Best time to travel to Denver

Denver Fall Colors 2024

Denver boasts an unusually long fall foliage season

Best time: mid-September–mid-November

Denver Fall Colors
Denver Fall Colors
Denver Fall Colors
Denver Fall Colors
Denver Fall Colors
Fall aspens in Rocky Mountain National Park

The city of Denver, located in the South Platte River Valley, is surrounded by mountains. With five climate zones in close proximity to the city, Denver offers fall foliage displays in the mountains as early as mid-September and in the foothills and plains as late as mid-November. In the city, you can see plenty of hackberries, sycamore, and English oak trees that show golden shades. Texas red oak adds scarlet and red accents throughout the parks. When you get to the mountains, aspens dominate the landscape, adding bright yellow streaks in the sea of evergreen spruces and firs.

When do leaves start changing their color?

The city welcomes fall foliage a bit later than the mountains. Leaves start to change color in October and stay flashy till mid-November. So, there is plenty of time to enjoy over a hundred parks and recreational areas in Denver.

Fall colors in Denver

Denver boasts over 200 parks within its city limits that highlight the beauty of the fall season. In Washington Park, Denver's grand traditional park, visitors can enjoy two lakes, two flower gardens, and a scenic, tree-lined, two-mile gravel running path. Sloan's Lake, Denver's largest lake, offers stunning views of the city and mountains, set amidst expansive, tree-covered parklands. City Park, Denver's largest park, is a hub of cultural and natural attractions. It features the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Zoo, several lakes, and the Mile High Trail. This unique running path closely follows the city's 5,280-foot elevation contour, offering panoramic views and the experience of running exactly one mile above sea level.

Fall colors near Denver

Rocky Mountain National Park

In just 1.5 hours by car, you can reach Rocky Mountain National Park, located 75 mi (120 km) northwest of the city. The fall foliage season starts here early due to high elevation. Mid-to-late September is the best time to enjoy leaf-peeping in the park. Take a ride on Bear Lake Road, which links Upper Beaver Meadows and Bear Lake. This 23 mi (36 km) road offers spectacular views as well as access to many hiking routes, campgrounds, picnic areas, and the Moraine Park Discovery Center. Peak to Peak Scenic Byway is the oldest in the state. In the fall, it showcases brilliant foliage throughout Rocky Mountain National Park and the Continental Divide.

Guanella Pass Fall Colors

About a one-hour drive from Denver, you can get to Guanella Pass at an elevation of 11,669 feet (3,557 m). The mountain pass is located in the Front Range of the Rockies of central Colorado between the towns of Georgetown and Grant. Take a drive on the most scenic roads in Colorado—the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway, connecting Interstate 70 and Highway 285. The paved road is most beautiful during the last two weeks of September during peak fall foliage season.

Georgetown Loop

Georgetown is located just an hour's drive west of Denver (40 mi or 64 km). To enjoy the sight of golden aspens, take a ride on the scenic Georgetown Loop Railroad on a vintage steam train. The train passes aspen-filled mountains, picturesque creeks, and canyons. The trip starts at Devil's Gate Depot in Georgetown and takes you to Silver Plume.

The area around Lake Dillon, Frisco, and Silverthorne is filled with aspen groves and is just a 75-minute drive from Denver. An 18-mile paved bike path circles the pretty lake, offering mountain and fall views in every direction.

Eldorado Canyon State Park and Clear Creek

Eldorado Canyon State Park offers more than just stunning fall foliage. Easily accessible, the park attracts outdoor enthusiasts with activities such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing, picnicking, wildlife watching, and fishing. Birders will find it particularly appealing, with sightings recorded of golden eagles, prairie falcons, wild turkeys, blue grouse, and approximately 75 other bird species. Visitors are advised to arrive early and bring the $8 entrance fee. After visiting the park, travelers can return via Golden and enjoy a stroll along the Clear Creek Trail. This paved path runs alongside a picturesque waterway, bordered by trees displaying vibrant autumn colors.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

A short drive from west Denver leads to this state park featuring miles of hiking trails, rocky peaks, and meadows filled with aspen trees. Visitors can enjoy fishing ponds, picnic sites, and the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook, offering breathtaking views of the Continental Divide spanning 100 miles. The park's lower elevations boast numerous aspen groves and one of the finest panoramic vistas of the Rocky Mountains.

Kenosha Pass

The Kenosha Pass Trail offers unbeatable autumn scenery. A scenic 3-mile walk on the east side of Highway 285 guides you through stunning aspen groves to a panoramic viewpoint. From there, you can enjoy a 270-degree vista of vibrant green and golden forests, with majestic 13ers and 14ers towering in the background.

Bike Paths

The Cherry Creek Bike Trail is a paved off-road route stretching over 40 miles from downtown Denver to Cherry Creek State Park, tracing the scenic creek beneath a canopy of trees. Another extensive biking option is the South Platte River Bike Trail, spanning over 40 miles from downtown Denver to Chatfield State Park and Waterton Canyon. Here, it connects with the Colorado Trail, which extends 400 miles to Durango, renowned for its hiking and challenging mountain biking experiences. The High Line Canal Trail winds through Denver for more than 70 miles, flanked by aging Cottonwood trees that transform into vibrant yellow hues during the autumn season.

More fall foliage hikes and drive ideas in Colorado are available here.

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