Ready to leaf peep and find all the best fall hikes near Denver? Fall in Colorado is truly something to see. The contrast of golden aspens against the Rocky Mountains is unmatched. But the season is fleeting! Depending on the area, the leaves typically begin changing mid-September and can fall at the beginning of October (the higher the altitude, typically the sooner this happens). While there are an overwhelming amount of trails in the Denver area, this blog is meant to help you get the most bang for your buck when chasing colorful Colorado in the fall. This blog article is broken down by area/park, with some specific hikes listed with each. We even have a few waterfalls and a firetower sprinkled in. Let’s get started!
For the easiest, most accessible trail to Denver with vibrant yellow aspens that also tend to last the longest (into late October), check out the trail along Clear Creek in Golden. It starts out as more of a walking path, then splits off into several different trail options. Some can be done with a stroller/wheelchair, and some become more of actual hiking trails. This is a great option if you're short on time and can't travel far, need better accessibility or want an easy option for yourself or visitors.
This mountain pass located between Evergreen and Idaho Springs is home to some of the most aspens near Denver. It is a must-see road in the fall, and has many hikes either along or near it. Beaver Brook Watershed Trail, Chief Mountain and the Mesta'ahehe Fire Lookout are some great ones for walking among aspens and viewing them from a great vantage point. Just prepare yourself for a lot of switchbacks and steep drop-offs on the drive!
STAUNTON STATE PARK
First things first, there are a few state parks near Denver that are absolute gems in the fall, starting with Staunton State Park. This area is filled with the iconic boulder-y Colorado landscape. We’re kicking off the recommendations with a bit of a longer day hike to Elk Falls, which was formerly private property and inaccessible to the public. However, after new land ownership, there are new public trails that allow you to experience this beautiful waterfall while soaking in the autumn woods around you. This trail is moderate coming in at 12 miles RT.
ELDORADO CANYON STATE PARK
The next area to explore is one that I have talked about a few times and it truly is one of my favorites near Denver. Eldorado Canyon State Park is breathtaking in the fall with vibrant fall foliage contrasting the rocky landscape. Check out my full blog on all the details of this amazing little pocket of Colorado.
GOLDEN GATE CANYON STATE PARK
Another wonderful park to visit in the Denver area is Golden Gate State Park. This is a great family friendly option with well-marked trails and camping possibilities if you want to make it a multi-day trip. If you are looking for an easier hike, my favorite is the Raccoon Loop which is 2.5 miles and showcases beautiful views of the front range in the distance over changing leaves. If you are up for a more challenging hike, but still not too crazy, Windy Peak Loop is going to be your best bet at just over 6 miles.
The next area is one of the top places to leaf peep and see the contrasting aspens against Colorado’s evergreen forests. Kenosha Pass, which is part of the Colorado Trail and gives you an east and west option to hike. You can choose your own RT distance on these gradual and stunning segments of the Colorado Trail. The only downside with this area in the fall is it tends to be one of the most popular and therefore busy spots for leaf peeping near Denver. Trying to go on week days or early on weekends will be your best bet.
DEVIL'S HEAD LOOKOUT TOWER
If you are looking for a unique destination option that is also family friendly, Devil’s Head Lookout Tower is going to be an awesome adventure for you! This short 2.7 mile out and back allows you to get up to a vantage point that oversees miles of mountain layers. It truly is one of my favorite hikes in the Colorado Front Range.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN STATE PARK (a little further)
Last but not least, I can’t let you leave this blog without mentioning great options for fall hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. It falls within the 2 hour radius of Denver and is always such a good place to get out and explore what Colorado has to offer - especially in the autumn months. Two of my favorite fall hikes are Ouzel Falls and Sprague Lake. Ouzel Falls is a 5.3 mile out and back trail that takes you right to the base of the gorgeous waterfall. If you’ve been around for any amount of time, you know my love for waterfalls! Lastly we cap it off with an easy stroll around Sprague Lake Loop. If you hit it during peak fall colors, this lake is next level stunning and absolutely worth the visit!
I hope that if you are in the Denver area during the fall months you get to experience the pure magic that Colorado has to offer. There are so many options to get out, leaf peep, and soak up the last remaining drops of the season before winding down into the long winter months.
I hope this blog gives you some direction for making the most of the very fleeting fall colors in the mountains and foothills of Colorado nearest to Denver. Enjoy these beautiful places while leaving no trace and leaving trails better than you found them! Which hikes are you trying?
Happy + Healthy Trails,