As summer fades, our wildflowers wither, the air cools, and sunlight dims earlier and earlier- winter is coming! But before we can hit the slopes, fall ‘leaf peeping’ is something you don’t want to miss. 

Something magical happens to our aspen trees as they prepare to shed their leaves for the winter. The most awe-inspiring change of color occurs and the aspen trees turn a shimmering gold. With numerous aspen forests all over the state of Colorado, viewing the gold is endless. With different elevation throughout the state, the color change varies depending on the area you’re visiting. Each area has a different ‘peak’ of when the aspens reach their brightest, so if you want to experience the gorgeous views, be mindful that the further south and lower altitude you go, the later in the season the trees will change. 

Typically, we will start to see colors change in early September and depending on where you are, you can still see colors through mid- October. Take a drive, go on a hike, ride your bike, or even go by horse back to immerse yourself in the most magical time of the year. We’ve rounded up our favorite places throughout the state to see the most brilliant groves of aspens for your viewing pleasure. You absolutely won’t want to miss out on this display of nature’s regeneration, so take a look at the best spots for leaf peeping.

Kebler Pass near Crested Butte

Kebler Pass is home to one of the largest aspen groves in the world. What this means for you is a surreal experience for fall, as giant clusters of orange, yellow, and gold shine gleam amidst the surrounding mountain peaks. If you opt to drive Kebler Pass, it’s about 2-4 hours’ drive, not counting the dozens of times you’ll stop your car and get out to snap some pictures. Start in the town of Crested Butte and once you drive over the whole pass, you’ll descend into the friendly little town of Paonia.

Million Dollar Highway, Silverton to Ouray

Million Dollar Highway 550 is part of the San Juan Skyway loop in the southern part of Colorado and is 23 miles in length starting in Silverton and ending in Ouray. The autumn colors feel like the Million Dollar Highway earned its name by the sea of golden aspens it winds through. This is truly a bucket list destination, even more so when it’s experiencing peak aspen colors. Situated among Colorado’s steepest all-around mountain range, the Million Dollar Highway will reward you with jaw dropping vistas around every corner.

Boreas Pass in Breckenridge

This 22-mile scenic drive starts in Como and ends in the historic town of Breckenridge. Along the drive you’ll reach the summit around 12,000 feet with the road lined with clusters of aspen trees. Pull over often along your journey and 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. Once you get closer to Breckenridge, admiring the ski slopes from the road is a magnificent sight with the golden trees in the foreground. End your trip by heading into town for a cold brew or to walk and shop Breckenridge’s Main Street.

Independence Pass near Twin Lakes

Start in the small town of Twin Lakes for a truly unforgettable experience of driving Independence Pass which delivers you to the lovely town of Aspen. Leaf peeping is out of this world on this particular route, which is widely known as being a Colorado classic. Expect twisting roads, steep drop-offs, and unbe-leaf-able views! Be sure to stop at the Continental Divide summit, a towering 12,095 feet above sea level for panoramic 360 degree views. Bring a jacket, it gets cool up there!

Maroon Bells in Aspen

Talk about an amazing backdrop! The Maroon Bells sit behind the clear blue waters of Maroon Lake and are covered in aspen groves. What better place to see the epic change of aspen trees than in Aspen? The road up to the Bells is about 10 miles and is a treat in and of itself as it winds up a stunning aspen tree-lined valley. Even opting for hiking or biking up the whole way is amazing if you want to get closer to the trees. The Maroon Bells are said to be the most photographed mountains in North America and with the color change, this particular location for leaf peepers just can’t be beat.  

Leaf peeping is one of the most exciting and aesthetically pleasing activities Colorado has to offer. Our change in colors is quick, and each area’s ‘peak’ only lasts for about a week or two, so pick your route and timing to hit the road and immerse yourself in the magic of the Rocky Mountains in the fall! For more ideas on beautiful places to leaf peep, check out our other blog post, The 5 Best Spots to see the Golden Aspens in the Colorado Rockies.