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10 Places To See Colorado’s Fall Color


In the Fall, Colorado is transformed into a natural arena of shimmering colors, with the state’s signature gold Aspen trees serving as the main act. These 10 trip ideas will point you in the direction of shimmering yellows, oranges and reds this September and October.

1. Trail Ridge Road

The highest continuous paved road in North America winds through Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park in the east to Grand Lake in the west. With more than eight miles above 11,000 feet and a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet, Trail Ridge Road is an amazing vantage point for leaf peepers and is a favored spot for photographers. The Rocky Mountain Conservancy offers guided hikes and tours and volunteer opportunities in the park.

2. Photographer’s Favorite: Kebler Pass

Gunnison is home to Kebler Pass, which boasts the largest aspen grove in North America and is one of renowned photographer John Fielder’s favorite places. Ohio Creek Road is a great starting point, as it passes some unique natural landscapes, including a series of ranch buildings marking the abandoned site of Castleton and the spires of “The Castles” — remnants of volcanic ash and mud that erupted from the West Elk Volcano some 30 million years ago. Note: The pass is unpaved.

3. The San Juan Skyway

San Juan Skyway, a breathtaking 236-mile loop through the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, offers visitors an amazing array of fall colors and includes a 70-mile stretch known simply as the Million Dollar Highway.  The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a special Fall Photo Train that coincides with optimal fall foliage. Another unique way to experience Colorado’s fall colors is with Soaring® Tree Top Adventures, home to 27 zip lines that pass by brilliant aspens.

4. Maroon Bells

The iconic Maroon Bells, two towering 14,000-foot mountains nestled in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, are the most photographed peaks in North America. Located in the 2.3-million-acre White River National Forest, the Maroon Bells tower over numerous hiking trails that offer unbeatable views of golden aspen trees. The area is accessible by car, however buses run daily mid-June through Labor Day and on weekends Labor Day through early October from the Aspen Highlands.

5. Western Slope Colors

Colorado’s Western Slope is home to the Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat top mountain, and Colorado wine country. In addition to the reds, whites and rosés made in Grand Junction and Palisade, fall brings with it glorious colors. Powderhorn Mountain Resort‘s vibrant scrub oaks contrast with golden shimmering aspens along the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway.

6. Buffalo Pass

This dirt road just west of Steamboat Springs, is lined with rows of glowing aspen groves. The pass winds eight miles up toward the Continental Divide and Summit Lake, offering stunning views of the surrounding foliage. As the fall colors become more robust, locals recommend a hike to the pristine Zirkel Wilderness Area’s Three Island Lake Trail, which takes hikers through coniferous forests and high meadows, past glacial lakes and vistas. The 6.1-mile (round trip) trail is moderate in difficulty.

7. La Veta Pass

Peaking at an altitude of more than 9,400 feet, the La Veta Pass on U.S. Route 160 in southern Colorado (west of the town of La Veta) is one of the most scenic drives in the state during the fall season. Gold aspen trees mixed with dark green pines line the pass, while the magnificent Spanish Peaks and Sangre de Cristo Mountains tower over the foliage of the San Luis Valley. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad (May through October) passes through mountain meadows, canyons and colorful foothills otherwise inaccessible by cars.

8. Free Gondola Ride

The Telluride Free Gondola is one of the most popular ways to view Telluride’s amazing fall colors. The aerial views include the town of Telluride, its box canyon and colorful valleys lined with aspens and evergreens. For yet another way to see Telluride’s foliage, several trailheads are located right in town. Locals suggest the Jud Wiebe Trail, a three-mile loop that winds through large aspen groves and passes by Comet Falls.

9. Dallas Divide

Colorado Hwy. 62 over the Dallas Divide represents an epic fall Colorado drive. Starting near Ridgway, visitors can get an amazing view of Mount Sneffels, one of Colorado’s 58 14ers, and the expansive Sneffels Wilderness Area, which offers several hiking trails for those wishing to venture out further. The route eventually connects with Hwy. 45 and Lizard Head Pass, which offers views of Wilson Peak, the very mountain that inspired the iconic Coors logo. Read about other famous Colorado mountains.

10. Front Range Foliage

Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway is Colorado’s oldest, having been established in 1918. The byway starts in Boulder and offers unmatched views of the Continental Divide and its dramatic fall colors. Though the byway is less than 60 miles in length, there are numerous stop off points along the route, including Rocky Mountain National ParkGolden Gate Canyon State Park, the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, all of which offer their own unique vantage points for leaf peepers.

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Mountain Aviation: Empty Leg Flights


Telluride Best In Colorado, Ranked By SKI Magazine Readers


Stephen Elliott, Staff Reporter

After a late-summer dusting of Gold Hill tickled locals ready for ski season, and with rumors of a “Godzilla” El Niño bearing down on the West promising record-setting snowfall this winter, more good news comes from the Telluride Ski Resort.

In their 28th annual survey, SKI Magazine readers chose Telluride as the best ski resort in Colorado and the fourth best in western North America.

“We’re thrilled about being ranked fourth by SKI Magazine readers,” Telski President and General Manager Greg Pack said in a statement. “Having an honor such as this come from readers’ votes is important, as it speaks directly to the overall guest experience. This is not just an award for the ski resort, but for the whole community who work together to create a top destination for visitors year after year.”

Telski also ranked in the top 10 for service (7), character (3), lodging (5), après (6), variety (4), challenge (7) and grooming (10).

Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia was the number one resort, according to the readers, with Sun Valley, Idaho at number two and Deer Valley, Utah at number three. Other Colorado resorts on the list include Snowmass (6), Vail (7), Steamboat (8), Beaver Creek (10), Aspen Mountain (13), Breckenridge (14), Winter Park (15), Copper Mountain (16), Aspen Highlands (18), Keystone (22) and Crested Butte (28).

Last year Telluride was also ranked fourth in the SKI Magazine reader’s survey. Condé Nast Traveler has chosen Telluride as the best ski resort in North America three years in a row.

There’s not much the resort can do to bolster its rankings in categories like scenery and terrain. “Mother Nature gave us most of those,” conceded Matt Windt, vice president of sales and marketing at Telski.

And, Windt added, it’s the town and culture of Telluride that contribute more to these sorts of rankings anyway.

“It’s most important that we not forget what an amazing place this is. We live here and see it every day, and it’s easy for us to take it for granted, but for many of our visitors, it’s the first time they get to experience this,” he said. “Every person who lives in town, and every person who works in a restaurant, or at a ski shop, or in a hotel, every single individual has the ability to help guests have an amazing experience.”

“It’s easy for the ski resort to take a lot of credit for the ranking, but we don’t have as much control as the rest of town, so we’re all in it together,” Windt, who started his position last month, added.

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Mountain Aviation: Telluride Empty Leg Flights


National Geographic: Tackling Telluride’s Via Ferrata

Gaze up at the soaring cliffs above Telluride and you might imagine that only rock climbers with nerves of steel could scale the foreboding walls. Yet a via ferrata, or “iron road,” traverses a sheer face above town, offering an adrenalin-infused adventure for anyone willing to clip onto a steel cable and negotiate a rock wall using metal ladder rungs. Think of it as hiking on steroids.

Via ferratas originated in Europe, with many built during World War I to help soldiers travel across the steep Dolomite mountains. Inspired by the idea, a local climber and ironworker named Chuck Kroger started work on Telluride’s Via Ferrata, which was completed in 2007.

Part hiking, part climbing, these iron roads offer a taste of the vertical life even for those who have never before touched toes to rock. Telluride’s thrilling route traverses two miles of sheer cliffs and narrow ledges above this picture-perfect southwestern Colorado town. In the distance,Bridal Veil Falls tumbles 365 feet over a cliff, helping take your mind off the space between your feet and the earth below.

Pause at the plaque that honors Kroger, who died of pancreatic cancer on Christmas Day in 2007: “Goodbye dear friend, Father of this Via Ferrata. You shared generously with us the art of engaged living, taught us the rewards of discovery, design, and grit. We humbly pay you back now by grabbing these irons, and by hiking your clean miners’ trails—joyfully and with wonder!”


The route starts as a hiking trail, then quickly tapers to a ledge that becomes increasingly narrow and eventually disappears. Expect steep drop-offs. A cable bolted to the rock face allows climbers to clip in for safety along more dangerous sections.

Beware: Some parts of the trail have no cable. A guide (if you hire one) will rope you in for extra protection as you navigate these sections.

Assess your comfort level along the first stretch, then take a rest on Kroger’s bench, where you can peer around the corner to see what’s to come. From here it gets real with the “Main Event”—a 300-foot stretch of metal ladder rungs scrawled across the rock face, which drops off 200+ feet below your feet. Those with a fear of heights need not apply.

Past the Main Event, the course mellows out a bit, alternating between a shoe-wide trail and sections of ledge, with a few more ladders. Don’t let down your guard. To avoid crossing private property, you need to return the same way you came. The full out-and-back route takes three to four hours.


You’ll want to tackle the via ferrata when the weather is nice—usually starting in June and extending into October.


If you want to take on Telluride’s via ferrata, make sure you’re fairly fit and aren’t a stranger to a bit of hair-raising adventure. Though you clip into the cable for the gnarly bits, you still might need to take a few deep breaths and dig deep for courage. That’s part of the fun.

Go with a guide unless you have experience with rock climbing and have your own gear. San Juan Mountain Guides is a top-notch operation. San Juan Outdoor Adventures and Mountain Trip are also good options. Sign up a couple of weeks in advance to make sure you can get a spot.


You’ll be hiking and stretching your limbs, so wear comfortable clothes that allows you to move freely. Hiking shoes will do just fine (no rock shoes required). Bring water, snacks, sunscreen, an extra layer, and rain gear, but keep your backpack light back so you feel nimble on the rock. Gloves can help protect your hands.

Your guide can provide all the necessary technical gear, which includes a climbing harness, helmet, and “via ferrata kit”—a shock-absorbing lanyard with two locking carabiners on it for clipping to the cable—that will protect you if you fall.


Europe has a mother lode of via ferratas, spanning a wide range of difficulty. Some are so tough they make Telluride’s look like child’s play. Buckle up.

  • Dolomites, Italy: Via ferratas (vie ferrate in Italian) criss-cross the Dolomites in the Italian Alps. Pick a day adventure, or string together several routes and stay in mountain huts along the way.
  • Austria: Options abound in Austria, with a selection of routes that range from family friendly to fear inducing. Check out Tyrol and Montafon.
  • Chamonix, France: The snow-capped peaks of the French Alps create a stunning backdrop for more than a dozen via ferrata routes near this charming town, which many consider the birthplace of mountaineering.

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