Get the Camera Ready for Leaf Peeping!
The leaves start to turn those glorious colors of fall starting early September and typically peak around the third week of September. Depending on conditions, the colors can last into mid/late October depending on the wind, rain, temperatures and other weather. It is truly a magical time to visit the mountains and Vail! Here’s our recommendations on where and how to experience the leaves in all their glory:
Hike – Taking a hike through the glorious aspen trees on Vail Mountain and other incredible hikes throughout Vail is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the mountains’ fall colors. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite Fall hiking trails to check out! If you’re looking for a way to complement your day exploring leaf-loaded trails with a splurge-worthy, professionally packed picnic, check out this 5280 Magazine article featuring 3 Vail hikes and picnic pairings.
Bike – Whether you’re looking for the ultimate mountain bike trail or a more casual paved bike path, Vail’s fall biking options will take you through canopies of aspen’s leaves where you feel like you’re following a yellow brick road, not a trail! Check out our favorite Fall biking trails!
Vail Mountain’s Scenic Gondolas – Take a ride up Vail’s Gondola One (out of Vail Village) or Eagle Bahn Gondola (out of Lionshead) for a stunning view of the Gore Range, Vail Village and the golden aspens everywhere.
Take a Scenic Drive – Head out in your vehicle, take your time and get ready to be wow-ed!
The drive up to Piney Ranch is a 12-mile journey on an improved gravel road just off of Red Sandstone Road high into the Gore Range and through aspens and pines. Piney River Ranch is open through the last weekend of September and the U.S. Forest Service dictates openings and closings for the road, ensuring conditions are safe, so we suggest calling them at 970-827-5715 for road status past Sept. 27th. Once at Piney, enjoy the view of the majestic peaks, stunning lake and surrounding fall colors, with any of activities available.
The designated Colorado Scenic By-Way “Top of the Rockies” route (on highway 24) from Vail to Leadville, winds to an elevation of 10,152 feet, ending in Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the United States. Along this 38-mile (1-hour) stretch, you’ll see some of the most spectacular groves of aspen trees, incredible views of Mount on the Holy Cross, and classic Colorado mountain views. At the 16.5-mile point, you will come upon the town of Red Cliff (the smallest town in Eagle County), marked by the Red Cliff Bridge. Built in 1940, the bridge holds the status as one of the only two steel arched bridges in the state and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge is a popular photo stop at the hairpin turn. At the 22.3-mile mark, you will come upon Camp Hale, with a couple options to stop and take in the historic beauty of this site. When in use, Camp Hale housed soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, the 38th Regimental Combat Team, 99th Infantry Battalion, and the Fort Carson. Camp Hale provided winter warfare training for these World War II soldiers, with perfect conditions for winter training in skiing, rock climbing and survival. It was also the site for weapons and equipment testing where they used various ammunition such as hand grenades and recoil-less rifles. In 1965 the camp was closed, and the Forest Service gained control of the land in 1966 and has helped preserve it as an area of interest. At mile 28.6, take a moment to stop at the World War II memorial, located at the summit of Tennessee Pass, honoring members the 10th Mountain Division and the 99th Infantry Battalion.
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 aspen trees during the fall!
And, if you don’t feel like driving yourself, so you can concentrate on viewing the leaves, we suggest taking a Jeep tour with one of our recommended Jeep tour operators!
We know you’re going to love Fall in Vail just as much as we do!!