Fall Foliage in the Rockies

Seeing the aspens turn golden and the warm hues take over the mountain ranges is quite the sight in Rocky Mountain National Park. Whether you come to hike the Park or simply enjoy the colors from the comforts of your vehicle, you won’t be disappointed by nature’s dazzling display in the Rockies this fall.

Hiking

Get up close to the changing colors as you explore the Park’s trails by foot. With an excellent variety of easy, moderate, and strenuous hikes, there’s a trail for everyone looking for fall hues in Estes Park. Some of the best hiking trails for taking in the fall foliage include:

  • Gem Lake – To see the colors pop against the backdrop of the mountains; try Gem Lake, a 3.5-mile hike off of Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. You’ll have impressive panoramic views, unique rock formations, and Gem Lake waiting for you on this trail.
  • The Pool – Off the Fern Lake Trailhead is The Pool – the confluence of the Big Thompson and Fern Creek. This 3.4-mile hike leads you through forests of aspens and pine trees as well as the neat formation of Arch Rocks.
  • Bierstadt Lake – This easy 2.4-mile hike to Bierstadt Lake leads you through golden aspens as you gain elevation before retreating into the pine forest with a stunning lake at the end of the trail.
  • Mills Lake ­– Mills Lake is a 5.3-mile hike from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and is a great alternative to The Loch. You’ll pass Alberta Falls and take in sweeping views of surrounding mountain ranges. Mills Lake is named after Enos Mills, a naturalist who has major ties to Rocky Mountain National Park and the job of park rangers.
  • Bear Lake – For hikers or walkers looking to see the changing colors but not ready for a strenuous climb, the loop around Bear Lake provides great views with an easy pace at .8 miles roundtrip.

Driving

Want to take in more of the colors and more of the Park? Try a scenic drive to soak up the amazing views and stay out of the cooler weather. These are some of the most highly rated scenic drives around Estes Park:

  • Peak to Peak Colorado Scenic Byway – The Peak to Peak drive is a 55-mile route passing Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, Eldorado Canyon State Park, and other scenic areas. It’s a truly spectacular drive with unmatched views of the Continental Divide and stunning fall foliage.
  • Trail Ridge Road – If you’ve got the time and want to see all of the Park, take a drive along the famous Trail Ridge Road that connect Estes Park to Grand Lake before it closes due to weather, typically late October. The road reaches an elevation of over 12,000 feet and provides amazing panoramic views and passes plenty of forest areas to catch the colors.
  • Old Fall River Road – This 11-mile road is meant for leisurely drives and patient drivers with the posted speed limit of 15 mph. You’ll enjoy wonderful views of the surrounding nature and lively colors as you reach 11,796 ft. above sea level. This road is mostly gravel as well.
  • Bear Lake Road – This road is very popular in summer with its parking lot for the Bear Lake Trailhead – a perfect combination if you want to trek the easy Bear Lake Loop to stretch your legs and get a closer look at the colors. There are also plenty of pull-offs along the road with picnic benches for additional stops.

Come see the fall foliage in the Rockies this year and stay at our affordable hotel with easy access to the Park before we close for the season at the end of October!

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