Rocky Mountain Resorts 17

Colorado fall foliage tips

Fall in Rocky Mountain National Park

We're getting closer to the most colorful time of the year! Every fall, many travelers head to Colorado to see the gorgeous hues take over and Estes Park is a top destination to see the fall foliage.

Check out our fall foliage tips to better plan your visit to Estes Park and the greater Colorado area. Don’t forget your camera!

When to visit

It’s hard to determine in advance when the leaves will change as the fall foliage season in Colorado is dependent on the temperature and season. We typically see the change occur from mid-September to early or sometimes mid-October.

The change is also dependent on elevation and what part of the state you’re in. The color change starts at higher elevations and moves down the mountain. It also tends to start in the northern part of the state and makes its way south. We generally see mid-September start dates for elevations above 9,000 ft.

A good rule of thumb for visiting during this time is to select dates in September and have the flexibility to follow the colors to the right destination.

What trees change

Colorado is such a lure for leaf peeping with our vibrant yellow aspen trees, but that’s not the only colorful tree or bush to keep a lookout for. You’ll also want to see the:

  • Scrub oak turn red and orange
  • Mountain ash become orange
  • Ferns turn yellow and orange

The change happens as the trees and shrubbery prepare for winter by stopping the production of chlorophyll.

fall hike in Estes Park

Hikes

Explore Rocky Mountain National Park’s many trails to take in the fall colors. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • The Pool – See where the Big Thompson meets Fern Creek on this 3.4-mile hike through aspen forests.
  • Gem Lake Trail – This 3.5-mile trail meanders through aspen groves and includes panoramic views of the entire Estes Valley, including the Continental Divide & Longs Peak.
  • Cub Lake Trail – Another trail that wanders through aspen groves and ferns, though this one clocks in at just over six miles.
  • Estes Cone – This 6.5-mile round-trip hike has a steep incline at the end but if you want spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges and the Estes Valley lit up in color, it’s worth the trek.

Fall in Rocky Mountain National Park

Scenic drives

The Peak-to-Peak Scenic and Historic Byway spans 55 miles from Black Hawk to Estes Park and is a great drive to take in the stunning vistas and colors. You’ll pass by or through Rocky Mountain National Park, the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, Eldora Ski Resort, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.

You could also drive Trail Ridge Road for an aerial view of the changing colors below you. Just keep a watch on road conditions and possible closures as the road can close due to snowfall. Sometimes that means it closes as early as late September.

If you’re up for a long trek, try the North Colorado Loop! The loop covers 360 miles and connects three scenic byways. If you time it just right, you could take in amazing views of the fall foliage in Colorado from a variety of towns, forests, and canyons.

Bull elk in Estes Park

Estes Park events

Fall in Estes Park is a wonderful time to visit with fewer crowds, cooler temperatures, and a variety of fall-themed events around town!

Autumn Gold Harvest Festival

Enjoy bands, brats, and beer at the Autumn Gold Festival, September 23 – 24, in Estes Park! This family-friendly event is the perfect way to unwind after a morning of hiking and taking in the golden hues in the park.

Elk Fest

Celebrate Elktober, or October for everyone else, in Estes Park at Elk Fest, September 30 – October 1. Listen to the bugles during the annual elk rut and learn more about our resident wildlife with tours, seminars, and other fun activities.

Start planning your fall getaway to Estes Park by finding the perfect cabin at Rocky Mountain Resorts – and be sure to take a look at our online specials for any additional savings!

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