Falling in love with fall
The late summer and fall season is chock-full of vibrant, scenic landscapes as the temperatures cool down and the leaves begin to change. The vast hills with abundant aspens are prime for awe-inspiring hikes, bike rides, or trails runs displaying a plethora of color. This time frame is perfect for hitting the trails for a vivid nature adventure. Below is a go-to list of our favorite fall trails in Northwest Colorado for you to witness the beauty of this time of year.
IN AND AROUND TOWN:
Spring Creek Trail
Spring Creek Trail is a 10.1 mile out and back trail right in town. This trail has it all and follows a creek as it winds it’s way up towards Buffalo Pass. In the fall, the aspens that line the trail start to change colors and the higher you climb, the more spectacular the views. You can bike or hike the trail and dogs are welcome on the trail as long as they are leashed. Perfect for all ability levels as you can do the entire trail or turn around whenever you are ready!
Thanks to Steamboat’s 2A Trails Program that started in 2014, locals and visitors can enjoy miles of seamlessly connected multi-use trails in five main network pockets in and around town. Buffalo Pass is one of those pockets and has the 2A program to thank for our favorite fall trails in this area.
Flash of Gold Trail
Speaking of Buff Pass, the can’t-miss trail on your fall list is Flash of Gold. This trail gets five stars for its scenery alone, as it cuts through lush ferns, dense aspen groves, and across wildflower-covered meadows. True to its name, there’s no better time to bike the Flash of Gold trail than in the fall where the aspens that line the single-track illuminate the trail. See the leaves change as well as sweeping valley views. 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.
For a more casual, family jaunt with the kiddos, try Panorama. With a name like Panorama, it’s safe to assume the views are amazing. (They are.) The Yampa River Valley, Flattop Mountains, and the Continental Divide are in full, glorious view from the trail. During the fall, the views are second to none. Bring a camera and prepare to be wowed.
Three Island Lake Trail
Experience fall in the Zirkel Wilderness as you make your way to Three Island Lake. The scenery here is nothing short of dramatic, with shimmering landscapes of gold, orange and red. If you enjoy camping and backpacking, we recommend taking a short overnight trip to bask in all the fall glory.
Hahns Peak Trail
If you’re looking for views that are worth the effort, Hahn Peak is the trail for you. The steep, just under two-mile hike to the 10,839-foot summit of Hahn's Peak is one of the most rewarding treks in Northwest Colorado because of the stunning 360-degree views from the old fire watchtower at top. These views come to life in the fall as you can look out at to see the autumn leaves light the valley on fire.
WORTH THE DRIVE:
Lost Lake Trail
The Lost Lake trail is actually the Continental Divide Trail – and is accessible by a short drive up Rabbit Ears Pass in Steamboat Springs. One of the best things about going to this trail is actually the drive. Rabbit Ears Pass offers some of the best leaf-peeping spots with plenty of pull-offs for you to snap a photo. This beautiful, high-elevation trail provides an opportunity to explore the historic CDT with sweeping fall views that are jaw-dropping. Make sure your car is AWD or 4WD to access the trailhead.
Mandall Lakes Trail
Another trail worth the drive, Mandall Lakes Trail takes you to the Flat Tops Wilderness, one of Colorado’s top three largest wilderness reserves. On the drive you will see a landscape rich with every imaginable type of Rocky Mountain terrain, including towering peaks, pine trees, volcanic cliffs, alpine tundra, glistening lakes, crashing rivers, and, yes, aspen groves with vibrant changing colors in the fall. The trail climbs through aspen slopes as it takes you to two lakes, Slide Mandell and Black Mandell. Here you can escape the crowds in the fall as you relax in the wilderness and bask in nature.