Colorado is a beautiful region whose scenery changes drastically with every season that rolls around. Even the state’s name connotes “color.” The word “colorado” means “red-colored” in Spanish. This description is not only apropos of the landscape but for the menagerie of hues that make an appearance each fall as the fall leaves begin to turn their beautiful yellows, golds, and reds.
One of the best ways to view the annual spectacular show of colors offered by our nation’s 38th state is to do it in an RV rental from Cruise America. Not only will you travel in complete comfort, but you’ll also get a 50-yard line view of Mother Nature at her finest.
In this blog post, we’ll share when the leaves change in Colorado and the top places to witness the stunning fall foliage in the Centennial State.
When Do Leaves Change in Colorado?
In Colorado, leaves typically begin to change color in September, with peak fall foliage usually occurring between late September and mid-October. The exact timing can vary based on several factors, including the specific location within the state, elevation, and weather conditions during the growing season.
Here's a general guideline:
High Elevations (8,000 - 10,000 feet): Early September to early October. At these elevations, you'll find aspen trees turning golden in early September, typically reaching their peak near the end of September.
Mid Elevations (6,000 - 8,000 feet): Mid-September to early October. Aspen trees at mid-elevations, often mixed with evergreen forests, tend to reach peak color in early October.
Low Elevations (below 6,000 feet): Late September to mid-October. Lower elevations, where you might find more oak and other deciduous trees, typically experience their peak color change a bit later, often in mid-October.
Keep in mind that weather patterns can influence the exact timing of the color change, so it might vary from year to year. If you're planning a trip to view the fall colors in Colorado, it's a good idea to check local resources or foliage reports, which provide up-to-date information on the status of the fall colors in different areas of the state.
Where to See the Best Fall Foliage in Colorado
Here are some ideas for some great road trips through the state of Colorado. They are well-suited for witnessing the spectacular fall show of color and nature. This show offers September and October performances, starring the state’s signature gold aspen trees.
Trail Ridge Road
This road is the highest continuous-paved road in the entire nation. It meanders through Rocky Mountain National Park and stretches from Estes Park (in the east part) to Grand Lake (in the west part).
There are more than eight miles of the road that hover over 11,000 feet in altitude, reaching its maximum elevation of 12,183 feet! This road offers leaf admirers and photographers alike, a generous view of nature as it makes the spectacular transition from summer to fall. There are also guided hikes and special tours throughout the park that are offered by the Rocky Mountain Conservancy.
This is an unpaved area, but it is considered to be a favorite amongst the photography crowd. It offers breathtaking views of color in the fall and is home to the largest aspen grove in the country. The pass is in Gunnison, Colorado. Ohio Creek Road is a good place to start, as it goes right by some very unique natural features, such as the old, abandoned site of Castleton and the spires of “The Castles.” These spires are remnants of the mud and volcanic ash that spewed forth from the West Elk Volcano, which occurred nearly 30 million years ago.
San Juan Skyway
In the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, there is an astounding 236-mile loop of road called the San Juan Skyway. This is an ideal place to see the leaves making their transition from green to beautiful. There is even a 70-mile stretch of road that is so beautiful, it’s known as the “Million Dollar Highway.”
Okay, that might not be the reason it was named that, but it does hold true! The picturesque byway eventually loops to the south and takes you to Mesa Verde National Park, where you can see the world-renowned cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloan people.
If you are a white-knuckle driver, you should be aware that many parts of the Million Dollar Highway have sheer drop-offs that have no guardrails. It may be a good idea to check with the Colorado Department of Transportation (303) 639-1111 ahead of time for road conditions.
If you want to step out of the motorhome and hop onto a train, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad will take you on a scenic ride deep into the San Juan Mountains via their old steam locomotive. It is a trip you will never forget!
These iconic “bells” are two mountains that rise 14,000 feet into the air. The Maroon Bells are nestled in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness in the 2.3-million-acre White River National Forest. The brilliant fall-colored trees offer a hypnotizing view of the beautiful array of different hues.
In addition to the incredible beauty, there are several hiking trails that allow you a workout, leading up to the bases of the mountains, providing spectacular views. You can get there in your RV, however there are buses that run daily from the middle of June through Labor Day, and on weekends from Labor Day through early October.
The world’s largest flat-top mountain, the Grand Mesa, is nestled in Colorado’s wine country in the Western Slope region of the Rocky Mountain State. Along with a variety of delicious wines, fall brings with it a whole barrel full of autumn color. Traveling along the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway you will enjoy the scrub oaks contrasting with the golden shimmering aspens to create a color-coordinated feast for your eyes.
Just west of Steamboat Springs is a dirt road that is lined with rows and rows of glowing aspen groves. The eight-mile pass winds up toward Summit Lake and the Continental Divide. It offers a jaw-dropping view of the foliage in the area.
There is a hike that the locals highly recommend, especially as the fall colors come to life. It’s called the Zirkle Wilderness Area’s Three Island Lake Trail. This route takes energetic hikers through high meadows and coniferous forests, passing glacial lakes and vistas along the way. It is a 6.1-mile roundtrip and is considered to be moderate in difficulty.
La Veta Pass
Just west of the town of La Veta is La Veta Pass on US Route 160. It’s in southern Colorado and is known as one of the most scenic “fall” drives in the entire state. It peaks at an altitude of a rocketing 9,400 feet. This scenic roadway paints a picture of gold aspens contrasting with the dark green pine trees that line the pass. The background of the colorful painting is made up of the majestic Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
One of the most popular ways to view the amazing fall colors of Telluride is to take the free gondola. That’s right, the cost is a big nothing! The aerial views that riders are treated to include the town of Telluride, along with its box canyon and brightly colored valleys.
In addition, if you happen to be afraid of heights, or if you have more energy than you know what to do with, you can always take one of the many trailheads that are located right in town. One of the most popular trails amongst the locals is the Jud Wiebe Trail. This is a three-mile loop that winds through large groves of colorful aspen. Oh, and as a bonus, you’ll pass right by the Comet Falls, which just adds to the beauty.
These are just a few suggestions. We could never list them all, as everywhere you look in this state, you’ll see an autumn fantasy. Best of all, you’ll be doing all of this nature gazing in one of our Cruise America class C RVs!
Ride in Comfort and Style with Cruise America
See the best fall foliage in Colorado from the comfort of your RV rental this year. With an RV rental, you can drive along the roads of the Centennial State or camp at Rocky Mountain National Park to take in the autumn sights.
Contact us today to reserve yours!