Your Guide to Leaf-Peeping Like a Pro
Get ready to experience the breathtaking beauty of Colorado's fall foliage! Embarking on a day trip to witness the vibrant colors of autumn can be an unforgettable adventure, as well as a rite of passage if you've recently moved here from another state. And this handy guide will help you make the most of your day trip.
Let’s start with our top five drives, easy day trips if you live in the Denver or Boulder areas.
You can also do a quick search to find even more breathtaking spots for leaf viewing and turn it into a full weekend adventure, complete with a stay at any of these incredible B&Bs in the state.
So, in no particular order, here are a few drives to get you started:
- Peak to Peak Scenic Byway: Black Hawk to Estes Park, 55 miles one way
Colorado’s oldest scenic byway is one of the premier spots for fall leaf viewing. It winds through national forests and provides views of the Continental Divide.
- Cache La Poudre Scenic Byway: Fort Collins to Walden, 88 miles one way
Winding along the Poudre River, this picturesque journey through the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest showcases the trees in all their fall splendor.
- Guanella Pass Scenic Byway: Georgetown to Grant, 23 miles one way
Starting in Georgetown and heading south, this scenic drive features incredible sloping aspen groves on both sides of the road, plus views of Mt. Evans.
- Mestaa’hehe Pass (Prev. Squaw Pass): Evergreen to Idaho Springs, 34 miles one way
If you’re short on time, this is the ideal drive. Take CO 103 in Evergreen for incredible views of the trees and mountains then hop on I-70 and head back to town.
- Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway: Salida to Granite, 57 miles one way
This stretch parallels the Continental Divide and delivers breathtaking views of autumn leaves, fourteeners and the white waters of the Arkansas River.
A Safe, Comfortable and Memorable Adventure
While a spontaneous road trip can be fun, a little planning can take your leaf viewing to the next level. The journey is the destination in this case, so be ready for wherever the day takes you.
First, check the weather forecast before you head out. Be prepared to hold off on your drive if there’s a chance of a storm or snow. There’s no way to enjoy any scenery if you’re white-knuckling winding mountain roads in a blizzard.
You’ll also want to fill up the tank in town and make sure your vehicle and spare tire are in good shape. Bring jumper cables and know how to use them as well.
Here are even more tips on prepping for the day or weekend.
Road Trip Essentials
- Even if you have GPS, be sure to print out a physical map of your drive. Once you get into the mountains, a dropped signal is almost guaranteed.
- Capture the mesmerizing views along the way by making sure you have a camera or your fully charged smartphone with you. Bring your charger cord along, too.
- Bring along binoculars to spot wildlife and enjoy distant vistas up close.
- Make sure everyone has a warm jacket even if the weather is mild at home. Temperatures drop at higher elevations, so be ready for the chill. Blankets can also come in handy.
- What road trip isn’t complete without snacks and drinks? While you should certainly stop for a meal in the towns you pass through, car treats (and water) are essential.
- Cash and coins are always good to have on hand for parking, small purchases and just being prepared if you wander into a mom-and-pop shop or diner that’s cash only.
If You Want to Hike
- Again, print road maps with hiking spots marked along with maps of the trails themselves. And always check to make sure trails are safe and open for the fall.
- Whether you wear them or pack them, comfortable shoes are a must. Even better, ones with good traction in case trails are muddy.
- Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Even if there’s a chill in the air, a sunny day requires proper protection from the rays.
- If you’re bringing along your pup, make sure you have their collar, leash and a water bowl, plus a towel if they’re the spontaneous, roll-in-the-mud type.
- Just in case, pack a first aid kit and a flashlight. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
- Pro tip—don’t forget the golden rule of “leave no trace.” Pack out everything you bring in, especially if you plan to picnic on your hike.
Most importantly, take it slow. Enjoy a leisurely drive with stops along the way. Breathe in crisp, fresh air and soak in every moment. Fall in Colorado is a truly magical time!