Science can explain how leaves change color, but most of us just want to enjoy the gorgeous hues of autumn without thinking too hard. Basically, you should know that leaves change when it gets cold - and it gets cold at the highest elevations first. That means that, in Colorado, you have from mid-September to the end of October to plan just the right day trip for seeing the fall splendor. Sure, we’re all busier than squirrels gathering nuts for the winter, but any of these beautiful locales can make the perfect day trip to fit your schedule.
On Foot: Golden Gate Canyon State Park (Golden)
A brief drive from west Denver will get you to this state park, where there are multiple trails, both long and short, to enjoy the golden aspens uphill and down. There is a fee of $8 for a daily pass unless you have a state park pass. You can also choose to take the 49-mile-round-trip scenic drive that includes the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook, where visitors can see 100 miles of the Continental Divide.
By Car: Guanella Pass Scenic Byway
Sometimes you just need a drive that will allow the baby to sleep. Guanella Pass is a popular drive to experience fall colors with your kiddos. It’s close to Denver (within an hour), and its elevation means the leaves start changing here earlier than in other places. As you drive on the smooth, new road, look out for Mt. Bierstadt, one of Colorado’s fourteeners. You can also stop at Georgetown Wildlife Watching Area for the chance to glimpse a bighorn sheep. If you want to stretch your legs, you can hop out to walk on the Bierstadt Trail (or go all the way to the summit, at 14,065 feet).
By Train: Georgetown Loop
The scenic Georgetown Loop Railroad is close enough to the Guanella Pass Byway to make a side activity, or you can make it a day trip all on its own. To experience the adventure of this vintage steam train - an engineering marvel, originally built in 1884 - you’ll drive just an hour west from Denver. The trip starts at Devil’s Gate Depot in Georgetown and takes you to Silver Plume, passing aspen-filled mountains, rolling creeks, and expansive canyons.
With the dogs: Coyote Trail (Rifle)
Although the trail is an easy one, about 1.5 miles round trip, the star of Rifle Falls State Park is not to be missed. The triple cascade of water is surrounded by mossy rocks and a canopy of gold during the fall color change. Dogs must be leashed, but they are welcome on all the park’s trails (but not in the adjacent wildlife area). Coyote Trail is particularly enticing for your furry babies because of the access to limestone caves that are filled with interesting sniffing grounds.
Living in Colorado offers a wide range of ways to engage with the beauty of nature. Whichever day trip you choose, you can count on returning to the cozy spaces and luxuries of your comfortable Shea Homes® home.