It’s that time of year again - when the leaves of Colorado’s less-than-evergreen trees die en masse from chlorophyl deprivation. The true beauty of this seasonal transition in only at its peak for a few weeks, so don’t waste your time with anything but the state’s best leaf-viewing trips.
Drive Phantom Canyon
We don’t typically suggest trips that can be enjoyed from the seat of a car, but the autumn drive along southern Colorado’s Gold Belt Byway through Phantom Canyon is worth sitting down for. The 31-mile section from Florence to Victor, which carves through Phantom Canyon, is a true gem.
Leaves are changing early near Cripple Creek, so colors in the canyon could be at their peak as soon as this weekend. Those hoping for an active day out can pair the drive with a hike on one of Victor’s historic trails of gold or a day at the crags of nearby Shelf Road.
Getting there: From Colorado Springs, take Highway 115 south to Florence. Turn north onto Highway 67 (Pies Peak Ave.) from Main Street Florence, and follow this until it turns into a dirt road. This road will wind all the way through the canyon, spitting you out in Victor. It is well maintained, but contains sharp curves and steep drops off the edge. It is open to two-way traffic, but is wide enough in places for only one car.
Bike Crested Butte’s Dyke Trail
Aspen groves, because of their interconnected roots, are some of the largest organisms on planet Earth. The leaves of these verdant goliaths go through autumn’s transformation in unison, and the state’s largest aspen grove is expected to present its best colors within the next week.
Because of its size, the Kebler Pass grove can be seen from almost anywhere around the town of Crested Butte. But local gearheads recommend witnessing its colors from the Dyke Trail - a moderate 14-mile mountain bike loop that winds through the grove high on the pass.
Getting there: From Crested Butte, take Kebler Pass Road. (Co Rd 12) seven miles west to a Y-junction with Irwin Lake Road. (Co Rd 826). Park in the trailhead parking lot on the left side of the road and start riding Irwin Lake Road toward the lake. In total, the trip covers nine miles of road and five miles of singletrack riding.