When you head to the mountains in the fall (or really any season in Colorado, for that matter), there’s always a chance you’ll wake up to snowfall in the morning. But it’s worth the risk. Autumn is arguably the best time of year in the Centennial State, especially if you’re trying to spend a few days in the state’s vibrant mountain towns. September and October feature spectacular colors, low crowds with lighter I-70 traffic, harvest celebrations, and resort town discounts. Here are a few statewide spots to enjoy autumn and what to look for when you arrive.
Deals: Grand County gets extra colorful in fall at places like C Lazy U, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary with special discounts on packages like the fall family weekend special. Also, Winter Park offers Autumn Escape lodging specials, with up to 20 percent off base area hotels through mid-November. If you visit before the end of September, free gondola rides are included in your stay.
Adventure: The yellow, orange, and red aspens surrounding Grand Lake are mirrored in the water and surrounding trails like Adam Falls and the Continental Divide trailhead lying between Grand and Shadow Mountain lakes. Rent watercraft at Trail Ridge Marina until October 7, or learn the basics of mountain biking, bouldering, and campfire building at YMCA of the Rockies’ Outdoor Skills Weekends.
Events: Grand Lake’s Constitution Week, which (as its name suggests) celebrates the U.S. Constitution, culminates September 21 with live music, a parade, and a fireworks display. If you’re looking for some tasty suds and traditional food, head to the Granby Ranch Oktoberfest on September 29 and don dirndls or lederhosen.
Deals: Throughout Aspen, you’ll find hotel deals from now through November. Colorado residents can land a room at the new Limelight Snowmass for $115 a night through November 26—plus, the hotel is pet-friendly and offers a daily happy hour. The iconic Little Nell also offers a Colorado Resident Rate starting at $245, and its Element 47 restaurant is offering a $47 fall dinner deal featuring three courses of farm-harvested ingredients from ACES’s Rock Bottom Ranch. You can also find rooms that are at least 30 percent off at the super central and pet-friendly Hotel Aspen and Molly Gibson Lodge.
Adventure: The aspen groves surrounding the Vista Trail in Snowmass produce a fountain of soft-falling yellow leaves this time of year, and the entirety of Independence Pass is a patchwork of every warm hue on the color spectrum. If you’ve never hiked to Maroon Bells, be prepared for big crowds in September and October. But if you’re able to find some elbow room, the oranges, yellows and reds reflecting in Maroon Lake with the Bells as backdrop will be one of the most beautiful sights you could ever behold.
Events: The Aspen FilmFest, celebrating its 40th anniversary, runs from September 23–29 and includes a lineup of documentaries being screened in Carbondale. And if you want to have the most Colorado of experiences, don’t miss the John Denver Celebration October 9–14.
Deals: You can always find affordable Grand Junction lodging, and since this is harvest season, you’ll find amazing farm-to-table fresh meals at places like 626 on Rood, Bin 707, The Winery, and Le Rouge, all of which offer a happy hour deal in the early evenings.
Adventure: You’re less likely to wake up to snow here in the high desert, and temperatures are ideal for biking at Book Cliffs or on the Grand mesa. You can also explore the hiking trails in Colorado National Monument.
Events: Sip wine paired with freshly harvested bites, pedal to vineyards, and practice yoga at the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade from September 19–22. For road cyclists, Tour of the Moon through Colorado National Monument is a must-ride on September 28.
Deals: Keep in mind, A-Basin opened for skiing last year on October 11, so there’s no telling how long fall will last—or how long the crowds will stay away—in Summit County. But regardless of potential snowfall, Lodging deals abound in Frisco, Silverthorne, Keystone, Copper Mountain, and Breckenridge from mid-September through November.
Adventure: The Frisco Peninsula is a stunning quilt of colors with numerous hiking and biking trails, plus the Frisco Marina stays open all autumn. The most beautiful hikes for leaf peepers are at the Willowbrook and Ptarmigan trails in Silverthorne and the Lily Pad Lake trail in Frisco. Mountain bikers should also check out Oro Grande Trail in Dillon or Boreas Pass in Breckenridge.