Fall Colors in Aspen Snowmass - The Ultimate Day


As the long days of summer make way for fall, Aspen Snowmass becomes even more beautiful (if such a thing is actually possible). The colors of the fall foliage in the Aspen area (usually at peak from mid-September to early October, though it varies from year to year) are unique and spectacular — and don't last long, so you'll want to immerse yourself as much as possible. 

If you want to fully enjoy the golden Aspen glow throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, take a look at these ideas for turning your exploration of the fall colors into a perfect day in Aspen Snowmass. 

Maroon Bells Scenery

The Maroon Bells, also known as (South) Maroon and North Maroon, may be the two most photographed peaks in Colorado — and if you’re visiting in the fall, you'll instantly know why. 

Fall is one of the best times of year to visit and view the Bells. The tree lined, snow-streaked purple mountains in become a frame of shining gold, with double the view due to the scene’s reflection in stunning Maroon Lake.

The only way to drive there in the fall is if you reserve a campsite, but shuttles run from Aspen daily. Plan to take the gentle 1.7-mile hike around the lake to make your visit complete.

Leaf Peeping Along Castle Creek

If you venture down Castle Creek Road from the Aspen roundabout to the ghost town of Ashcroft, you’ll surround yourself with aspen trees that quiver and glow with gold and red in the autumn. Each twist and turn along the 13-mile route is more spectacular than the last, and you can be forgiven if you want to keep stopping for photo opportunities. 

At the end of the road, enjoy a glass of wine or a meal at Pine Creek Cookhouse, explore Ashcroft, or hike to Castle Creek Falls through old-growth fir trees and more incredible fall colors, enjoying stunning views of the West Elk Mountains along your journey. For a more strenuous but well-worth it fall hike, make your way to Cathedral Lake (and, if you’ve got energy left, continue on up to Electric Pass). 

Have Lunch at Pine Creek Cookhouse

At Pine Creek Cookhouse, you'll be delighted by fresh fish right from local streams, wild game from the mountains you're gazing at, and other locally sourced organic ingredients. Look for specialties like buffalo tenderloin and smoked trout.

When you dine at this legendary Aspen restaurant, you'll find yourself surrounded by fall colors right outside the Cookhouse's towering windows.  You can either take a leisurely 13 mile drive, work up a sweat before dinner on your road bike, or hike an easy 1.5 miles to the restaurant from the famous Ashcroft ghost town. (In the winter, you'll find people making the trek via cross-country skis and even horse-drawn sleighs.)

Get High on Fall Color

If you haven’t had your fill of Aspen’s autumn gold, head up to the top of Independence Pass to the Continental Divide. A spectacular expanse of mountainscape at any time of year, you’ll feel even more on top of the world when you actually are on top of the world (or the Divide, anyway) at 12,095 feet. To get the full Independence Pass experience, follow 82 all the way to Twin Lakes.

Adrenaline Rush

Would you like a dose of adrenaline with your leaf peeping? Then the Lost Forest as Snowmass is just what you need. You’ll be surrounded by glorious color while exploring the ropes course, sending rock climbing routes, or speeding down the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster.

Tom Blake’s Heaven

Imagine sailing through aspen groves with sunlight flickering through the golden leaves — you’ll wonder if you’re dreaming. That's the experience of mountain biking the Tom Blake Trail, an intermediate, single-track trail that's even doable for the kids, thanks to its fairly short length (2 miles), moderate incline, and smooth surface. Pick up the trail either across from the Town of Snowmass shop at Owl Creek Road or at the end of the Snowmass Mall. 

Hikers also enjoy this trail, so be aware as you’re coasting downhill — and yes, you can take your dog! Don't be surprised to see late-season wildflowers and plenty of wildlife!

Snowmass Fall Festivals

It can be difficult to tear your eyes away from the beauty of Aspen's fall colors, but in early September the Snowmass Balloon Festival will have you lifting your eyes to the skies with wonder. This hot-air balloon festival, one of the highest in altitude in the country, features exciting balloon races, aerial shows, and fun challenges — as well as the Glow Show, where illuminated balloons will fill the night sky. The Snowmass Balloon Festival is free, and a perfect complement to the beauty of the fall colors spreading across the mountains around you.

Fall weekends also bring Cidermass (sample dozens of craft ciders from local brewers) and Septemberfest (kids' activities and live music) to Snowmass, so there’s no shortage of action in the autumn if you’re the festival type! 

Aspen Snowmass in Fall

The incredible fall colors in Aspen Snowmass are exhilarating and breathtaking, but they're only an introduction to the wealth of fun and inspiration that you'll experience when you visit the most beautiful mountains in the country in the autumn. 

Activities and adventures abound any time of year, so the leaves are just the appetizer! You’ll be able to take your pick of vacation rentals, too  — since you won’t be competing with the ski bums just yet, fall is the perfect time for a most memorable stay!

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