The turning of the aspens marks the changing of the seasons and the coming of winter to the Rockies. For a few weeks, the state is graced with sweeping golden landscapes, one of Colorado's claims to fame.
Why are the leaves yellow? Chlorophyll — the chemical that allows leaves to turn energy from the sun into sugars and starches for sustenance and gives leaves a green tint — wears away in the fall. Without it, the yellow of the leaves shines through.
But this beauty only lasts a few weeks before leaves begin to turn brown and fall. So get out now and enjoy the changing of the seasons at these ten destinations for spectacular leaf-peeping near Denver and across the state — before the snow gets here.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Located 45 minutes outside of Denver, this is a stunning day trip destination. Enjoy a scenic drive up Golden Gate Canyon Road and 42 miles of hiking trails in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Be sure to take $8 in cash for vehicle entry.
This high-mountain pass is one of the state's top destinations for leaf-peeping. Part of the great West Elk Loop, a national scenic byway, Kebler Pass connects Crested Butte to Paonia. Situated in the Gunnison National Forest, the pass also offers opportunities for camping, hiking and biking.
The Guanella Pass Scenic Byway runs between Grant and Georgetown, providing awe-inspiring views of the changing colors, as well as the towering peaks of Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt. This 23-mile drive is also a promising place to spot wildlife, including bighorn sheep and beavers.
Peak to Peak Highway
This scenic byway winds between Estes Park and Black Hawk, making it another convenient destination from Denver. In addition to its proximity to the city and the spectacular views, the drive also offers charming towns to explore. Have a brew in Nederland and take a stroll — and roll the dice — in historic Central City.
State Highway 165
The 28.3-mile stretch between Rye and McKenzie Junction is a convenient destination for residents of southern Colorado. Located outside Pueblo, this section of road winds through the Wet Mountains, offering fall colors, as well as an opportunity to visit the inspiring Bishop Castle.
State Highway 67
This stretch of scenic roadway traverses the former route of the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad through Phantom Canyon, showcasing the gorgeous foliage of Mueller State Park. The park is a wonderland for camping, fishing, hiking and photography. Wildlife sightings are likely.
Founded in 1880, St. Elmo is now one of Colorado's most well-preserved ghost towns. Located between Buena Vista and Gunnison, the journey to this former mining town offers plenty of leaf-peeping, as well as an opportunity for spooky exploration.
Another one of Colorado's most popular leaf-peeping destinations, Kenosha Pass is located just over an hour from Denver. Connecting Bailey and Fairplay, this drive is a technicolor dream, where opportunities for hiking and photography abound.
Fraser Experimental Forest
Located just outside the town of Winter Park, this beautiful forest offers changing leaves as well as striking meadows, ponds and pines. With tons of hiking and biking trails, it's a hotbed of active leaf-peeping excursions. If you're lucky, you'll see moose.
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Trail Ridge Road
This iconic drive through Rocky Mountain National Park traverses a wide array of landscapes, including prime elevations for leaf-peeping. Rocky Mountain National Park is a great destination if you're looking for all of the amenities of a national park, as well as the opportunity to explore the welcoming town of Estes Park. If you're going, plan ahead for park entrance fees.
So get out as soon as possible and enjoy Colorado's natural beauty. But before you do, a few reminders. Fall brings not only the changing of the leaves, but also the beginning of hunting season. If you're hiking, it's good practice to wear bright clothing and stick to the trails. And if you're staying in the car, be sure to carry these ten essentials. You'll thank yourself for not having to cut your trip short because someone was unprepared.
What are your favorite leaf-peeping spots? Let us know at email@example.com.