busts. The town’s Gold Rush brought droves of settlers seeking their fortunes after a 13.5 pound gold nugget was discovered near Breckenridge in the 1800’s. Today, the town’s historic charm remains – in the backcountry you can find old mining tools and structures from back in the day. We recommend you download the AllTrails app which helps you to choose the perfect hiking trails for your interest and ability level. There are lots of trails to choose from in Breckenridge, so the app helps narrow down the best trail for you and your group. Grab some lunch on the patio at Kenosha or The Canteen after your hike – both have great sandwiches, salads, and yummy cocktails. The Breckenridge Distillery is a great place to spend the afternoon and experience their tasting room. The distillery has award-winning bourbon and other spirits, and outstanding food plus cool gifts to choose for friends and family back home! For lodging in Breckenridge, check out Gravity Haus, a new globally-conscious, modern hotel located in the heart of town. Wherever your adventure takes you when visiting Summit County, you’ll get a great feel of the local culture in the mountains.

Summit County adventure, weather, experiences, and views are truly magical. We’d love to see you stop by the KODI Rafting Summit County location in Breckenridge when you come into town. Our Blue River and Ten Mile Creek trips meet at our Frisco location most seasons. We hope you enjoy your time in beautiful Summit County and immerse yourself in true Colorado mountain culture!


A River Rafting Road Trip

Want to create the ultimate rafting experience? How about a rafting road trip? Hit multiple rivers, all offering unique rafting experiences in the following rafting loop.

It all starts in Denver, where you’ll head 30 miles west on I-70 and stop in the historic mining town of Idaho Springs.

Idaho Springs

In Idaho Springs, you'll raft Clear Creek either on a beginner, intermediate, or advanced raft trip. You’ll hit any range of rapids from class II to class IV. You’ll flow through a rugged, spectacular mountain canyon filled with granite boulders and towering pine trees and finish up with a float through historic Idaho Springs.

From Idaho Springs, continue heading west for 40 miles on I-70 until you hit Frisco, your next rafting stop.

Frisco

Frisco offers some very special rafting trips, including the Blue River Half Day Raft Trip and the Ten Mile Creek Half Day Raft trip. Each offers excellent white water, although Blue River is an early season run as it's dependent on snowpack.

From Frisco, head into the Arkansas River Valley and hit up Buena Vista. A beautiful 60 miles south of Frisco, Buena Vista offers some of the country’s best whitewater.

Buena Vista

From Buena Vista, there are several awesome raft trips to choose from, including KODI’s most popular raft trips through Browns Canyon National Monument. By this time, you might be ready to truly test your skills. If this is the case, you might want to consider KODI’s Numbers Raft Trips. These trips take you down the Numbers, a series of rapids so intense, they were numbered instead of named.

Now that your road trip is done, you can make the easy and scenic drive back to Denver along Hwy 285. However, if you’re not ready to call it quits there’s always KODI’s Kremmling office, where you can jump on the Upper Colorado River for a scenic float and gorgeous views.


Summit County Raft Trips

Summit County is aptly named “Colorado’s Playground.”  Just one-and-a-half hours west of Denver, this outdoor paradise is home to several ski resorts, abundant hiking trails, Lake Dillon, and rivers galore.

Colorado is one of only two “headwater” states in the U.S. This means all of Colorado’s rivers flow out of the state while none flow in (the other headwater state is Hawaii). Summit County towns Breckenridge, Frisco, and Silverthorne sit at the start of many of these rivers, making them an excellent choice for whitewater rafting.

Whether you're in Keystone or Breckenridge, whitewater rafting should be on your list of things to do. The rafting in the area is famous for its scenery as well as its whitewater rapids. Summit County rivers offer something for people of ages and skill levels, so come prepared to have a great ride!

Book a Summit County rafting trip with KODI. Our Summit County trips include:

Blue River Half Day Raft Trip

The Blue River raft trip is what we like to call a “quick hitter” because it gives you an awesome Colorado rafting experience in just one and a half hours of river time.

Level: Fun for Everyone (ages 7+)   |   LEARN MORE

Ten Mile Creek Half Day Raft Trip

Ten Mile Creek is the newest, commercially run stretch of river in Colorado, and KODI Rafting is the only rafting company offering the trip! This Summit County rafting trip is an intense four-mile, class IV run dropping 110 feet per mile in the upper stretch.

Level: Extreme Adventure (ages 16+)   |   LEARN MORE

Stand Up Paddleboard Full Day Adventure

Try the newest, most fun activity on the river with KODI’s Stand Up Paddleboard Adventure. Start with an hour to 90 minutes of flat water stand up paddleboard training. You’ll then go down a mellow stretch of the Upper Colorado River, where stunning Gore Canyon sets the perfect Colorado backdrop.

Age Requirement: 12 years and older |   LEARN MORE

Stand Up Paddleboard Rentals

Want to head out on your own stand up paddleboard adventure but don't have the gear? KODI’s got you covered. Rent a paddleboard from our Frisco outpost for 4 hours, 8 hours, or 24 hours.

Age Requirement: 12 years and older |   LEARN MORE

Group Stand Up Paddleboard Rental – The Beast

Regular-sized stand up paddleboards are fine and all if you're looking to do some solo paddling. But, what if you'd like to enjoy the company of a small crowd right next to you on your board?  Well, lucky you! KODI Rafting rents the “Beast,” an 18-foot SUP that holds up to 10 people.

Age Requirement: 12 years and older |   LEARN MORE