3 Places to Hike for Fall Colors

At the end of every September, we are given a brief window to see Colorado’s mountains bursting with fall colors. These three hikes are fantastic for capitalizing on short drives to fall foliage.

View of aspen covered mountains in fall colors.
Photo by Sahale Greenwood.

Fall is my favorite season. Perhaps because it plays the elusive, quick to come, even quicker to leave game that captivates me every time. After long Summer months, I start to look towards the mountains, wondering if the air is crisper up there—if the leaves are changing. And although the trees have a timing of their own, the yellows, oranges and reds eventually come out every year. My favorite way to enjoy the foliage is a hike to get outside, get the blood moving and potentially get a new profile picture. I highly encourage bringing a camera along on these hikes, even if it is just your phone, because I promise, this is a sight worth capturing!

1Horseshoe Trail to Frazer Meadow in Golden Canyon State Park

Length: 3.8 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: moderate
Distance from Denver: 45 minutes (pay $9 to park)
Crowd: moderately trafficked

When entering Golden Gate Canyon State Park, stop at the park ranger station to purchase your parking pass for the day. The parking lot for this trail is very small so consider arriving early or on weekdays. The thin trail then runs alongside a river and is lined with aspens. It is relatively flat with some sections of steeper climbs but the trail’s elevation gain only totals 944 feet. Upon reaching the meadow, there is historical information and remnants from the Frazer family that lived at the meadow, backcountry camping spots and patches of aspen turning highlighter-yellow shimmering in the wind. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the meadow, snap a few fall foliage photos and make your way back down the trail.

2Kenosha Pass North

Length: 5.8 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: easy
Distance from Denver: 1.5 hours
Crowd: heavily trafficked

If you are looking for your next feasible fall hike or photoshoot location, this is the perfect place for you. Kenosha Pass boasts some of the most epic, wide-sweeping fall views in the Rockies. The parking lot is huge and the trail is relatively flat—if you do the whole 5.8 miles the total elevation gain is 1,000 feet. The aspen trees crowd the trail creating tall canopies above your head in some places, making you feel completely engulfed in the changing leaves. In other places, the trees part and reveal the entire mountainside or expansive valley shimmering in yellow with just a few of the tree’s tips turning fire red. There are many hikers, bikers and photographers at Kenosha so we recommend hiking a little way down the trail before stopping for snacks and snaps to filter out the crowd.

3Raccoon Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Length: 3.4 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: moderate
Distance from Denver: 1 hour (pay $9 to park)
Crowd: moderately trafficked

When entering Golden Gate Canyon State Park remember to purchase your parking pass. Raccoon Trail starts at the Golden Gate State Park Campground (where parking is limited so get there early). There is also an option to park on the side of Gap Road, which is a half-mile to the trailhead along State Park Road. The trail begins by descending into a meadow filled with trees changing color. Although most of the trees are aspen, there is more tree variety here so reds and oranges are also common. The trail then climbs to a viewpoint where you can see several 14ers surrounded by yellows, oranges and reds in the distance before descending back into the valley and making the return climb to your car at the campsite. The entire trail is brimming with fall leaves that make this one of the best Front Range hikes for experiencing Colorado’s color.