Describing Aspen in September and October brings up imagery such as quiet spaciousness, blindingly bright color, and abundant options for adventure. Visiting Aspen in the fall is a great way to experience the quiet mountain town that locals love before the frenzied winter season arrives.
From hiking and biking to gondola rides and outdoor dining, there are many opportunities to fully enjoy a September or October vacation in Aspen. Even if you’re not the adventurous type, the scenery alone is worth the trip.
Viewing Aspen’s Fall Colors
If you haven't yet made a trip to Aspen to see the spectacular color show during September and October, consider prioritizing a fall visit. Fall in Aspen is when the mountain landscapes begin to lose their vibrant green and take on a highly saturated, golden hue. These magnificent stands of aspen groves attract leaf peepers from all over the state and country, as the Aspen autumn landscape is absolutely stunning. The colors start changing at the top of the mountains, gradually descending to the valley floors below.
Here are some of our favorite ways to experience the fall colors in Aspen:
The Maroon Bells: To see the fall colors at the Maroon Bells, the most photographed peaks in North America, consider a weekday visit for smaller leaf-seeking crowds. Plan to visit in early September, if possible.
Independence Pass: The Pass takes you south and east of Aspen, up and over the Continental Divide and over to Twin Lakes. Both ends of this scenic, colorful drive are full of history.
Smuggler Mountain: 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.
Aspen Mountain: Called AJAX by locals, this mountain provides plenty of leaf-peeping opportunities, whether you’re riding the Silver Queen Gondola or hiking the Ute and AJAX trails to get to the Sundeck up top. Note, the Gondola is only open Friday through Sunday from September 9 - October 2.
Classic Fall Aspen Excursions
John Denver Sanctuary
One of Aspen’s most beloved residents, singer-songwriter John Denver, adored the Rocky Mountains. After his tragic 1998 death, the city came together to honor him. The City of Aspen built the John Denver Sanctuary memorial park along the banks of the Roaring Fork River downtown. It’s a perfect place to sit and reflect while surrounded by fall’s spectacular color show.
Aspen Art Museum
You’ll find international installations at the Aspen Art museum year-round, so September and October are no exception. The Art Museum reflects the diverse culture of Aspen’s locals and visitors alike. The museum is free to enter, and you’ll be surrounded by magnificent pieces of modern art, including whole-room installations that investigate the concepts of sound, electricity, and light. Stop by the gift shop for unique souvenirs on your way out.
Ashcroft Ghost Town
Get a firsthand look at Aspen life in the late 1800s when you visit Ashcroft, a once-thriving mining settlement that formerly housed almost 2,000 people. Take a self-guided tour of numerous building ruins such as the Blue Mirror Saloon, post office, and View Hotel are all still standing next to Cattle Creek.
Fall Saturday Markets in Aspen
Fall arrives in Aspen during the equinox, or when the first leaves turn gold. The penultimate Aspen Saturday Market occurs in early October, and it’s the farmers market's final appearance of the season. Find Colorado-grown vegetables, a food court, and unique handmade products from a range of local craftspeople.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
If you think Aspen fall views are spectacular from the ground, wait until you see them with another 2,000 feet of perspective. In the fall, you can book early morning hot air balloon flights in Snowmass. Enjoy champagne with fruit, pastries, cheese, bagels, and even handmade chocolate-covered strawberries after your flight over the Elk Mountain Range.
Snowmass Bike Park
In September and through early October, our Gold-Level Snowmass Bike Park opens on weekends (Friday through Sunday) for adventure-seeking downhill mountain bikers. Ride up the Elk Camp Gondola and continue to the top via the Elk Camp Chairlift, to descend almost 3,000 vertical feet back to Base Village along beautifully crafted singletrack. Over 25 miles of purpose-built routes range from beginner-friendly and flowing to adrenaline-inducing drops and obstacles.
Fall Events in Aspen
September’s Snowmass Balloon Festival
The annual Snowmass Balloon Festival includes three days of morning balloon releases along with the highly-anticipated Friday night Balloon Night Glow. Spectators are urged to drive in, trek up, walk around, or stroll straight up to see where the balloons take flight. After the balloons have launched, wander around the Snowmass Mall or Base Village for brunch.
Aspen Film Fest
In late September and early October, Aspen Film presents its annual Aspen Film Fest. Great films from across the world are chosen to be showcased at Aspen's Wheeler Opera House and Isis Theatre, as well as downvalley in Carbondale.
John Denver Week
Every October, join a celebration of the music and legacy of one of the most important and well-known singer/songwriters of our time: John Denver. Meet new and old friends in the gorgeous John Denver Sanctuary for a meet & greet. John Denver's songs will be performed in a downtown Aspen hotel by a variety of talented musical artists.
Where to Stay for Your Fall Visit to Aspen
Some of Aspen's most unique and cozy accommodations await you at Aspen Square, Our beautiful vacation rentals are perfect for families and friends — or even a solo journey. With amazing views and convenient downtown locations, we’re the right choice for your Aspen fall vacation, whether you're here for the fall colors or our annual autumn events.