Fall in Winter Park, Colorado means the gorgeous glow of aspen trees, and they are already starting to POP! This year the aspens are expected to peak the third and fourth weeks of September. So plan ahead, Visit Winter Park, and see the magic as it unfolds.
Here are some insider tips on some of the best leaf peeping opportunities in the high country, (that require limited or no hiking at all)!
Must-do Leaf Peeping Drives:
CO – 125 North
Drive past Granby and take a right on CO – 125 North towards Walden – this paved and fun drive winds along the beautiful Coyote Creek, passes incredible rock formations and crosses large aspen forests that if you hit at the right time will be bursting with fall colors. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for moose and deer that frequent the willows and meadows. If you want to make a day out of it, stop by the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge in Walden, Colorado. Here you’ll see a variety of native birds, moose, elk, antelope, and more.
From the town of Winter Park, head East on Highway 40 towards Winter Park Resort. About a mile up, you’ll see a sign for Corona Pass on your left. Take this turnoff and follow 80. You’ll drive through aspen groves of all sizes, and chances are you’ll see some wildlife on the drive. While you can take the road to Rollins Pass at the top of the Divide, the road gets fairly rough at times, and the drive will take about an hour, (awesome drive if you have the time, but halfway up, the aspens dwindle). If you’d like to stick with the leaf peeping, take your second right onto 81 (Forest Road 128) and then take another right onto Arrow Trail until you reach Highway 40.
Cottonwood Pass is a hidden gem of Grand County Colorado. If you’re in search of an amazing trip through the backcountry, on maintained dirt roads, take Cottonwood Pass. From Winter Park, head West on Highway 40 through Tabernash, Colorado and continue until you pass the YMCA of the Rockies, (it will be on your left). About a mile after you pass the YMCA of the Rockies, you’ll take a left onto County Road 55. This dirt road will take you through meadows, fields, giant aspen groves, and eventually will drop you off in the town of Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado and reconnect with Highway 40, (you can take Highway 40 back to Winter Park, Colorado). While in Hot Sulphur Springs we recommend checking out the Pioneer Village Museum, the hot springs, or if you are hungry hit the Glory Hole for a fantastic breakfast, or the Dairy Delight for great burgers and ice cream.
County Road 8
Head West on 40 out of Winter Park, Colorado. After you pass the Fraser Post Office (on your right) take your next right onto County Road 8. Follow along County Road 8 for a few miles you’ll end up in the thick of a variety of aspen forests. After the turnoff for the Devil’s Thumb Trailhead, you can take a quick hike, turn around, or *adventure onto 128 (Water Board Road). *If you choose the last option, get a map, a full tank of gas, and plan your route before going.
Not in the mood to drive? Head over to Granby Ranch. Why? Granby Ranch is offering free chairlift rides for all foot passengers up and down the mountain! Grab a free pass from the shop, and hit the lifts. Once the lift drops you off at the top, you’ll be free and clear to explore the hiking trails, which meander through beautiful groves and look out over stunning views covered with aspen trees! (Wednesdays – Sundays* from 10am – 5pm through September 27th – weather dependent. Call ahead if you have any questions.)