Soak in the Color on Our Go-to Fall Hikes & Rides!

Fall in Winter Park, Colorado
When we see the first golden yellow leaves of the season, we can't help but get excited. Though the transformation can feel fleeting, we do our best to take full advantage of enjoying the colors that seem to burst across the valley each September. We've put together a few of our favorite spots to get out and enjoy the fall foliage. 


Just across from the entrance to Winter Park Resort, the Jim Creek Trail is a top pick for leaf peeping in Grand County. The bottom section of the hike can actually be a hike in and of itself--the Discovery Loop Trail is wide, relatively flat, and well-maintained, complete with a boardwalk that can accommodate strollers and wheelchairs. It's a great hike for families or those acclimating to the elevation. Taking the Jim Creek Trail up from there brings elevation gain at a steady pace as it moves through thick woods (with plentiful aspen groves!), meadows, willows, and creek crossings. If you hike the whole trail, it comes in at a little over 8 miles round-trip and ends at a waterfall. It's definitely a popular trail (for a reason!), but its stash of aspens and views of the resort make it a hike we're sure to get in each September!


Monarch Lake Fall Colors

The drive to Monarch Lake alone is worth the trip! A 30-minute drive from Granby, the small, peaceful lake is nestled among aspens and pines at the southeast end of Lake Granby. Once you turn off Highway 34 onto County Road 6, you'll drive 9 miles along the shores of Lake Granby down to Monarch Lake, but you likely won't notice how far it is because the aspens on that stretch are well-developed and plentiful (and just magical this time of year). They seem to hug the road and are the perfect complement to the lake views along your left. The road ends at the trailhead parking area. The relatively flat 4-mile loop follows the shore of the lake, winding through the forest and across several streams. If you're not planning to do the whole loop but want to catch some color, we recommend starting the loop counterclockwise--you'll find the best aspen groves along the trail! If you're feeling ambitious, you can split off onto the Cascade Creek Trail to start gaining elevation and eventually make it up to Cascade Falls. We always bring a picnic and our paddle boards to enjoy some time on the shore and  the water after hiking!


The entire Leland Creek trail system just feels like home to us. We love to get in a lunchtime ride or a sunset hike with our dogs, and the fall is one of the best times to spend exploring these Winter Park trails. For biking, we like the "Leland Creek Loop," which starts at the Leland Creek trailhead (on the west side of Kings Crossing Road about 100 feet past the railroad tracks) and has a fun climb up Sundog to Akima's Way, over to WTB and then up to the top of Leap Frog. Leap Frog flows down until is connects with Sunset Pink. Head back up Sunset Pink to D3 & D4 and back over to the top of WTB. The uphill grind is complete by then (read: you've earned your turns!). You'll take WTB down to Razmatazz (our hands-down favorite cross-country downhill trail that doesn't require a lift pass to ride) and back to the trailhead. As far as hiking the Leland Creek trails goes, a great 4-mile out and back is Leland Creek Trail to Sundog to Akima's Way and back. We like to stop and find a big rock to sit on and soak in the views of the divide and the resort, making it a point to never take the beauty of this place for granted!


The aspens near St. Louis Creek just outside of Fraser are beautiful in and of themselves, but riding through them? Even better. While the trails are also great for hiking and running, they are popular with mountain bikers for a reason! The Chainsaw/Broken Spade/Iko loop is a local favorite. We like to park at the Northwest Passage trailhead and ride it over to connect with Chainsaw. Take Chainsaw up to Broken Spade and onto Iko, link up with Zoom to lower Iko, and hop back on Chainsaw to head back to the car. The fun switchbacks and flowy downhill with a few technical sections make this challenging, but not so much so that we can't look up and enjoy the scenery or the views from the top. We love how some sections feel like a yellow brick road with the leaves covering the trail! Looking for a little bit less of an elevation gain but still want to enjoy the colors in the same area? Try the Flume/Creekside loop


We love biking Tipperary for wildflower season, but it is equally impressive in the fall! This Northern Fraser Trail System favorite heads up for a fun climb through meadows and thick, vibrant aspen groves along a gurgling mountain stream. The cool, crisp fall air makes the climb and sunshine more comfortable, and the aspens and willows are some of our favorites. The trail winds up (and up and up, some might say), but you are rewarded with a fun downhill on Spruce Creek. You can pedal over to Flume and take it down to Northwest Passage, or just ride the road if your legs are toast! Regardless of where you park or what extra trails you hop on, there is a little bit of road riding to make the full loop back, but one of our favorite aspen groves in the county is on one of the turns on County Road 50. We think you'll know it when you see it!


We could really go on and on about the trails we love and how beautiful this place we call home is, and the fall season just makes us even more aware of what a gift it is to live in a place so abundant with natural beauty. We'll be out enjoying the vibrant leaves all season long, and we hope to run into you on the trail! 

Posted by Angela McDonough (Sandstrom) on


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