6 Fall Color Day Trips Near Denver Not to Miss
That extra chill in the morning air means fall colors will soon be peaking. Here are six of the best leaf-peeping drives you can do from Denver in an afternoon or a day. Don’t delay: The best time to experience Mother Nature’s autumn art show is September through mid-October.
Before You Go
Check your tire pressure. You lose some tire pressure (tires get slightly flatter) as you travel to higher altitudes, since the atmospheric pressure decreases (as in the expression “thin air”). Colder temperatures will also cause a slight loss in tire pressure.
If you’re just planning on a day trip, all you need to do is fill your tires to the full, proper PSI (pounds per square inch) before you leave and be sure they aren’t underinflated. Although your tires will lose about two PSI if you travel from 5,000 to 10,000 feet in altitude, they’ll regain this PSI upon descent. If your autumn adventure extends over several days, it’s a good idea to have your tire pressure checked and set the morning after arriving at altitude and when you get back home.
Check road conditions. Fall weather is unpredictable and roads can become impassable with little notice. Know before you go.
1. Eldorado Canyon State Park and Clear Creek
The Drive: 51-mile loop trip, around 90 minutes
Considered one of 10 state parks not to miss by SmarterTravel.com, Eldorado Canyon State Park is easy to get to and fall leaves aren't the only allure here. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing, picnicking, wildlife watching and fishing are all popular uses. It’s also a great destination for birders, with recorded sightings of golden eagles, prairie falcons, wild turkeys, blue grouse and about 75 other species.
Get there early and bring the $8 entrance fee. When parking reaches capacity, you may have to wait until another vehicle leaves to enter.
Return via Golden and stop for a walk along the Clear Creek Trail, a paved path framed by colorful trees along a bubbling waterway.
2. Guanella Pass
The Drive: 123-mile loop trip, 2 hours 45 minutes
The 11-mile stretch of Guanella Pass Road between Georgetown and the Mount Bierstadt trailhead provides as-good-as-it-gets leaf peeping without leaving your car. Admire vivid reds, yellows and oranges and contrasting greens of aspens, willows and evergreens, along with plenty of vistas around every switchback. Don’t miss the view of Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans from the parking lot at the top of the pass, which has an elevation of 11,600 feet.
3. Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway
The Drive: 254-mile loop trip, 4 hours 40 minutes
The Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway goes from Granite to Buena Vista to Salida to Poncha Springs. Some of the best scenery is in the stretch between Granite and Buena Vista, where the fall foliage has Buffalo Peaks as a stunning backdrop.
You’ll parallel the Continental Divide at the foot of the Sawatch Range, with views of the highest concentration of 14ers in the country. You’ll also follow a good stretch of the Arkansas River with its famed white water.
4. Golden Gate Canyon State Park
The Drive: 49-mile round trip, 1 hour 15 minutes
A short drive from west Denver will get you to this state park with miles of hiking trails, rocky peaks and aspen-filled meadows. Enjoy fishing ponds, picnic sites and the Panorama Point Scenic Overlook, where visitors can see 100 miles of the Continental Divide.
Don't miss the 3.6-mile Horseshoe Trail which meanders along a running stream past boulders, stands of aspen, meadows and mountain views.
5. Kenosha Pass
The Drive: 126-mile round trip, 2 hours 30 minutes
The Kenosha Pass Trail is hard to beat for autumn scenery. Walking just 3 miles on the east side of Highway 285 will lead you through dazzling stands of aspens to a 270-degree view of green and gold forests with 13ers and 14ers stacked up behind.
6. Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway
The Drive: 149-mile loop trip, 3 hours 40 minutes
Colorado’s oldest scenic byway, the Peak to Peak offers some great tourism sites along with spectacular foliage. This drive takes you through Rocky Mountain National Park and offers up views of the Continental Divide. Look for mine tailings (scrap rock from Gold Rush mines that was dumped down the sides of mountains) along the road from Ward to Black Hawk. A short side trip just before you get to Black Hawk will take you to the lesser-known ghost town of Apex. Also worth a detour: the 1890s-era Goldminer Hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, located a few miles west of Nederland.
Tire pressure checks are always free at Les Schwab Tires. Stop by before and after your high-altitude adventures.
Enterprising Students Score Big With Les Schwab Parking Lot
Location, location, location is the formula for success in real estate, and in Denver, it’s paying off for North High School students. The hard-working group has been raising money for their school by parking cars for Denver Broncos fans in the Federal Boulevard Les Schwab parking lot since 2012.
North High School is within walking distance of Mile High Stadium, where the Broncos play. Even better, the Les Schwab Tire Center on Federal Boulevard is just a block away from the stadium.
Store Manager Ed Ferrell saw proximity and he saw an opportunity. When he opened the store in 2012, he offered the parking lot to the students to sell parking spaces to fans attending Broncos games. The proceeds go toward North High School activities: drama, band, choir and more than 20 boys and girls sports teams. Altogether, the students’ parking lot fundraisers have earned approximately $35,000 per year for four years.
The students staff the parking lot in two shifts: one parks the cars and a second monitors the lot during the game. The lot sees plenty of use during the preseason and regular season home games every year, and sometimes more often than that. In 2015, the students reaped the benefits of two extra games of fundraising as the Broncos hosted playoff games. The Broncos won the Super Bowl championship, defeating the Carolina Panthers 24-10.
North High students have funded an array of activities. The yearbook committee was able to subsidize the cost of the yearbooks so they were affordable to all students. After the baseball team won the city title for the first time in 16 years, team members used their funds to play in a summer league and maintain training. The drama group was able to purchase the rights to the popular musical, “Grease,” which then sold out - an unprecedented event - and they earned back the money they’d invested.
“They’re very community oriented,” said North High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Kevin Bendjy of his friends at the Federal Boulevard Les Schwab. “Since we began fundraising there, we’ve been able to provide new uniforms and equipment for nearly all of our sports teams. We were even able to launch our boys and girls lacrosse teams, which each have more than 30 student athletes participating.”
The store’s generosity led to an unexpected new role for Ferrell, who was named Grand Marshal of the North High homecoming parade. The school is hoping to fund a scoreboard with future earnings, and when it’s up, we’ll be in the stands cheering on the team.
Colorado Toys for Tots Holiday Drive
Les Schwab is honored to partner with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on the Toys for Tots holiday toy drive, to make sure Colorado families that need a little help with gifts for their kids can make dreams come true.
Bring new, unwrapped toys to any Colorado Les Schwab by December 17 and we’ll make sure they get to needy families.
Your donations of toys mean that the less fortunate can experience the joy of the season. Parents have a little less to worry about because they can provide a simple gift or two for their families. Kids get to take part in all the excitement and don’t feel left out.
And communities get to show they care, by making what can be a stressful time into a happy occasion for those in need.
Please join thousands of Colorado donors in participating. Drop your contributions of toys at any participating Colorado Les Schwab Monday through Saturday during our regular business hours.
Because putting a smile on a child’s face matters.
Visit Us at These Participating Locations: