While Colorado seems to be busiest during the hot summer months, in reality, fall is by far the BEST time to visit the Centennial State. With changing colors, crisp air, and the ever-present smell of wood-burning stoves, Colorado reaches peak coziness between the months of September and November.
Now there are a lot of cute towns to hole up in for a fall getaway: Aspen, Vail, even Denver, the capitol. But there are a couple more “off-the-beaten-path” locations that combine all the necessary requirements of a cozy fall vacation and outdoor adventure. Here are six cute towns worth checking out this fall:
As the highest town in Colorado, Leadville is a great place to see the leaves change colors, all while under one of the best mountain landscapes in the whole state: the Collegiate Range. With the tallest mountain, Mt. Elbert, as your backdrop, there are lots of outdoor adventures to get up to, even in the cooler temps. Including, mountain biking the Mitchell Creek Loop - which stays above 10,000 feet and the Twin Lakes Loop, a 12-mile, non-technical trail that lets you explore the historic abandoned Interlaken Resort. And if mountain biking isn’t your thing, check out the nearby hiking trails - including summiting the 14-ers Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, boating on Turquoise Lake and Clear Creek Reservoir, and climbing along Independence Pass and Camp Hale.
The only town on this list located in the Front Range of Colorado, Fort Collins is a hip little college town that starts to really come alive during the fall. Thanks to it being the home of Colorado State University, you can expect to find a nice lively atmosphere in the downtown district on the weekends - especially on Saturdays when the Rams play at home. But heading down to Old Town no matter the day of the week is always a good idea: expect to find live music, restaurants and bars with outdoor seating and the trees lit up with lights once it gets dark. And even if city life is not what you are looking for, it is a quick drive up to the mountains to places such as Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cameron Pass, and Red Feather Lakes* - all of which have amazing fall colors.
*be aware that there is/was a huge fire raging up at Cameron Pass (2020) so maybe don't explore that area this year. Or if you do, please be careful.
Another northern Colorado locale, but one squarely located in the mountains, Steamboat Springs is a full-on ski town come winter (it is home to more Olympic skiers than any other city - so yes, they take winter sports quite seriously). But even before the snow starts to fall, Steamboat is an awesome place to have a fall mountain getaway. We recommend taking a hike in the nearby Flat Tops Wilderness, about 30-minutes from town, or just head out for a scenic drive on one of the many backcountry, scenic roads - including over Rabbit Ears Pass (where you can find even more hiking). And after a long day on the trails, why not soak away your aches in Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a natural hot spring located on the outskirts of town (and surrounded by a beautiful mountain landscape).
Here are 20 other amazing things to do and see in Steamboat Springs in the fall.
On the far western slope of Colorado is a cute little farming town famous for its peaches. Palisade, located on the outskirts of Grand Junction, is a small town with lots of charm. Make sure to check out the many vineyards, go for a wine tasting, and bike along the Colorado River. And if you have the time, definitely explore the nearby Grand Mesa along this Colorado Scenic Byway. This area is a popular destination for professional and amateur photographers alike who want to take stunning photos of the colorful panoramas of yellow, red, and gold aspens. Plus, with over 300 lakes, the world’s largest flat-top mountain (the Grand Mesa) is the perfect location to see the aspen trees transform. And if you can plan it right, make sure to check out Color Weekend at Powderhorn Mountain Resort, going on September 28-30.
Possibly the best time to visit this hidden gem in southwestern Colorado, fall makes the whole town - and surrounding mountains - light up in a nice cozy haze of gold. With so many outdoor areas to explore and adventures to be had, Durango is quite possibly the best town in Colorado between September and November. A couple can’t miss locations (and adventures) are Vallecito Reservoir, a quick 22-mile drive out of town and home to many beautiful trails, and the Hermosa Creek Trail, a long hike that can eventually take you all the way to Telluride - talk about an amazing fall backpacking trip! And if hiking is not your thing, then consider driving along the Million Dollar Highway, one of the prettiest roads in the whole state (and even the country). Highway 550 takes you past the historic mining town of Silverton, and all the way to the scenic town of Ouray - passing three 10,000-foot passes along the way.
Fall might just be the BEST time to visit Colorado. With cooler weather, often smaller crowds, and crazy beautiful colors, adventuring here between the months of September and November is sure to be a trip to remember. For many of these places, the best time to see the colors are the last two weeks of September up to the first two weeks of October.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your warmest sweater, your coziest socks, and your camera (and some nice hiking boots) and head out to Colorado for one beautiful fall adventure.
Looking for more areas to explore? Here are a couple of other amazing areas in the Centennial State to check out the fall foliage.