Five Great Drives to See Colorado's Fall Colors

Although a lot of us are still desperately clinging to the last days of summer (and given the temperatures lately, that's understandable), we're on the cusp of autumn.

Fortunately, Colorado helps us ease into the season via gorgeous displays of fall colors.

But what are the best places to enjoy the state at its most colorful if you've got some time and a set of wheels?, the official tourism site for the state, has put together a list of five drives that offer great views of the changes taking place over the next few weeks.

Check out the photo-illustrated quintet of options below, featuring links and text. For more about fall colors at the site, click here.

Top of the Rockies

The drive: Bookended by two ski resorts, this sky-high trip takes you from Copper Mountain to Leadville and west to Aspen. With the majority of the byway winding above 9,000 feet, you’ll cross the Continental Divide and follow the Arkansas River past old mining camps, high-country lakes and towering 14,433-foot Mt. Elbert.

Mileage: 82 miles

Pull over for: Downtown Leadville. The nation’s highest-elevation incorporated city is a National Historic Landmark full of mining museums, antique shops and Victorian-era architecture.

Stretch your legs at: The Independence Ghost Town Site. Between Twin Lakes and Aspen, Independence Pass twists around stunning groves of aspen to the former gold rush tent city.

West Elk Loop

The drive: This byway circles the West Elk Mountains on a journey through Paonia, Gunnison, Crested Butte and Carbondale. Touching three national forests, the drive crosses diverse landscapes of meadows, rivers, canyons and enormous aspen stands lit up in gold and orange.

Mileage: 205 miles

Pull over for: McClure Pass photos. Views to either side of the high mountain corridor spill out into a green, yellow and auburn canvas sprinkled with striking red scrub oaks.

Stretch your legs in: Curecanti National Recreation Area. The intersection of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park with Morrow Point, Blue Mesa and Crystal lakes is an unbeatable spot for picnicking and sightseeing.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts