Best Fall Foliage Drives in Denver

Scenic Drives from Denver to See Mountains of Colorado Autumn Color

With over one billion aspen trees, Colorado’s fall color rivals any in the country. Take an easy autumn foliage drive from Denver to see the spectacular mountain scenery.

New England may be known for its autumn color, but Colorado’s fall foliage is second to none. Starting in mid-September, the state’s famous aspen trees turn a bright yellow-gold, blanketing the Rocky Mountains in brilliant fall color. From Denver, two easy scenic drives take you to some of the best autumn foliage.

Colorado and Utah contain the world’s largest natural area of aspen forest. Around 1.9 million acres of Colorado are covered by aspen. It’s estimated there are over one billion trees, enough to cover all of Delaware and Rhode Island, and still have trees leftover.

Fall foliage season is the most colorful time in Colorado when swathes of the autumn gold blanket the slopes and valleys of the mountain. The delicate, translucent aspen leaves shimmer in the slightest breeze, set against a backdrop of dark pines, rocky peaks, and brilliant blue sky. See them at their best on these scenic drives from Denver:

North to Estes Park

Distance: 95 miles from downtown Denver to Estes Park

Leave Denver driving west on Highway 6 (6th Avenue) through Golden to Highway 119. Head north to Blackhawk and the start of the Peak to Peak Highway. This scenic byway curves along the hills and valleys of the Front Range, through the aspen groves below some of Colorado’s highest snow-capped peaks. At Nederland continue north on Highway 72. Further on it merges with Highway 7 and continues north to Estes Park.

Estes Park is the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Take Trail Ridge Road through the park for a more spectacular Colorado fall color.

West to Georgetown

Distance: 42 miles west of Denver on I-70

Aspen groves surround the old western mining towns of Georgetown and its neighbor Silver Plume, both lined with delightfully restored Victorian buildings. A great way to see the fall foliage here is from an open-air passenger car on the Georgetown Loop Railroad, which chugs up the mountainside along a twisting track. This historic steam locomotive dates from the mining heyday of 1877. It closes for the season in October.

For more autumn gold, head south from Georgetown taking the steep, minor road over Guanella Pass. It passes alpine lakes and a stunning view of towering Mt. Evans to the east. Note that about 12 miles of the road are unpaved, but the gravel surface is well maintained.

After the crest of the pass at 11,669 feet, aspens blanket the southern slopes as the road descends to Highway 285 at Grant. Turn left to return to Denver. Or turn right to drive 28 miles west to another old mining town, Fairplay, with more scenic fall foliage en route while crossing the 10,000-foot Kenosha Pass.