Leaf Peeping Colorado From Your Campervan - Native Campervans
Leaf Peeping Colorado From Your Campervan
It’s that time of year again. As summer wanes into fall, the chill in the air returns and the once green, luscious Aspen trees start to turn golden. If you didn’t know, Colorado is one of the top places in the United States to chase the changing leaves, and leaf peeping is the best excuse to rent a campervan.
Aspens are the most populous tree in the Colorado area, those that live at 8,000 – 10,000 feet above sea level start turning in mid-September. Those in the foothills and along the plains don’t start turning until October to early November. It’s important to know when the trees change into their stunning hues of yellow, orange, and red so you can plan your trip accordingly!
Whether you’re looking for a longer trip that will take you up to the highest of elevations and all the way back down, or you’re looking for a quick weekend jaunt from our Denver campervan rental office, we’ve put together a list of our top six places to catch the changing leaves this fall.
Mid-September Leaf Peeping
Grand Mesa Byway
Gold is everywhere in the Grand Mesa Byway! The Grand Mesa Byway captures everything you could think of when you think of Colorado in the fall. Not only do you have a sea of crisp, golden leaves but those golden leaves are surrounded by stunning vistas and alpine lakes. Picture it now: you’re waking up to the crisp fall air, you climb out of your campervan and wrap a blanket around you, you get the coffee ready, and are greeted with stunning golden hues as far as the eye can see. Grand Mesa Byway is only four and a half hours from the Denver area. If you’re heading to the Grand Mesa Byway, you’ll pass tons of fall colors on your way to your destination.
We recommend grabbing a reservation at the Jumbo Campground located between Jumbo and Sunset Lakes. Not only do you have beautiful views of the aspens, but you also have access to the lakes and trails.
Just 10 miles northwest of the town of Aspen you’ll come upon a fiery, sunset-like scene of aspens in Maroon Bells. You can hike through the trees and experience the hypnotizing and tranquil nature of the White River National Forest. Take an easy, one-mile round-trip hike on the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail to immerse yourself in the mindblowing wonder of the fall season.
Looking for a little bit more time in the aspen wilderness? Try a 3.6-mile round-trip hike on the Crater Lake Trail. Though steep and rocky at points, you’ll get to climb higher and higher through the perfect fall trees.
This is a very popular spot for Colorado leaf peeping so make sure you make a reservation. Reservations are required for personal vehicles and if you want to park your van and hop on the shuttle.
We recommend booking a campsite at the Silver Bell Campground. The Silver Bell Campground is situated in the Maroon Bells Scenic area. You have access to the many hiking trails in the Maroon Bells area. Not only that, but you’ll also wake up to the beautiful aspens right out front of your campervan door.
Last Dollar Road
If you’re hitting Last Dollar Road, prepare yourself for a bumpy and uneven road. All the bouncing will be worth it when you see the picturesque aspens with their crimson-red leaves. This old mining supply route is a must-visit if you’re heading out for some fall colors in September.
This road is best accessed from Telluride to Ridgeway and is a 13.1-mile stretch in the gorgeous, San Juan Mountains. It may be miles before you run into another person, so make sure you fill up your tank! You’ll be greeted by incredible aspen-dotted views of Wilson Peak and Greyhead. Don’t miss the absolute best place to be this autumn!
Last Dollar Road is a little bit off the beaten path. You’ll find incredible dispersed camping in this area. There are not a lot of options when it comes to amenities, but the views are unmatched. Sleep among the aspens when you visit Last Dollar Road.
October to Mid-November Leaf Peeping
Eldorado Canyon State Park
Eldorado Canyon State Park is an adventure park outside of Boulder with thousands of aspens that explode into yellow gold around October. We recommend this spot if you’re a casual leaf peeper or looking to combine aspen chasing with some of your favorite outdoor activities.
If you’re looking to do some mountain climbing or get a good hike in, we recommend Eldorado Canyon State Park be one of your stops on your fall foliage tour. This state park closes at sunset, so we recommend hitting the road and grabbing a camp spot at Winiger Ridge at Gross Reservoir. Make sure to grab your own firewood on the way!
Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway
This is a 57-mile stretch along the Arkansas River and on Highway 24, 285, and 291. You’ll run through Buena Vista, Poncha Springs, and Salida. Not only will your entire way be dotted with color-changing aspens, but you’ll pass through some of Colorado’s best ghost towns.
Grab a spot at the Collegiate Peaks campground which is located next to a bunch of trailheads and fishing spots. It’s the perfect place to rest on your Byway fall foliage adventure!
Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Just 30 miles west of Denver, the Golden Gate Canyon State Park makes for a wonderful weekend trip. Not only is it a great Colorado spot for leaf peeping but there are over 40 miles of hiking trails and countless other trails for biking and even horseback riding. The state park is 12,000 acres overall, so there is a lot of space to explore
Make sure to book a spot at the Frazer Meadow campground for easy access to the Golden Gate Canyon State Park and awesome views of the changing fall colors.
Once you’ve picked your campground, set up for your stay. Get your chairs out and take a load off, enjoy the wilderness around you. Take a deep breath of that sweet, sweet mountain air. Depending on your comfort level, take a stroll around the campsite to get familiar with your surroundings or hit up one of the hiking trails close by.
Colter Bay Village offers two, easy hiking trails: Heron Pond and Swan Lake Trail and Lakeshore Trail. Both trails are under two hours. Heron Pond and Swan Lake Trail is a 3.2-mile loop. Many visitors describe the trail as a walk in the woods with great views of the Grand Tetons. It’s the perfect trail to stretch your legs after a long drive!
Lakeshore Trail is a 2.5-mile loop and should take you under two hours to complete. You’ll have lake and mountain views during your hike. With only 185ft of elevation gain, this is the perfect hike to ease you into your weekend.
Once you’ve had a chance to hike around, get some exercise, and acclimate yourself to the area, head back to camp and cook up a scrumptious dinner. Start a fire if you’re feeling up for it! Make sure to get some good rest because we have a big day tomorrow!
Whichever spots in Colorado you choose for your leaf peeping experience, you won’t be disappointed! Book your Fall Campervan Rental out of our Denver office for ease and convenience. Let us know where you get up to in the comments or tag us on Instagram (@nativecampervans) so we can see what you got up to during the fall foliage season!