15 Hikes: The Best of Fall in Colorado

Best hikes for: fall foliage


Photo: C2 Photography

1. RIVER RUN TRAIL, ASPEN

Not only does this hike in Castle Creek Valley offer a ton of fall foliage, it starts at the historic ghost town of Ashcroft. Just over three miles round-trip, the hike takes you to Pine Creek Cookhouse (which closes for the season at the end of September). Explore the ghost town via a self-guided tour. An honor system for the $5 admission during fall is in place. The trail is dog friendly, but Ashcroft isn’t.


Photo: Jessie Unruh

2. BOREAS PASS, BRECKENRIDGE

The trailhead starts about four miles from town where the pavement turns into a dirt road. A 2.5-mile loop, the trail is likely to be busier at this time of year than at other times thanks to the golden canopy overhead. Of moderate intensity, leashed dogs are welcome.


Photo: Visit Telluride/Ryan Bonneau

3. BRIDAL VEIL FALLS, TELLURIDE

This hike is all about the destination rather than the journey. An almost five-mile dirt road offers several fantastic spots to see the falls, which at 365 feet are the tallest free-falling falls in the state. In autumn, the surrounding hillsides are a tapestry of glorious fall colors. That combined with the fact that the road is open to cars means that you aren’t likely to be alone.


Best hikes for: beer lovers


Photo: Craig Butler

4. PASS TRAIL, DURANGO / SILVERTON

A moderate trail that is accessible to almost everyone, Pass Trail will take you to the base of Engineer Mountain where you can join up with Engineer Mountain Trail and head to the summit if you are looking to burn more calories (to be replenished with beer, naturally). Hikers should turn around here if they aren’t up for the extended hike and head back the way they came. Bikers can take a left turn and head back down the face of the mountain through spruce, aspen and meadow before pedaling four miles along Hwy 550 back to the car park. Head back to Durango for beers at Chainless Brewing, Animas Brewing Company, Steamworks Brewing Company, Ska Brewing Company or Carver Brewing Company.


Photo: Fish Creek Falls- Larry Pierce/Courtesy of Steamboat Chamber

5. FISH CREEK FALLS, STEAMBOAT SPRINGS

With four different options, this is a very popular trail in the area. A four-mile drive outside Steamboat Springs, Fish Creek Falls offers a wheelchair-accessible overlook for the falls (0.25 miles one way) as well as a dirt trail if you want to go to the base of them. The trail is 2.5 miles long one way to the second waterfall and 6.5 miles one way to Long Lake if you cross the historic bridge. Breweries in Steamboat Springs for your well-deserved beer are Mountain Tap Brewery, Storm Peak, Butcherknife, and Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill.


Photo: Period Communications

6. PERIMETER TRAIL, OURAY

A beautiful loop of just under six miles that circumnavigates the town from on high - and therefore offers great views - this trail is popular which means you almost certainly won’t be alone. The moderate trail has a waterfall and some sections that require your full concentration. Leashed dogs can use the trail. Stop in for a post-hike beer at Colorado Boy Southwest Pub, Ouray Brewery, Red Mountain Brewing and Ourayle House Brewery aka Mr. Grumpy Pants.


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Best hikes for: Families


Photo: Bill Linfield

7. ORO GRANDE TRAIL, SILVERTHORN

At just over seven miles out and back, the Oro Grande Trail near Dillon is as popular with hikers as it is with bikers. Open to dogs and horses, too, the trail has great views of the Ten Mile Range across Dillon Reservoir and is good for fall color spotting.


Photo: NPS/Victoria Stauffenberg

8. CEDAR POINT NATURE TRAIL, BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NPS

This easy 0.6-mile roundtrip hike is perfect for families with little ones or older family members. With a gentle slope, it offers the chance to see a wide range of local fauna as well as the chance to peer into the “Black” from two overlooks. You can also see the famed Painted Wall, the tallest cliff in the state from here, too.


Photo:Gary Nichols

9. KENOSHA PASS, PARK COUNTY

Combining an easy hike and stunning foliage, Kenosha Pass Trail is a popular spot to see the autumn colors. Part of the Colorado Trail, arguably the most popular section, it is likely to be very busy between late September and early October when the aspens are in full fall mode. The views really open up about three miles on the trail east of Highway 285, which is Colorado Trail segment 5.


Best hikes for: End of season


Photo: NPS/Cindy McIntyre

10. GATES OF LODORE, DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT

Two miles out and back, this hike isn’t technical and is fine throughout autumn unless there is snow on the ground. The view at the end of the trail of the entrance to Lodore Canyon is what people come for. The trail head is accessible directly from campground, which is open year round.


Photo: Go Fruita

11. RABBIT’S EAR TRAIL, FRUITA

Just outside Fruita, McInnis Canyons NCA has several great hiking trails. Rabbit’s Ear Trail in Rabbit Valley is a 5.6-mile loop that climbs 700 feet and offers beautiful views of the Colorado River and Grand Mesa and it is only open to hikers.


Photo: Go Fruita

12. DEVIL’S KITCHEN TRAIL, GRAND JUNCTION

Devil’s Kitchen Trail, located in Colorado National Monument, is less than a mile long but takes hikers on a gradual ascent to the Devil’s Kitchen, a natural grotto formed by a circle by huge upright boulders. The short length and very gradual climb makes this a great hike for pretty much all ages and ability levels.


Best hikes for: Seclusion


Photo: West End Trail Alliance

13. HORSE COLLAR ARCH, WEST END

In the area of Montrose County known as the West End, Horse Collar Arch is just north west of Uravan on Highway 141 and takes hikers down to a unique “arch” that has been cut by runoff creating a 100 ft plunge to a pool below. At just one mile round trip, the hike can be extended slightly by following a faintly marked trail for an extra 0.4 miles each way to the river.



14. GUNNISON GORGE NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA, MONTROSE AND DELTA COUNTIES

A short drive from Montrose, the GGNCA is surprisingly secluded. You might see another hiker two or a few mountain bikers, but that is likely going to be it. Eagle Valley Trail (1.25 miles one way) is a nice but short hike, but it does connect to Sidewinder Trail which will take you 20 miles north through the NCA if you want to go that far.


Photo: Renee Garfias

15. PENITENTE TRAIL, DEL NORTE

Known as one of Colorado’s best rock climbing destinations, Penitente Canyon not far from the unincorporated community of La Garita. Named for Los Hermanos Penitentes, a Spanish religious sect that favored Penitente Canyon for its solitude in the 1880s, Penitente Canyon Trail is a short trail that goes right through the canyon. While this area is wildly popular with rock climbers and, to a lesser extent, mountain bikers, this trail doesn’t allow bikers so solitude is all but guaranteed.



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