Get the camera ready for leaf peeping!
The trees start to turn those glorious Vail fall colors beginning around Labor Day and typically peak around the third week of September. Depending on conditions such as wind, rain, temperatures and other weather, the autumn leaves can last as long as late October. Here are our recommendations on where and how to experience Vail foliage in all its majesty.
1. Hike through Vail’s fall colors
Taking a jaunt through the aspen trees is one of the best ways to appreciate fall in Vail — we’ve even compiled a list of our favorite hiking trails to check out. If you’re looking for a way to complement your day leaf peeping with a splurge-worthy, professionally packed picnic, check out this 5280 Magazine article featuring three hikes and picnic pairings.
2. Bike among the trees
Whether you’re looking for the ultimate mountain-bike trail or a more casual paved path, Vail’s cycling options will take you through canopies of aspen leaves where you’ll feel like you’re following a yellow brick road. Check out our favorite biking trails.
3. Enjoy a scenic autumn gondola ride
With a variety of gondola-ride options in Vail, leaf peeping from up above is easier than ever. Take a ride up Gondola One (out of Vail Village) or Eagle Bahn Gondola (out of Lionshead) for a stunning view of the Gore Range and the aspens.
4. Drive under fall foliage
Head out in your vehicle, take your time and get ready to be wowed by the reds and golds of Vail in the fall.
Piney River Ranch
The drive up to Piney River Ranch is a 12-mile journey on an improved gravel road just off of Red Sandstone Road, high into the Gore Range and through Vail aspen trees and pines. Once at Piney, enjoy the many available activities, as well as a view of the peaks, stunning lake and surrounding fall colors. Quick tip: Piney River Ranch is open through the last weekend of September. We suggest calling the U.S. Forest Service at 970-827 5715 after Sept. 30 each year for updates on road conditions.
Top of the Rockies scenic byway
The designated Colorado scenic byway Top of the Rockies — on Highway 24 from Vail to Leadville — winds to an elevation of 10,152 feet, ending in Leadville. Along this 38-mile stretch, you’ll see some of the most spectacular groves of aspen trees, incredible autumn views of Mount of the Holy Cross and classic Colorado mountain landscapes. At the 16.5-mile point, you will come upon the Red Cliff Bridge, which is a popular photo stop for some yellow and orange leaves.
More drives for Vail leaf peeping
A few suggestions for quicker drives closer to Vail include driving up the Forest Road area on Vail Mountain, driving up the road to Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch or simply driving down-valley into the Arrowhead or Mountain Star neighborhoods — all engulfed in colorful trees perfect for Vail leaf peeping. Plan your fall drive with Vail as your basecamp.
And, if you don’t feel like driving yourself so you can concentrate on viewing the leaves, we suggest traveling with one of our recommended Jeep tour operators.
We know you’re going to love fall in Vail just as much as we do!