Best Fall Activities in Colorado, the Classic and New

Fall is Colorado's 'gold rush' season

It's gold rush season in Colorado. 

While this prize may not be the gold that the state's settlers were chasing, it's a different kind of treasure that keeps travelers coming back to Colorado year after year, every fall: the changing of the leaves. 

The Rocky Mountains boast some of the best leaf-changing scenery, and many destinations across the state offer special ways to enjoy the season.

While seeing the leaves is one of the most impressive ways to do fall in the Mile High State, there are many other ways to enjoy it, too. From beer halls to fall lodging specials to film fests and more, Colorado stays busy this time of year. 

Here are a few of our favorite fall activities in Colorado, some classic, some you might not have done before. 

  • 01 of 10

    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 transformation of leaves, look for the most aspen trees. In this case, head to Gunnison and Crested Butte, where massive groves live. Take out mountain bikes or go on a hike in early fall for the best displays. 

  • 02 of 10

    Fly Straight to Telluride

    Bridalveil falls, Telluride, Colorado


    Southern Lightscapes-Australia/Getty Images

    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 located) can deter some travelers. 

    But Denver International Airport is not the only airport in Colorado. There is also a smaller airport in Telluride, and it offers flights directly to the town. You can fly from Denver (as well as multiple other airports across the United States) and land in Telluride. Skip the long drive from the big city; the flight between the two destinations is just about an hour. 

    While in Telluride, check out the Telluride Ski & Golf Resort, which offers some of the best golf terrain in the country. Don't miss Bridal Veil Falls for an exquisite fall waterfall view. 

    Look for hotel specials in Telluride every fall, as the ski town works to draw in more travelers during the off-season before the snow falls and the lifts begin running.

  • 03 of 10

    Stay the Night in Vail

    Sonnenalp Hotel Vail Colorado

     Photo courtesy of Sonnenalp Hotel Vail

    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.

    Feel like you're in Europe when you stay at luxurious 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 the in-room fireplace with a bottle of wine.

    Sonnenalp boasts many awards, including being named Travel + Leisure's 100 Best Hotels in the World for 2016.  

  • 04 of 10

    Take a Guided Road Trip

    Lake Helene in Rocky Mountain National Park

    Brad McGinley Photography/Getty Images

    Before the snow closes some of the higher roads (with the best views), take a road trip through the Rockies. 

    Intrepid Travel offers a tour that starts in California, winds through Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Moab, Rocky Mountain National Park and ends in Denver. 

    The trip, California to the Rockies, brings travelers up Trail Ridge Road and along the Continental Divide, to take in some of the world's most amazing views of wildlife, mountains, wildflowers and tundra. 

    This area boasts more than 350 miles of hiking trails, where you can see snowy mountaintops in the distance, visit crisp alpine lakes, keep your eyes peeled for elk (it's their active season) and experience fall in the most authentic way possible. 

    Of course, you can plan your own self-guided road trip through the mountains, too. 

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    See the Films First

    Telluride Film Festival

    Paul Best/Contributor/Getty Images

    Fall isn't just for the outdoors. It's also the season of the famous Telluride Film Festival in September over Labor Day weekend. Big-name stars head to Colorado for this event. Many award-winning films, including "Slumdog Millionaire," made their debut at the Telluride Film Festival. The festival features more than 50 different programs in 10 venues across Telluride. 

  • 06 of 10

    Bike Through Denver, Artistically

    Art hotel bikes

    Photo courtesy of

    Art Hotel

    Denver's reputation as an artistic hub continues to grow, and The Art Hotel brings that excitement to travelers. 

    The Art offers visitors access to custom-designed bikes painted by students at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Each bike is inspired by Denver's culture. 

    Guests can take out one of these colorful, quirky bikes for a spin around downtown, to explore the culture and nearby Museum District. Follow Art's public art map on a three-mile loop through the Golden Triangle and see some of Denver's most beloved public art pieces. 

    If you'd rather go by foot, The Art also runs an Art Run program, where guests can go on a guided walk or run from artwork to artwork. Consider it artistic interval training. Totally free for guests.

  • 07 of 10

    Do Oktoberfest in Denver

    Beer steins at Colorado Oktoberfest


    Sandra Leidholdt/Getty Images 

    Fall is time for Oktoberfest celebrations across the world, and Colorado has a few fun highlights. One thing that sets Denver's huge Oktoberfest apart is that it's family-friendly. Yes, of course, beer is a center stage. Colorado loves its beer. 

    But this celebration also has tons of food, dancing, live music, costume contests and other quirky entertainment. 

    Vail also holds an exciting Oktoberfest party. 

  • 08 of 10

    Drink at Denver's Beer Hall

    Stanley Marketplace

    Photo courtesy of Stanley Marketplace

    If beer is on your mind, there are plenty of ways to experience it in Colorado. One fun option: Visit the Stanley Beer Hall at Stanley Marketplace in Denver. Aimed to be a modern spin on the traditional beer hall, Stanley features rustic, French-influenced food (shareable style) in a clean, refined atmosphere. 

    The beer hall—with communal tables, a concrete slab bar and a year-round indoor-outdoor game space—features 30 drafts, the majority of which are local and rotating. Even look for cocktails on tap and cold brews. 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Explore Via Train

    Rio Grande Scenic railway train in fall

    Photo courtesy of Rio Grande Scenic Railway 

    See the changing of the leaves via train with the Fall Colors Explorer trains in the Alamosa area of southern Colorado. 

    This popular ride, offered by the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, takes you in a historical, domed club car with a full-service bar up high in the Rockies. The trip includes a fall-inspired meal, topped off with pumpkin or apple pie. 

    Trips also include a speaker on board, so you can learn more while you take in the sites. 

    Bring your camera, as well as your smile. The trip includes two photo op stops along the way. 

  • 10 of 10

    Get Lost in the Corn

    corn maze at maize in the city

    Photo courtesy of Maize in the City 

    Maize in the City, a popular corn maze located just 15 minutes from downtown Denver is more than just a big field of corn. It offers a mini train and swing ride for kids, shows free movies in the field, holds a free trick-or-treat event and free princess-, superhero- and dog-appreciation days.

    For a bigger rush, check out the Haunted Field of Screams' Zombie Paintball Massacre, if you are brave enough. 

    Colorado has corn mazes and pumpkin patches scattered throughout the state. Each has its own charm and offerings, from big displays to humble produce stands. 

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