NOTHING SEEMS TO SCREAM FALL LIKE BEAUTIFUL GOLDEN TREES IN THE MOUNTAINS. LUCKILY, COLORADO HAS NUMEROUS CUTE MOUNTAIN TOWNS THAT TRULY COME ALOVE WAS THE WEATHER STARTS TO COOL DOWN.
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 capital. 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 mountain towns worth checking out this fall.
THE 6 BEST COLORADO MOUNTAIN TOWNS TO VISIT IN THE FALL
If there is one perfect Colorado mountain town to explore during the fall, this might be it. Located in the high central mountains and far enough away from any major city to make it feel totally off-the-beaten-path, Crested Butte really embodies that old Western spirit of the mountains. Plus, it is just jaw-droppingly beautiful.
And its beauty really shines brightest during the fall when all of the towns' surrounding mountains start to glow in various shades of gold. If you want to explore the changing colors up close, we suggest hitting the hundreds of miles of singletrack trails either on your own two feet or by mountain bike (you can rent great bikes in town). Or if exploring the fall foliage in the comfort of your car is more your speed, we highly recommend doing the stunning drive up to Kebler Pass, located right outside of town. This winding mountain road not only takes you past beautiful mountain landscapes but also through the largest aspen grove in Colorado.
| WHERE: Crested Butte totally feels off-the-beaten-path due to its rather remote location. Which makes sense when you realize it is a 4.5 hour drive from Denver (in good weather).
| SIP: you cannot visit Crested Butte and not grab a coffee at the local mainstay coffee shop, Camp 4. We suggest their regular black coffee and a pastry. Delicious.
INSIDER TIP: besides exploring Kebler Pass, we also highly suggest checking out Gothic ghost town - located about 15 miles from downtown.
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 completely above 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) 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.
| WHERE: Leadville is located just under 2 hours from Denver and about 30 minutes off of I-70.
| SIP: City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso, located right on the main street (here).
Hidden away from the craziness that is I-70, the cute town of 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 it is also an amazing place to have a fall mountain getaway.
We recommend taking a hike in the nearby Flat Tops Wilderness, located 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, definitely plan to soak away your aches at Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a natural hot spring located on the outskirts of town (and surrounded by a beautiful mountain landscape).
| WHERE: Steamboat is situated in northern Colorado about 3.5 hours from Denver and about the same from Fort Collins. From Fort Collins you will take Highway 14, a Colorado designated Scenic Byway.
| SIP: stop in at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Café for a warm cup of Joe. Find the location here.
Located on the far western slope of Colorado, sits a cute little farming town famous for its peaches. Palisade, located on the outskirts of the larger city 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 of Colorado is a popular destination for professional and amateur landscape photographers 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.
| WHERE: Palisade is located right off of I-70, the main interstate that runs east-west in Colorado. It is around 4 hours west of Denver.
| SIP: Copeka Coffee, a nice café located right off of the main street in downtown. Find the exact location here.
INSIDER TIP: if you want to soak up even more nature and relax in some hot springs, we suggest making the one hour drive east to Glenwood Springs.
This brings us to our next great mountain town for fall adventures: Pagosa Springs, home to more amazing mountain landscapes, trails and as the name might suggest, hot springs. Because if there is one thing that gets better when the weather starts to cool down it is hot springs.
In terms of the best fall adventures, your best bet is to explore the area around Wolf Creek Ski Area, which is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Pagosa Springs. From there, you can hike as far as you want on the famous Continental Divide Trail - including to places like Alberta Peak, Spruce Lakes and Railroad Pass. And, after a day out hiking, make sure to stop in at one of the numerous (private) hot springs in town or hit up the free Hippy Dippy hot spring located in the river in town (find it here).
| WHERE: Pagosa Springs, like Crested Butte, is pretty far from any major cities. From Denver it is a 5 hour drive.
| SIP: get your morning started at ROOT HOUSE, located off of Main Street near the hot springs (exact location here).
Possibly the best time to visit this hidden gem of a town in southwestern Colorado is during the fall when 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 could quite possibly be the best town in Colorado between September and November.
A couple of 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 (Hwy 550), 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.
| WHERE: Durango is by far the farthest town from the major hub of Denver (roughly 6.5 hours by car). If you are looking to fly in, you can reach the town by air, but we instead suggest landing in Albuquerque, NM, which is only 3.5 hours away.
| SIP: check out Taste Coffee for a funky café experience and darn good coffee. Find the location here.
INSIDER TIP: if you want even more outdoor adventures, consider checking out Mesa Verde National Park, located nearby.
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.
FIND MORE FALL TRAVEL GUIDES
WHAT WE LEARNED LIVING IN CRESTED BUTTE FOR 8 MONTHS | Including what we loved about fall!
HIKING FROM CRESTED BUTTE TO ASPEN: WHAT TO KNOW | Everything to know about doing the Grand Traverse hike in Colorado
EXPLORING COTTTONWOOD PASS IN THE FALL | The best things to see along this stunning mountain pass
THE BEST ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK HIKES FOR FALL COLORS | This super useful guide will help you have the best fall adventures