2021 Leaf Peeping: Guide to Colorado’s Best Fall Foliage


Autumn in Colorado brings many things: trips to the pumpkin patch, crisp air, football, sweater weather, cozy meals, shorter days, time with friends and family . . . . we could go on and on. However, the most beautiful thing fall brings is most definitely the brilliant color on display as the leaves change. We’ve got the details on when and where to go to see the most beautiful fall colors across Colorado this leaf-peeping season.
Guide to Colorado's Best Fall Foliage - 2021 - Denver Moms

Also, yes . . . we have a bit of a thing for using the phrase leaf-peeping.

When to see the best fall color in Colorado

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts that peak fall color will arrive in Colorado October 5th – 14th

The map below has the current best estimate on the specifics

Colorado Fall Colors 2021 - Denver Moms
2021 Colorado Fall Colorado Guide (KDVR)

Where to go for Colorado’s best fall leaf-peeping

If you’re looking to stay closer to home and get the kiddos outside, we recommend you check out one of our kid-friendly front-range hikes.

For those committed to seeing some serious fall color, here’s our list of some of our favorite destinations for leaf-peeping this fall.

Aspen | Maroon Bells

Peak Prediction: September 17 – October 1
The entire town of Aspen is gorgeous in the fall but the view of the Maroon Bells with the Maroon lake is reported to be “one of the most-photographed spots in Colorado” for good reason, but can also be really busy during peak leaf-peeping season. Access to the Bells is limited to shuttle buses, but it’s worth it to see the gorgeous sites and take in the leaf-peeping all around the Bells. Hiking around Maroon Lake is very kid-friendly and the views in every direction don’t require you to tackle the more challenging hike up to Crater Lake.

Leaf Peeping Where and When to Find the Best Colorado Fall Color : Maroon Bells
Image Credit: USDA Forest Service

Aspen | Independence Pass and Highway 82

Peak Prediction: September 17 – October 1
If you’re up near Aspen taking in the Maroon Bells, be sure not to miss the amazing drive over Independence Pass, 20 miles east of Aspen. Take your time on this incredible drive up the 12,095-foot pass and soak up the beautiful fall colors, while being mindful of the sometimes narrow road. I recommend going on a nice enough day that you can roll the windows down– as the fresh air can help avoid toddler carsickness! The pass closes for the winter around the beginning of November every year, so enjoy it while you can!

Breckenridge | Boreas Pass, Bakers Tank, White River National Forest

Peak Prediction: September 17 – October 1
Up in Summit County, the fall leaves often peak earlier than in the front range and lower elevation spots, so if you’re itching to get some fall color sighting in early, we recommend Boreas Pass Road. This popular spot for hikers, bikers, and those wishing to stay in the car provides lots of opportunities to see some beautiful fall foliage. Looking for a short hike? Check out the Aspen Alley Trail (one of the very best fall trails in the area), or take the hike up to Baker’s Tank trail to take in some gorgeous fall color.

Image Credit: gobreck.com

Durango / Ouray / Silverton / Telluride | San Juan Skyway

Peak Prediction: September 19 – October 3
If checking out one of the most beautiful drives in America is a think you might like, then San Juan Skyway is a MUST on your Colorado bucket list. If we had it our way, the San Juan Skyway would be a weekend event, there’s just too much to see and do. This drive starts in Durango and has stops in Telluride, Ouray, and Silverton along the way. The byway takes you right by the Mesa Verde National Park (stop to check out the prehistoric ruins), and is a leaf-peeping experience you won’t soon forget!

Image Credit: Cameron Miller, 2014 Colorado Byways Photo Contest Winner

Estes Park / Black Hawk | Peak-to-Peak Scenic and Historic Byway:

Peak Prediction: September 15 – September 30
Colorado’s oldest scenic byway is a 55-mile route from Black Hawk to Estes Park. This highway winds through valleys and skims the top of ridges. Take Colorado 119 from Black Hawk North to Nederland then follow Colorado 72. From here, proceed on Colorado 7, past Longs Peak to Estes Park. You’ll find colorful aspens all along the way and it is a perfect drive to take in the beauty of many national forests along the route.

Georgetown | Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway

Peak Prediction: September 15 – September 30
Stay in the car for this route located just an hour from Denver. The highway runs just South of Georgetown with pockets of leaf-peeping some seriously blazing Aspens. The actual pass is at over 11, 600 feet but you’ll still feel dwarfed by the surrounding peaks. If you want to go further, when you reach the town of Grant, turn right onto 285 for 15 minutes until you reach the top of the Kenosha Pass for more gorgeous views.

Leaf-Peeping | Where and When to See Colorado's Best Fall Color
Image Credit: Historycolorado.org

Golden | Golden Gate Canyon State Park:

Peak Prediction: September 15 – September 30
For a gorgeous day of hiking and leaf-peeping the beautiful fall foliage, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is fantastic. This state park is located 20 miles west of Denver in the foothills and it has many aspen groves at lower elevations. One spot not to miss is the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook, where you can see 100 miles of the Continental Divide. This front-range spot is perfect for taking a picnic and making a day of it with the family, without having to even think about battling mountain traffic . . . so, a recommendation if you have little ones!


Where to See Colorado's Best Fall Color | Denver Moms

Idaho Springs | Fall River Road and St. Mary’s Glacier

Peak Prediction: September 15 – September 30
This road from I-70 (exit 238) near Idaho Springs, to St. Mary’s Glacier, provides sights of blazing aspens. Unless you absolutely do NOT want to get out of the car, we definitely encourage you to get out and hike this one! The hike is less than a mile and will take you up to the lake and looming glacier (technically snowfield) with fantastic mountain views. The whole family is sure to love playing in the year-round snow!

What are your favorite places to see Colorado’s gorgeous fall foliage?

This post is adapted from a previously published piece by Allie R.


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