A tinge of gold gleaming in the trees is the first hint of fall in the mountains. Autumn happens to be one of the best times to visit Steamboat Springs thanks to a plethora of fun events set against a truly beautiful backdrop. Here are six ways to celebrate Steamboat Springs’ golden splendor this autumn.
1. Hike or Bike for the Best Leaf Peeping
To get the most up close and personal views of autumn’s splendor, lace up your hiking shoes or hop on your bike to take in fall colors from a local trail.
Flash of Gold – Bike or Hike
Located on Buff Pass, Flash of Gold was named for the aspen groves that line the trail and light the trail in gold in fall as the leaves change. It’s an intermediate level multidirectional trail that is 11.3 miles long. The trail features fantastic views, especially from the top, which ends near the summit of Buffalo Pass.
Hot Springs Trail – Bike or Hike
Bask in the beauty of the changing aspen trees as you meander along the Hot Springs Creek. This three-mile hike leads you right to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs where you can reward your legs with a soak in the mineral waters. The trail has a fairly mild elevation gain making the hike back out quiet and relaxing.
Hike to Three Island Lake
Experience fall in the Zirkel Wilderness as you make your way through shimmering landscapes of gold, orange and red. Pristine Three Island Lake greets you with more stunning scenery at the top of the trail.
Other trails include Rabbit Ear’s Peak, an iconic Steamboat landmark offering some of the best views of our valley in the fall. For a beginner option, opt for Panorama. This easy-going 1.25 beginner loop trail begins and ends near the top of the Spring Creek trail and offers wide tread, gentle switchbacks and panoramic views of the Yampa River Valley, Flattop Mountains, and Continental Divide.
Visit our hiking page for more information about these trails and many others to explore this fall.
2. Taste Your Way through Town at Steamboat Restaurant Week
For 10 days each fall, Steamboat Springs’ restaurants offer select menus at special prices. If you’re a foodie, there’s no better time to visit the ‘Boat. This year the event is slated for Sept. 25-Oct. 4. Coveted eateries like Laundry, Besame, Mountain Tap and more participate in the activities. Many restaurants create special prix-fixed menus, including three-course meals ranging from $20 to $40. During last year’s event, Café Diva served up a discounted version of its typical three-course menu, serving fresh local and season ingredients with wine pairings. Reservations are highly recommended. Visit the event website here for all the details, including updates that may occur due to the pandemic.
Elk River Road
Elk River Road, a paved county road that follows the glittering Elk River through rolling ranch lands and up to Hahn’s Peak, a charming ghost town with mining roots. Here, the changing leaves reflect off the river creating a picturesque backdrop.
A short drive from downtown Steamboat Springs, the gravel road that leads up Buffalo Pass reveals hills of golden aspen trees winding up toward the Continental Divide. Hiking and biking trails await at the top, as do sweeping views of the Yampa Valley and a peaceful serenity only found deep in the wilderness.
North Routt County
The Steamboat Lake and Hahn's Peak area is a popular fall drive for viewing fall colors in every direction. On your way to Steamboat Lake, don't forget to drive up Seedhouse Road. Shortly after passing the Clark Store, take a right and follow this road along the scenic Elk River.
Rabbit Ears Pass
Not only an iconic landmark of Steamboat, the area surrounding the Rabbit Ears is one of the best places for wildflower viewing in the summer and a gold mine of fall colors as the seasons change. Make a stop on your way in/out of town for the perfect photo op.
South Routt Loop
One of Colorado’s prime fall drives is a loop out of Steamboat Springs. Travel south on State Highway 131 through working ranchlands, the historic rough-and-tumble former coal mining town of Oak Creek, the railroad town of Phippsburg, and the quaint historic town of Yampa. Turn west on the Flat Tops Scenic Byway to travel over Dunkley and Ripple Creek passes, where the golden sea of fall foliage is always breathtaking, especially with the stunning 235,000-acre Flat Tops Wilderness as a backdrop.
4. Relax and Rejuvenate Steamboat Style
Steamboat Springs is a local’s favorite in the fall because of the more laid-back lifestyle and slower pace that exists in the valley. Escape the crowds and opt for a getaway that will leave you refreshed. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to head out to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. In the fall, as temperatures cool off, the hot springs is a perfect way to relax you mind and body. You can even stay at the hot springs in one of their unique lodging options or book a massage for the ultimate experience. Reservations are required as they operate with capacity limits to ensure a peaceful experience for all visitors.
5. Spot a Sandhill Crane
In late summer and early fall, hundreds of cranes from the Rocky Mountain flock join the local birds to rest and feed before continuing their journey south. The height of their stopover in the Yampa Valley is in September, where the birds stop to nest and raise their young. The Yampa Valley Crane Festival is going virtual this year Step 3-6, 2020 with a series of videos where you can learn about these fascinating birds from experts like the research coordinator for the International Crane Foundation. The autumn season is the perfect opportunity to see wildlife and the fall leaves together!
Enjoy a weekend festival featuring collaborations between local and national chefs, tastings with winemakers and master sommeliers, panel discussions, films, cooking demonstrations, an outdoor brunch and the Grand Tasting. Gather your friends for a feast of fine wines and delicious bites, while relishing autumn in the mountains. Oct 1-4