10 Most Scenic Fall Drives in Colorado

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Colorado offers stunning mountain views no matter the time of year. However, the changing fall foliage during autumn brings color to the already colorful state and lots of places to visit if you’re looking for low crowds and more nature. The aspen trees in Colorado change from green to bright yellow during fall, so head to the mountains from mid-September to mid-October to catch the yellow patches of trees lighting up the mountain vistas. Hit the road this autumn on one of Colorado’s 10 most scenic fall drives.

San Juan Skyway
The San Juan Skyway forms a 233 mile loop in southwest Colorado

San Juan Skyway

If you find yourself in southwest Colorado this fall season, then drive on Colorado’s 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 named “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.

Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road

Rocky Mountain National Park is a Colorado gem that offers incredible scenic views 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, so it’s a last-chance opportunity to drive the route before the snow hits Rocky Mountain National Park. Fall is also the 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.

Top of the Rockies Byway
View of the Top of the Rockies Byway

Top of the Rockies Byway

Head to the high country in early autumn to catch the changing aspen trees. The Top of the Rockies Byway is a 115-mile 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.

West Elk Loop
West Elk Loop National Scenic Byway

West Elk Loop

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. Kebler Pass is home to the largest aspen grove in North America and will be a brilliant sight during the fall season.

Last Dollar Road
Last Dollar Road

Last Dollar Road

Last Dollar Road is another road in the state’s southwestern region 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 fine on this bumpy, unpaved road during dry conditions. Along this road, you’ll drive through Dallas Divide, a spot bound to produce exceptional fall foliage vistas. Campers will be happy to know that several free primitive camping spots are found along Last Dollar Road too.

Independence Pass
Independence Pass

Independence Pass

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, 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.

Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
Sean Xu
Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

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 excellent views of the Continental Divide and traverses through Black Hawk and Estes Park towns.

Guanella Pass
Guanella Pass Campground

Guanella Pass

The trip to Guanella Pass is another road that is accessible for those in the Front Range and Denver. This short, 23-mile route is a popular place for weekend warriors to view fall foliage, so keep that in mind if you intend to head 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
Highway of Legends National Scenic Byway

Highway Of Legends

Highway of Legends traverses the southern foothills of Colorado. From La Veta to Trinidad, you will want your camera ready to take pictures along this beautifully scenic route. This fall drive is another great option for those hoping to view fall foliage late in the season. As you climb up the elevation on this road, you’ll experience stunning views of the West and East Spanish Peaks. With historic towns found along the way, the drive along Highway of Legends has plenty to do and see.

Squaw Pass
Autumn trees in Colorado Squaw Pass

Squaw Pass

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 the town of Evergreen. And if you find that this scenic drive is too short for you, head to Guanella Pass or reroute to drive along the Peak to Peak Byway.

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