If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to experience this changing of the seasons in all of its grandeur by escaping to any mountain town nestled amongst the aspens. Granted you can still experience fall in any front range city like Denver or Boulder, but to see it while driving up Monarch pass or through historic downtown Telluride is hard to beat.
This year, I’ve attempted to chase the leaves as best I can to experience the often short lived Colorado fall. While everyone around here jokes it only lasts a week, they aren’t kidding. With the leaves just starting to change comes forecasts filled with rain and potential snow.
These are my attempts at experiencing fall in Colorado.
Attempt #1 – Telluride
If you want the Colorado experience, go to Telluride. Telluride is a Victorian era mining town set in a box canyon in southwest Colorado. Peaks rise up on both the north and south sides, casting their shadows across the mix of historic homes and newly-built condominiums. This mix of old and new doesn’t clash or cause discontent. Rather, everyone you meet on the Gondola connecting Telluride and Mountain Village is warm and friendly, regardless of your status or theirs.
I happened to be in Telluride this year for the Blue & Brews festival. This festival is a 24 year staple for the town that brings together the best blues musicians and the (mostly) finest beers around. While most of my time was spent at the festival, I was able to get out and explore my surroundings. My preferred method of travel is by bike, so I took advantage of the free Gondola and set out on the trails without all the effort of climbing at over 8,000 feet.
Scanning the surroundings from the top, I could tell I was a bit early to catch the leaves in full swing. Small patches of yellow aspens dotted the mountains, but there was a lot more potential to be had here for leaf peeping. Now, don’t get me wrong, being out there and seeing Telluride is still quite the experience. So even though I didn’t catch the leaves this weekend it was not in any way disappointing.
In another turn of events, while I didn’t see much in the way of leaves turning, I did see snow. On the first night of my stay there was consistent rain throughout the evening. In the morning the skies were again clear, but all the peaks surrounding town had new, white hats on. Such is the way of fall in Colorado.
Attempt #2 – Kenosha Pass
After Feral’s Autumn Vibes event in Silver Plume, I thought I would take my bike on over to Kenosha Pass to scout out any turning leaves up there. Leaving the campsite, I cut back to Georgetown, drove up and over Guanella Pass, then swung a right on 285.
Approaching Kenosha Pass I knew getting out would not be easy. I had to park a quarter mile or so from the main lot and the droves of people heading out on the trail was almost enough for me to bail on the idea of riding up.
Luckily I decided there’s no better way to spend a saturday than with 300 of my closest friends. I then geared up for the 22 mile loop I was aiming to complete, which involved multiple layers and pockets full of snacks.
Heading out onto the trail I could catch glimpses of yellow leaves. Some scattered about on the ground, others hanging on to the limbs of the trees surrounding the trail. It wasn’t until I got a few miles out that I started to get hopeful for what I was going to find.
Further out the trail settles directly into multiple aspen groves with trees as far as I could see. All of which were mostly covered with turning leaves. I may have been a little late for this high of elevation, but it didn’t really matter. What wasn’t on the trees was now blanketing the trail in front of me leaving a little yellow ribbon I could follow.
Higher up the situation was a little more dire. I came across fields of snow, windblown vegetation, and once above treeline I could see the storm clouds rolling in to leave behind even more moisture ready to take down what leaves were left.
The riding out here was top notch. The leaf peeping, not so much. That being said, Colorado is beautiful almost any time of the year. This will definitely be a spot I come back to next year, just a little earlier.
Attempt #3 – Peak to Peak Highway
When I’m not cruising around on a bike, I have a project car I enjoy working on. This thing is not the prettiest and shows its 28 years of age. However, there’s not much else that puts a bigger smile on my face than when I’m driving it in the mountains, top down, and Fleetwood Mac on the radio.
Most of the year it sits in the garage. Having rear wheel drive and an old canvas roof are not ideal for winter, and even in the summer with the top down the heat can be unbearable. So when do I drive it? Now.
One of my favorite routes, whether it’s a quick after work cruise or a longer weekend drive, is up through Golden Gate Canyon just outside of Golden. There usually isn’t much traffic and if I’m feeling inspired or have the time it’s a direct connection to the Peak to Peak Highway. The hardest decision I have to make on these drives is if I should go left or right. On this occasion I chose right.
This would take me up towards Boulder eventually, but along the way I experienced vast aspen groves and large swathes of yellow, red, and orange leaves, glowing brighter than the setting sun. Around every corner was something else to stare at, mouth agape. On this drive I may have spent more time pulled over running towards the trees than actually driving.
Luckily there are plenty of turn offs so I can safely exit my vehicle. At these turn offs there were a number of other drivers doing the same, loading up their memory cards with vivid photos of Colorado’s final wave goodbye to warmer weather.
When I did hop back in the car, whisking past the leaves letting out their final sigh before winter, I couldn’t imagine any other place I’d rather be. With classic ‘80s jams on the radio and cold air rushing past my face I had finally experienced the peak of Colorado fall. Only 12 short months until I can chase it all over again.