You’ve probably heard that driving through the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire is the best way to take in spectacular fall foliage, but there is one thing they don’t have – the Colorado aspen tree. Just like Atlanta is known for its peach trees, Coloradoans adore the quaking leaves of their celebrated aspen trees. They’ve named towns, streets, even a favorite beer after this unique golden tree, and people come from miles around to witness the gilded spectacle of aspens in autumn. However, you must time our aspen viewing carefully; the color only lasts about a week in many places and it’s hard to predict exactly when the leaves will change in a given location.For diehard foliage fans, it makes sense to choose travel dates in advance but wait until the last minute to choose specific destinations. This gives you the flexibility to “follow the color” on a few different road-tripping routes. Here are a few of the best fall-color pilgrimages that are popular with aspen lovers.
- Southwestern Colorado – Many travelers find that the area around Dallas Divide and Lizard Head Pass is the best place to start, where an apron of aspens sits at the feet of Sneffels Range. Starting at Placerville, simply head southeast on Colorado Route 145 toward Telluride and you will pass through dense groves of white-barked aspens on the way to Lizard Head Pass.
- West of Crested Butte is Kebler Plass, which is accessible via County Road 12. The glorious autumn colors of Ruby Range provide a radiant backdrop for the golden aspens below. A trip north on Colorado 133 will bring you up to McClure Pass for even more spectacular colors. Another favorite route for tourists in this part of Colorado is found by taking Colorado 550 down to Ouray, Silverton and Durango.
- Northwestern Colorado – If you’ve never seen Maroon Bells up close, you owe it to yourself to get here for the foliage. Possibly one of the most photographed vantage points in all of North America, these peaks are situated southwest of Aspen and offer the ideal spot to capture the glory of autumn leaves. On September weekends, the only access to Maroon Bells is via shuttle bus from Aspen, but they leave on a regular basis. Campsites may also be reserved along Maroon Creek Road, where one can drive along the scenic Maroon Lake. There is nothing quite as awe-inspiring as the sight of golden-hued trees framing the reflected image of the majestic purple and white striped peaks.
- Grand Junction East to Grand Mesa – Some of the most spectacular stretches of aspen and other colorful trees can be found by taking I-70 east past the Colorado River and through Palisade. At Colorado Route 65 turn east and then south through miles of canyon country, reaching the summit of Grand Mesa. In this area, golden aspens stretch out as far as the eye can see.
- South Central Colorado – As you close in on Cottonwood Pass, the massive Collegiate Peaks rise up on all sides. With peaks named after Ivy League universities like Princeton and Yale, this is one of Colorado's most aspen-laden valleys and it’s loaded with fall colors.
- Colorado’s Front Range – From Black Hawk to Estes Park, the Peak-to-Peak Scenic and Historic Byway meanders through valleys and skims the top of mountain ridges. Quaking aspens pop up along the way in surprising places along the route.
- Frontier Pathways Scenic and Historic Byway - Heading west out of Pueblo on Colorado 96 starts the path of this aspen-laden drive. The route climbs into the Wet Mountains and descends into the Wet Mountain Valley, passing aspens blazing in autumn color along the way. Head south from here on Colorado 165 to see Colorado cottonwood and scrub oak trees as they turn brilliant colors beneath rugged rock formations.
- Highway of Legends Scenic and Historic Byway - This dazzling route wraps around two of Colorado's burliest mountains, West and East Spanish Peak. Along the way, the highway passes beneath ancient volcanic walls that rise over tracts of pine, scrub oak and aspen. Nearly the entire route along Colorado 12 begs to be photographed.
The legendary golden aspens of Colorado draw thousands of visitors to the state every fall, but the rest of the fall foliage is just as glorious. If you want to enjoy the natural beauty and outdoor activities in Colorado, autumn is a wonderful time to get away. Fall foliage is just one of many reasons why the signs read “Welcome to Colorful Colorado!”
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The Peaceful Valley Lodge is a Colorado Mountain Vacation Rental Cabin near Summit County Colorado and Breckenridge Ski Mountain. This single family home is perfect for family reunions, weekend getaways, romantic honeymoons or getaways, family mountain vacations, ski vacations, summer holidays and any Colorado outdoor activity (hiking, biking, snowshoeing, 4wd, wildlife watching and much more).
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This is the website for the Peaceful Valley Lodge - a Colorado mountain vacation rental cabin that is secluded, private, beautiful and pet friendly. The home sleeps 10 comfortably and features a hot tub, fireplace, jaw dropping mountain views and many more amenities. Our romantic chalet is perfect for weekend getaways, week long ski and fishing vacations, honeymoons and small family reunions.
We had a blast playing the foosball with the kids, cooking dinner together. The hot tub is wonderful after a day outside. We had a tremendous time in Colorado - loved the cabin! We will definitely return.
Matthews Family, Arizona 10/13/09