14 Best Things to Do in the Fall in Colorado

Fall is Colorado's gold rush season

Fall in Colorado mountains

Steve Sucsy / Getty Images

Every year, gold rush season returns to Colorado—and we're not talking about golden nuggets. While this prize might not be the gold that the state's settlers were chasing, it's a different type of treasure that keeps coming back to the Rocky Mountains year after year—the golden color of the changing autumn leaves.

With such beautiful scenery at every twist and turn in the road, Colorado shines in the fall and there is a lot more to do and see between bouts of leaf-peeping. From family-friendly attractions to get you in the Halloween spirit and beer festivals to put you in a jovial spirit, these are the best things to do in the fall in Colorado.

01 of 13

Get Scared at the Stanley Hotel

The Grand Staircase at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado

TripSavvy / Vincent Mercer

After the acclaimed-author Stephen King spent one night at the Stanley Hotel in 1974, he was inspired to write one of his most famous novels—The Shining. This spooky book was eventually made into a classic horror film, and all thanks for this contribution to cinematic history goes to the Stanley Hotel's eery decor and ghost stories for inspiring King. During the fall, seek out the spooky entertainment on a night tour of this iconic hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The 60-minute walking tour is led by a storyteller who will share some of the hotel's famous ghost stories.

333 E Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517, USA
Phone +1 970-577-4000
02 of 13

Attend a Chile Festival in Pueblo

Chiles on display at the Pueblo Chiles & Frijoles Festival in Pueblo, Colorado

John Wark / Pueblo Chiles & Frijoles Festival

If you've got a vice for spice, head to the town of Pueblo in September for the annual Chile & Frijoles Festival. Sourcing their chiles from local pepper-growers, the festival is designed to promote nearby farmers while providing live entertainment, cooking contests, and street vendors serving up everything hot and spicy. Among the not-to-be-missed events of this fun weekend are the Chihuahua Parade and the many live cooking demonstrations.

Pueblo, CO, USA
03 of 13

Enjoy Pumpkin Sculptures in Denver

Pumpkin Sculpture and Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens

When the crisp fall air sets in, grab a pumpkin spice latte and head to the Denver Botanic Gardens to enjoy the incredible pumpkin sculptures during the annual Glow at the Gardens event. Every year at the gardens, real pumpkins are used to create fantastic larger-than-life sculptures while live performances amp up the atmosphere with festive Halloween fun. Guests are encouraged to come in costume, but tickets should be purchased in advance.

1007 York St, Denver, CO 80206, USA
Phone +1 720-865-3500
04 of 13

Visit the Largest Aspen Groves

Fall colors near Kebler Pass, Crested Butte, Colorado

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

If you want to see the most dramatic fall color transformation, look for an area with numerous aspen trees. In this case, head to the heart of the Rockies, a town called Gunnison in Southwest Colorado. Another great stop is the historic town of Crested Butte, about 35 minutes to the north of Gunnison, where massive groves live. Take out mountain bikes or go on a hike in early fall for the best displays. 

These charming mountain towns also offer opportunities to go rock climbing, horseback riding, fishing, and many more outdoor activities, along with checking out local restaurants, breweries, and shops.

Gunnison, CO 81230, USA
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05 of 13

Fly Straight to Telluride

Bridal Veil Falls, Telluride, Colorado

Southern Lightscapes-Australia / Getty Images

Strikingly beautiful Telluride is one of Colorado's favorite mountain towns, but the long drive (more than six hours from Denver, where the main international airport is) can deter some travelers. However, there are flights from Denver (and multiple other airports in the U.S.) to the smaller Telluride Regional Airport. The flight between the two destinations takes about an hour. 

Check out the Telluride Ski and Golf Resort, which offers some of the best golf courses in the country, and don't miss Bridal Veil Falls for an exquisite waterfall view about 20 minutes from town. You may be able to find hotel deals in the fall also, as the ski town aims to draw in more travelers during the off-season before the snow falls and the lifts begin running.

Telluride, CO 81435, USA
06 of 13

Spend a Night in Vail

Man runs ridge with Gore Range mountain views in Vail, Colorado

Dig Images / Getty Images

The ski towns up Interstate 70 have some of the most incredible leaf-changing displays. Even the drive up the mountain is scenic and will present some jaw-dropping views. Plan an overnight in Vail, which is less than two hours west of Denver.

You'll feel like you're in Europe when staying at the Sonnenalp Hotel, designed to look like a Bavarian ski chalet, right in the heart of town. You can walk through downtown Vail and along the river, past colorful trees, or take a hike deeper through the mountain to fully immerse yourself in the brilliance of the season.

As the weather chills down, snuggle up in your luxurious bathrobe by a private fireplace with a bottle of wine. Sonnenalp boasts many awards, including the TripSavvy Editors’ Choice Awards in 2018.

Vail, CO 81657, USA
07 of 13

Hop Aboard the Scenic Train

Rio Grand Railroad

Danita Delimont  / Getty Images

Skip the road trip and opt for a more classic way of traveling by train via one of the historic railways. You can see the changing of the leaves on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in the southwestern Colorado area. The train has been running between the beautiful historic mountain towns of Durango and the former mining town of Silverton since 1881. Tickets and special packages including hotels and additional stops can be booked online.

E 12th St, Silverton, CO 81433, USA
Phone +1 970-508-3365
08 of 13

Get Lost in the Corn

Corn maze

arinahabich / Getty Images

Corn mazes and pumpkin patches are scattered throughout Colorado and each has its own charm and offerings, from big displays to humble produce stands. Maize in the City, a popular attraction located 15 minutes from downtown Denver in Thornton, is more than just a big field of corn. It offers a petting zoo, a playground, a tub train, bouncy houses, pony rides for kids, and two sizes of corn mazes, among other fun things to do.

For a bigger rush, brave souls may want to check out the nearby 40-acre Haunted Field of Screams in Thornton for delightfully terrifying experiences. The attraction is not recommended for children; anyone age 12 and under must be with an adult.

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09 of 13

Attend the Durango Arts Festival

People enjoying Durango Autumn Arts Festival

 Durango Arts Center

Durango in Southwest Colorado is a beautiful and historic small town in the foothills of the San Juan Mountains that makes a good travel destination on its own, especially during the fall season. Art lovers may want to visit in September when the Durango Autumn Arts Festival takes place toward the end of the month. A crowd-pleasing event since 1994, the festival features fine art and crafts made by people around the country. The weekend event typically attracts about 6,500 visitors each year.

Durango, CO, USA
10 of 13

Go Apple Picking

Apples from YA YA Farm & Orchard

 YA YA Farm & Orchard

In the fall, apples are ripening in orchards all over Colorado and there are many places where you can pluck them off the trees and fill a box with the sweet fruits. YA YA Farm & Orchard in Longmont, approximately 36 miles (58 kilometers) north of Denver, has about 1,000 organic fruit trees (mostly apple) on its farm, which was started in 1896. The prime apple picking time at YA YA is from late July through mid-October. 

Adam’s Apple Orchard & Country Store in Ault, about 73 miles (117 kilometers) northeast of Denver, grows over 150 varieties of apples along with other fruits. The orchard's pick-your-own season lasts about 11 to 12 weeks. While you are there, get some trip souvenirs at the country store, such as jams, cider, salsas, and more.

11 of 13

Learn About Elk and Their Bugling

Elk bugling in the wild

 RPbirdman / Getty Images

There is nothing quite like the unique and haunting sound of bugling—the call the male bull elk makes when looking for a mate. You can hear the animal's call from a great distance.

About 70 miles (113 miles) northwest of Denver in the mountain town of Estes Park, the annual Elk Fest is the place to learn all about the animal, one of the largest species within the deer family. The event typically features bugling contests, elk exhibits and seminars, and a craft beer garden. Families enjoy storytelling, arts and crafts, live music, and children's elk-themed activities.

Estes Park, CO 80517, USA
12 of 13

Party at Oktoberfest

Beer steins at Colorado Oktoberfest

Sandra Leidholdt / Getty Images

Fall is time for Oktoberfest celebrations across the world, and many places across Colorado get in on the beer-drinking action. The Denver event, which has been going strong since 1969, is free to enter and usually takes place the last two weekends in September. Of course, beer is at the center of this event but families are also welcome to enjoy the food, dancing, live music, and costume contests. Another exciting party the whole family can attend is the Vail Oktoberfest. The free event provides beer, live music, and a bratwurst eating contest,

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13 of 13

See the Films First

Telluride Film Festival

Paul Best / Getty Images

Fall isn't just for the outdoors. It's also the season of the famous Telluride Film Festival—running strong since 1974—for four days over Labor Day weekend. Big-name stars and hordes of film fans head to scenic Southwest Colorado for the event. Many award-winning films, including "Slumdog Millionaire," made their debut at the Telluride Film Festival, which features more than 50 different programs in several venues across town. Plus, you'll have some bonus fun with the element of surprise, because the films are not announced until the festival begins and attendees have made it to the mountainous town.

Telluride, CO 81435, USA
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14 Best Things to Do in the Fall in Colorado