Come fall, you don’t have to travel all the way to Aspen to see aspens — Boulder County puts on a colorful show every September and October.
A loop on the Peak to Peak Highway makes for a fab fall drive, but you outdoorsy people might want to ditch your car and get up close and personal with the foliage fest.
Not sure when to head to Colorado’s high country to see the fall color? The U.S. Forest Service puts out a fall color report so you know when and where the green will turn to gold. The report for the Rockies is at fs.fed.us/r2/recreation/fallcolors.
Whether you want to hike to grand views, ride beneath the aspens or brush past purple prairie grasses on a run, there’s something to tickle your fall fancy close to home.
1 Switzerland Trail
Hiking, running, mountain biking
This old railroad line was shut down in 1919, but the remaining trail — which follows the grade for the narrow-gauge mining line — in the foothills above Boulder offers alternating views of fall color.
To the west, catch glimpses of high peaks and aspen groves. To the east, enjoy bird’s-eye views of the deciduous giants in Boulder’s older neighborhoods.
Trailhead: Park at the trailhead off Sugarloaf Mountain Road; alternately, run or ride from town via Boulder Canyon to Fourmile Canyon Drive.
2 East Portal Trails
The thick forest around the East Portal Trailhead pops with color from aspen stands in the fall. Above treeline, the views grow vast and the alpine scrub darkens to rust. Take a fishing pole on your hike to try your luck at catching trout in the lakes above and soak in the color.
Trailhead: From Rollinsville, take East Portal Road (dirt) west to its end, at the mouth of the tunnel and the trailhead.
3 West Magnolia
In the fall, the network of trails at West Mag becomes labyrinth where you can seek gold.
The criss-crossing singletrack (and some double) dives in and out of aspen groves just outside of Nederland. Clearings atop the rollers yield views of peaks splotched in gold and green.
Trailhead: The West Mag trails sit on U.S. Forest Service land between the Peak to Peak Highway (Colo. 119) and Nederland High School. Park at the trailhead on County Road 130 (the road to Eldora) or at County Road 132, south of Nederland off of Colo. 119.
4 Middle Saint Vrain
Hiking, running, mountain biking
Recreational options abound from the Middle Saint Vrain trailhead.
Hikers and runners can head up the valley on the Buchanan Pass Trail to catch some color. Mountain bikers can take one of the four-wheel drive roads from here (which could have some ATV traffic), or head south on the Sourdough Trail.
Either way, you’re sure to get a shock of yellow aspen tunnels.
Trailhead: North of Nederland, go west on County Road 92, at the signs for Camp Dick and Peaceful Valley campgrounds. The Middle Saint Vrain trailhead is at the end of the road.
5 Boblink and South Boulder Trails
Walking, running, cycling
There’s more to fall color than aspens. On trails in town, Boulder’s cottonwood-lined creeks blaze brightly overhead, and big bluestem grass deepens to purple. It’s prairie eye-candy that you won’t get in the foothills — but no less gorgeous.
Trailhead: Start from the East Boulder Community Center; the trails are on the east side of the center.