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Colorado offers stunning mountain views no matter what time of year. However, the changing fall foliage during the autumn season brings color to the already colorful state. The aspen trees here in Colorado change from green to bright yellow during fall. So make sure to head to the mountains from mid-September to mid-October to catch these yellow patches of trees lightening up the mountain vistas. Hit the road this autumn on one of these 10 most scenic fall drives in Colorado.
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If you find yourself in southwest Colorado this fall season, then take a drive on Colorado’s very first National Forest Scenic Byway, known as San Juan Skyway. This 236-mile loop travels through the towns of Durango, Telluride, Ouray and Silverton. The views from the San Juan Skyway are so beautiful that the road was given the nickname of “the most beautiful drive in America.” If you missed early season foliage found at higher elevations, then take a drive here to view foliage later in the season during October.
Rocky Mountain National Park is a Colorado gem that offers incredible scenic views all year round. However the aspens change their color from green to yellow here in mid to late September, so it’s a great spot to visit for an early autumn getaway. The road that traverses the park is called Trail Ridge Road. This road, which runs from Estes Park to Grand Lake, closes during the winter season, so it’s a last-chance opportunity to drive the road before snow hits Rocky Mountain National Park. Fall is also elk-rutting season in the park. So you’re bound to see plenty of elk herds, but remember to maintain a safe distance from wildlife.
Head to the high country early in the fall season to catch the changing aspen trees. The Top of the Rockies Byway is a 115-mile stretch of road from Copper Mountain to Aspen. You’ll cross the Continental Divide and view plenty of Colorado’s highest peaks, referred to as 14’ers. During the drive, make it a point to stop in Leadville, which is known as the highest incorporated city in the nation at 10,152 feet above sea level.
The stunning views from the West Elk Loop will make for an unforgettable autumn drive. This 205-mile road, which runs through the towns of Gunnison and Crested Butte, traverses through the heart of the state. There will be plenty of photo opportunities found along the road, however, there is one spot you shouldn’t miss if you’re hoping to view fall foliage, and that spot is Kebler Pass. Kebler Pass is home to the largest aspen grove in North America, and it’s sure to be a brilliant sight during the fall season.
Last Dollar Road is another road in the southwestern part of the state that boasts jaw-dropping views of fall foliage. This unpaved road from Telluride to Ridgway is only 40 miles and is a remote option for those hoping to escape the hustle of a busy highway. A 2WD vehicle will do just fine on this bumpy, unpaved road during dry conditions. Along this road, you’ll drive through Dallas Divide, a spot that is bound to produce exceptional fall foliage vistas. Campers will be happy to know that there is a number of free primitive camping spots found along the Last Dollar Road too.
Visit the second highest pass in Colorado this autumn season. Independence Pass, at an elevation of 12,095 feet above sea level, is found near the towns of Twin Lakes and Aspen. If you find yourself on the Aspen side of the pass, make a stop at the Maroon Bells, which is the most photographed spot in all of Colorado. This road closes in November, right when the leaves fall off their branches, so autumn is a great time hit up this spot before the winter season.
This scenic byway is accessible for those visiting or living in the Front Range cities of Denver, Boulder or Fort Collins, since it’s only about an hour’s drive to access. This 55-mile byway was established in 1918 and is one of the state’s oldest scenic byways. Peak to Peak Scenic Byway displays great views of the Continental Divide and traverses through the towns of Black Hawk and Estes Park.
The trip to Guanella Pass is another road that is accessible for those in the Front Range and in Denver. This short, 23-mile route is a popular place for weekend warriors to go to view fall foliage, so keep that in mind if you intend on heading out to Guanella Pass during an autumn weekend. Here you’ll catch views of Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt as well as pass through the cute mountain town of Georgetown.
Highway of Legends traverses the southern foothills of Colorado. From La Veta to Trinidad, you’re going to want to have your camera ready along this extremely scenic route. This fall drive is another great option for those hoping to view fall foliage late in the season. As you climb up in elevation on this road, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of the West and East Spanish Peaks. With historic towns found along the way, the drive along Highway of Legends has both plenty to do and see.
Denverites hoping to catch fall colors but aren’t too interested in staying in the car for hours should hit the road to Squaw Pass. Starting in Idaho Springs, this drive will bring you to Echo Lake and to the town of Evergreen. And if you find that this scenic drive is too short for you, then head to Guanella Pass or reroute to drive along the Peak to Peak Byway.