Fall means those beautiful Aspen trees are about to change into the most gorgeous shades of orange, yellow and red. When the wind blows and the gold Aspen leaves flutter, it’s seriously one of the most beautiful sites in the entire world! I have put together a quick guide of my favorite spots to see fall foliage and how to find the most Instagram-worthy spots in Colorado.
This post was originally published in 2018 but has been updated and recirculated for 2023.
Colorado Fall Foliage Maps 2023!
Colorado leaves turn at different times depending on elevation and the length of daylight. Check the local news stations or SmokeyMountains.com for interactive maps.
2023 – Fall color map is here – thanks 9news!
The Science behind the leaves changing!
Remember, when you learned about Chlorophyll and Photosynthesis? In spring & summer, with the abundance of sun, trees create chlorophyll, which turns sunlight into glucose to feed the tree and gives leaves their green color. Short days mean less sun, which means less chlorophyll so less green, in turn causing the leaves to show their true color.
When the leaves fall it’s because the tree is getting ready for winter and sending less energy into its branches, essentially turning all those veins off, so the leaves die and fall. Once on the ground, they can decompose into nutrient-rich soil. DO NOT THROW YOUR LEAVES AWAY – compost or brush under a tree and let nature do its work.
Get The Perfect Fall Instagram Shot
Want to know where the fall colors are peaking right now? Then slide on over to Instagram!
- Check the following hashtags to find the best fall foliage shots.
- Once you find a spot you like, check the geolocation – the amazing shot you’re looking at could be old so check the geolocation and then sort by the most recent post to see exactly what the colors look like right now in that area.
- Get in the car and go!
- Anytime you head out into nature, please be respectful. Leave no trace, don’t pick the foliage, and don’t feed the wildlife. Please!
- TAG ME! Tag your story or post with #bmbfallcolors and I will post it on my story!
Fall Foliage Hashtags
8 Fall Foliage Drives in Colorado
Durago> Silverton> Telluride – Million Dollar Highway
The million-dollar highway is a beautiful drive, but at peak colors it’s outstanding! I took a road trip across the state with Toyota and at the peak of fall and the leaves were incredible. We literally pulled over every five minutes to snap pictures. The gorgeous gold and red leaves against the severe snow-capped San Juan Mountains is hands-down one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Read more about the trip and see more photos here.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Peak time at Rocky Mountain National Park is end of September. Remember you still need to make a reservation to enter the park – 1 per vehicle. Most passes sell out 1 month in advance, but you can still get a pass the day before. Read all about the reservation system and some easy hikes here. This shot above is from Sky Pond, which is amazing but long – details here.
Personally, I don’t really care for Estes Park. If you plan to go overnight, there are so many hotels and cabins, but the town itself is very touristy – think taffy shops and old-timey photos.
Kebler Pass & Crested Butte
Make the trip to Crested Butte to see some of the most spectacular fall colors in the state. Kebler Pass is home to the largest living Aspen grove in the world, which also means it’s the largest living organism in the world! Check out my guide to Crested Butte for the best hikes, restaurants, and more.
Ohio Pass – Crested Butte
Crested Butte really has some spectacular drives. Last fall, we took Ohio Pass from Gunnison to CB. This drive takes you right past the “The Castles,” which are stunning. From here, you get deep into Aspen groves with plenty of spots to pull over for pics or hike. Ohio Pass dead ends into Kebler Pass, so you can go right to Crested Butte or left to continue on Kebler away from CB.
Cottonwood Pass – Buena Vista to Crested Butte
The drive from Buena Vista to Crested Butte is also littered with Aspen groves. The pass was just recently repaved, making it a much more comfortable drive. There are tons of spots to pull off and take pictures along the drive and you get to cross the continental divide. You will also find numerous spots to go camping along this road if you are looking for a great fall camping trip
If you want a quick day trip from Denver, head to Guanella Pass. Take 285 to the town of Grant, then head over the pass to Georgetown and loop back down to the city on I70 Read more here. This is a busy fall drive – because it is so pretty! Expect slow traffic, but everyone is there to enjoy it.
I spent a fun fall weekend in Aspen a few years ago and the leaves on Independence Pass were great! I’d love to return during peak season and make it to the Maroon Bells. Check out this hike while in Aspen for amazing fall colors.
Peak to Peak Scenic Byway
Omg! This picture is so old! It’s from 2013! I feel like the roads were closed due to a slide so we didn’t make it end to end, but this is another great Front Range option. Read more here.
Boreas Pass & Hoosier Pass
These two passes connect Summit & Park Counties – aka Fairplay area to Breck. Both are filled with gorgeous views and Aspen Trees. You could even do them as a loop if you wanted! Summit country has some amazing fall hikes to the aptly named “Aspen Alley” in Breck right off Boreas Pass.
Send me or tag me in your fall color pics! I’d love to see your favorite spot and your best shot! While off on your Colorado Adventure, check out my CO mountain town guides of where to go eat, and drink!
Cross the line, pay the fine
No one loves sitting in i70 traffic but even worse is racking up a fine for violating the Express Lane rules! Violators will now be identified along the I-70 Mountain Express Lanes by cameras, sensors and software and mailed a fine if they are found to be breaking the rules.
What counts as a violation?
- Using Express Lanes when they are closed
- Weaving in and out of the Express Lanes across the solid yellow lines
- Driving in the Express Lane with an oversized vehicle—includes vehicles with three or more axles (including cars towing trailers) and any vehicle over 25 ft long
When does this start?
June 21 – 1 month grace period – Drivers will get a warning in the mail for violations
July 21 and on – Drivers who commit violations will be fined
Why enforce fines?
The Express Lanes are used to relieve congestion only during high traffic times, otherwise, they operate as an emergency shoulder for broken-down cars or emergency services. When the Express Lanes are open, weaving in and out of the lanes creates hazards for drivers who aren’t expecting vehicles to cross the solid lines.
How Much is a fine?
Fines start at $75 for a first offense if paid within 20 days of issuance. After 20 days, the fine increases to $150.
How does the express lane work?
To use the express lane, only enter when it’s open at the designated entry points. Overhead signs will indicate whether or not the Express Lane is open. Your license plate will be scanned and the toll charge will be sent to the address associated with your vehicle’s registration. If you have an ExpressToll pass, you will save an average of 40% on tolls and automatically be charged through your account.
For more information head to expresslanes.codot.gov.