Exploring the incredible fall colors in Colorado can take on so many different attitudes. From leisurely escapes with scenic fall foliage drives and heart-warming comfort foods, to active autumn trips full of climbing new routes and summiting golden peaks. Whichever your dream fall vacation entails, you won’t find a more inspiring mountain location than Estes Park.
Surrounded by the protected lands of Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest, Estes is not only home to hundreds of miles of trails, breathtaking views and chilly mountain streams. We are also home to thousands of wild elk, and this time of year they are in full rut – or mating season. The fantastic sights and sounds of the bull elk mating rituals add another dimension to autumn in these mountains. With so much to see and do, you’ll want to start planning right away for your perfect Colorado fall getaway in the base camp to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Top 10 Trails for Leaf Viewing
Gem Lake – Lumpy Ridge Trailhead – 3.5 mi round trip
Not only does the Gem Lake trail offer a path through the aspen groves, it also gives a panoramic view at the Estes Park Lookout over the entire valley and Longs Peak.
Bierstadt Lake – Bear Lake Trailhead to Park ‘N Ride
This point-to-point hike offers beautiful hints of color as you walk through a forested area and final view across Bierstadt Lake to Long’s Peak and the Continental Divide.
The Pool – Fern Lake Trailhead – 3.4 mi round trip
Enjoy the soundtrack of the Big Thompson River as you hike through the aspens, eventually arriving at The Pool, the location where the Big Thompson meets Fern Creek.
Glacier Creek – Bear Lake Trailhead to Sprague Lake Trailhead
Start at Bear Lake and enjoy a mostly downhill stroll through close forest, then take the shuttle at Sprague Lake to your car.
Sprague Lake – Sprague Lake Trailhead – 0.9 mi loop
While you take a short hike around the lake, enjoy views of changing colors on the surrounding moraines.
North Deer Mountain Trail – Deer Mountain Trailhead – 6.2 mi round trip
Deer Mountain is an opportunity to bag yourself a summit while enjoying beautiful vistas of the Fall River Valley, Mummy Range and golden aspens.
Estes Cone – Long’s Peak Trailhead – 6.5 mi round trip
The hike to Estes Cone is a majority of lower elevation hiking through varied terrain, like aspen and pine forests, and past the Eugenia mine, and holds a steep last portion. Your work will be rewarded with views of Long’s Peak, Mt. Meeker, the Continental Divide, the Mummy Range, and a view of the Estes Valley.
Ouzel Falls – Wild Basin Trailhead – 5.4 mi round trip
Ouzel Falls isn’t the only attraction on this hike through the forest. You also get to see Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascade along the way. All while enjoying the vibrant autumn colors.
Bridal Veil Falls – Cow Creek Trailhead – 6.2 mi round trip
Hike up cow creek among beautiful transitioning colors, with the backdrop of the Mummy Range.
Mills Lake – Glacier Gorge Trailhead – 5.3 mi round trip
On this hike, you will pass Alberta Falls, a popular destination surrounded by aspen groves. You will also have great views over other changing forests from a distance on this hike.