Guide to visiting Aspen in Fall
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower – Albert Camus
For years now, I wanted to take a trip to see the the most beautiful fall colors. You see, while living in California has its perks like endless sunshine, we rarely get to see the seasons, especially autumn. I had researched some places in California but it just so happened that our friends were planning a trip to Colorado and we thought it would be great to spend time together and visit Aspen, Colorado.
Aspen had been on my list of places to visit for a while now. I used to watch the winter games in Aspen every year on TV. It is a mecca for winter sport lovers but also beautiful to visit any time of the year. My preference to visit had always been winter and fall. So when the opportunity to visit Aspen knocked on the door, I was overjoyed!
Aspen, a ski town and alpine paradise is about 3 hours drive from Denver. During the summer months, THE route to take is via the Independence Pass. The drive takes more time but so worth it for the scenic overviews along the way.
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DRIVE TO ASPEN FROM DENVER
Colorado has the most stunning landscapes and this drive is no different. I was most amazed by the change in terrain and weather along the way. From sunny, flat Georgetown, we encountered rain, wind and snow, passed the highest point up on the mountains and ended up in Aspen amongst gorgeous fall foliage. The stops listed below are worthwhile if you plan to drive from Denver to Aspen.
George is a former silver mining camp and is nestled in the valley along Clear Creek. It is set in a perfect location with views of Georgetown lake on one side and Saxon, Griffith mountains on the other side. I bet Georgetown would look even more beautiful covered in white snow.
To get to Aspen through this pass, you have to drive up and down the mountains. This is one of the most beautiful drives with snow-capped mountain ranges, coniferous pines, narrow winding roads and snowfall along the way. The drive was both thrilling and breathtaking. The highest point along the way is the Independence Pass at an elevation of 12,000ft. If you plan to drive this route, stop here for amazing views of the mountains. The views are incredible but it was so cold and freezing. So plan accordingly.
Just past Independence Pass are the twin lakes. Two lakes with mountains in the background make for stunning views and beautiful photos. This place can also be incredibly windy so hold on to your hats!
VISITING ASPEN IN FALL
Aspen is surrounded by mountains. It is every skier’s dream destination but also a great year round destination with lots of fun activities to do. Autumn is when the Aspen trees change their color and turn the town into a yellow fairy tale.
Best time to visit Aspen for fall colors
Best time to visit Aspen for peak fall colors is mid-late September. First week of October may be still be ok.
Things to know before you visit Aspen
- Aspen is expensive!! Book hotels early as it is can be outrageously expensive and the hotels also get sold out. If you are looking for cheaper options, look for Snowmass Village about 10 miles from Aspen.
- Aspen is easy to navigate and walk around. We spent our time exploring the town, reaching dead ends and clicked lots of photos of fall colors.
- There are lot of hiking opportunities if you wish to do.
- Restaurants can get pretty busy and might have a wait time during peak hours.
- Check the weather and prepare accordingly. While Aspen itself was not that cold, the surrounding sightseeing areas were windy and chilly.
Things to do in Aspen in Fall
The town of Aspen
The town is filled with Aspen trees changing colors during autumn. Take a stroll along the streets of Aspen to see beautiful fall foliage.
Maroon Bells Park
This is a must visit in Aspen. The Maroon Bells’ peaks, surrounded by forests all around, are apparently the most photographed peaks in all of North America. I saw a few pictures of these peaks before we went but none did justice to these majestic white caps. The reflection of the mountains on the lake, the yellow Aspens and the snow capped mountains were reminiscent of the peaks of the Andes. There are a lot of hiking opportunities in this park and one could spend a whole day exploring the wilderness here if you wish to.
Getting to Maroon Bells Park can be a little tricky because personal vehicles are only allowed before 8am. After that, visitors have to drive to Aspen Highlands Ski Resort, park the cars there and take a bus that goes to Maroon Bells. It is not hard to figure out but something to make note of.
I highly recommend doing a short hike around the lake for gorgeous views while you are there!
Aspen Mountain and Gondola
If you would like to see breathtaking views of mountains all around, take the gondola and ride up the Aspen Mountain. The gondola ride takes 20-25min and the views up the top of the mountain are stunning! There is also a restaurant on the top with glass pane windows overlooking the mountains. It is a great place to sip some warm hot chocolate and enjoy magnificent views.
The gondola ride is also a great way to see the town of Aspen covered in beautiful fall colors!
North Star Nature Preserve
This is a great trail with gorgeous yellow aspen trees to visit during Fall in Aspen. It is not too crowded and is a great place to have a fall photoshoot. Walk along the trail to find best spots with fall colors.
I reckon there are many more activities to do in Aspen but given the time we had, these were all we could do. If you are looking to see majestic snow capped mountains, serene lakes, fall foliage or snowy winter destinations, Aspen should be high on the list any time of the year but especially during fall.
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I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.