At the onset of fall, the aspen trees in the Colorado high country — including those in Aspen and Snowmass — lose their vibrant green and take on a golden hue. These magnificent golden stands of aspen groves attract leaf peepers from all over the state and country, as the Aspen autumn landscape is absolutely stunning.
If you haven't yet made a trip to Aspen to see the fall colors before, consider visiting mid-September into early October. The color change begins at the top of the mountains and gradually descends to the valley floors below. Visiting in the fall is also a great way to experience Aspen as a quiet mountain town before the energetic winter season arrives. From hiking and biking to gondola rides and outdoor dining, there are many opportunities to enjoy the fall colors in Aspen.
Capture Aspen Fall Colors on Camera
Don't forget to bring your camera or your favorite photo tech to record the scenery during your Aspen autumn adventures. The bright yellow of Aspen leaves and the oranges and purples of scrub oaks on the surrounding hillsides look great in panoramas, as a backdrop to your selfies, and in your GoPro action movies while you’re on the trails. There's so much to capture — especially from the mountain summits—so, if you've got new photo gear, a fall trip to Aspen is the perfect excuse to break it in.
Fall Adventures in Aspen
Fall at the Maroon Bells
To see the Maroon Bells, the most photographed peaks in North America in the fall, consider a weekday visit for smaller leaf-seeking crowds. The leaves begin to turn earlier in September at the Bells, so plan to visit earlier in the month. Maroon Bells access during daytime hours is by reservation-only for 2020; contact the Aspen Chamber to reserve your bus seat. If you’d prefer to walk or bike the 12 miles roundtrip (or drive before 9am or after 5pm), no reservation is necessary.
Colorful Cattle Creek Road and Cathedral Lake
Cattle Creek and Cathedral Lake trails are gorgeous in the fall, and if you choose to hike, you can work for even more scenic views. This year, be sure to observe social distancing when the trails get busy, especially on weekends. Cathedral Lake hikers note: the view of the fall colors from the lake will be worth the strenuous climb!
Independence Pass and Twin Lakes
Independence Pass takes you south and east of Aspen, up and over the Continental Divide to Twin Lakes. Both the Aspen and Twin Lakes ends of this scenic, color-abundant drive are full of history. After seeing the fall colors from above — literally taking the high road over Independence Pass —you can spend the day hiking or driving and enjoying the view from Twin Lakes, then returning to Aspen in the evening. Twin Lakes offer beautiful “mirrors,” reflecting the colors from the surrounding mountains, and food and in-town activities aren’t far away.
As with many popular Aspen-area trails, this hiking and biking road rewards you with a view of the colors in Aspen and on Aspen Mountain from a breathtaking overlook and resting spot. It's a very popular destination for locals and visitors alike, so plan your hike or ride to avoid the mid-afternoon crowds for a more peaceful leaf-viewing experience.
Starting right in town, the AJAX trail tops out at the Sundeck, where the view of the colors on surrounding peaks is matchless. This is a good alternative if you're in a group that can’t decide between shopping and foliage-finding, and great if you're up for a more strenuous hike to balance relaxing in town later in the evening.
Silver Queen Gondola
In the heart of downtown Aspen, the Silver Queen Gondola runs weekdays through mid-September and includes weekends into October. You can ride the Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain for an incredible view, play disc golf, then take the Gondola down or wander back down on foot to extend your time amidst the golden aspen leaves. Call ahead on busy days to minimize your wait. — although waiting is its own pleasure because of the golden fall scenery surrounding you.
Webcams Help You Find the Best Aspen Colors
Use the webcam link on our site, or search for "aspen webcams," "Snowmass webcams," and "aspen foliage webcams" for all kinds of views when you’re deciding where to maximize your leaf viewing hours.
Visit Snowmass Village for more Fall Colors
Drive a few miles north to Snowmass, or take the free RFTA shuttle. There, you'll find several trails for your leaf-peeping hikes, and the Elk Camp Gondola to make your leaf-viewing ascent much easier. On foot, don’t miss the Tom Blake Trail with its trail through the woods packed with aspens and other deciduous trees. The Ditch Trail rises above the Snowmass valley with a view of Mt. Daly and the foliage below. Government Trail, Owl Creek Trail, and Vista Trail are also highly recommended Snowmass-area fall foliage walks.
A Unique and Luxurious Stay for Autumn Aspen Exploration
Some of Aspen's most unique and comfortable accommodations await you. Experience Aspen Square’s beautiful spaces for families to gather, including fireplace studio condos for two. With amazing views and our perfect locations, we’re the right choice for your Aspen fall vacation. Whether you're here for the fall colors or our annual autumn festivals, welcome.