The Colorado high country is known for panoramic views and — from mid-September to early October — stunning fall colors. In Summit County, we become enveloped with the golden glow of changing Aspens. The crisp fall air brings a new chill, but something about bundling up and going out for a hike or fall colors drive feels nourishing to the soul.
The high country is perfect in the fall, but where is the best places to soak it all in? Here’s a guide to a perfect two night/three day fall-colors adventure with some must-see spots to hit while leaf-peeping in Breckenridge and Frisco.
Friday night: Leave work early! Head to mountains and beat the traffic to Summit County. Drive I-70 or take the scenic route up 285 from Denver to Fairplay, then take Hwy. 9 over Hoosier Pass into Breckenridge. The pass has a few hiking trails at the summit — a nice way to see the fall foliage and stretch your legs. Arrive in Breckenridge early to take full advantage of the happy hour 2-for-1 martinis and appetizers at Blue River Bistro on Main Street from 3–6 p.m. This sweet little spot also has live music on weekend nights. The Canteen (just across Main Street) is also a nice stop for local beers and craft cocktails, and offers tasty food in a more casual atmosphere.
Where to stay to take in the views: The Summit Sanctuary is perfect for larger groups/families looking for a more secluded getaway. For couples/small families wanting to be closer to town, check out our Panorama Alpine unit just off Main Street, Breckenridge.
Saturday Fall Colors Viewing:
Boreas Pass Road: This road just outside of Breckenridge town limits provides stunning views of the Tenmile Range, Breckenridge Ski Area, Mt. Quandry and the Blue River Valley. From the town of Breckenridge, drive to the south side of town. Near the Conoco station, turn East onto the Boreas Pass Road. It is well marked. Drive 3.5 miles to an obvious parking area where the road turns to dirt. This is the site of the winter closure.
You can drive 6 more miles to the summit of Boreas Pass. There is ample parking at the Boreas Pass summit. The famous “Golden Tunnel” is just that — an archway of changing aspens that glow sweets shades of yellow and orange. The road tends to get pretty busy, as it’s accessible by foot, bicycle or car. Don’t attempt this viewing route if you’re in any hurry! You will be making frequent photo stops and will be waiting for fellow leaf-peepers to get their perfect shot as well. Boreas Pass Road begins in Breckenridge, but follows the old railroad line into the town of Como in Park County. There is a dramatic change in landscape once you come down the backside of the pass. The mountains part and open up into fields and gently rolling hills. You can see for miles! If you choose to go over the pass, you can stroll the streets and funky shops of Fairplay and Alma (which is the highest incorporated municipality in the United States with permanent residents at 10,578 feet) and then make your way back to Breckenridge.
Post hike fuel: After leaving Boreas Pass Road, head back to Main Street to enjoy lunch or dinner at the Kenosha Steakhouse patio right on Main Street. The deck is sun-filled and provides views of the ski area and Ten Mile Range. This is also a good place to take in NFL and college football if the weather is not conducive to outdoor dining.
If you are feeling a little groggy from all the fresh mountain air: Take in a movie at the newly renovated Speakeasy movie theater just a few blocks off Main Street, Breckenridge.
Sunday morning Fall Colors Viewing:
Rainbow Lake: Drive or walk to this trailhead: off of Main Street Frisco, turn south onto Second Avenue and follow this road about 5 blocks then take a right on South Cabin Green. Cross the paved bike path after stopping at the stop sign to get to the trailhead parking area. In the parking area you will see a sign with an arrow that says Rainbow Lake. This family friendly 3-mile hike leads you from the trailhead to a pristine high alpine lake. Thick Aspen groves illuminate the hiking trail in the autumn month, but it’s amazing year-round, including during the winter months for snowshoeing or a casual cross-country ski tour.
Post hike fuel: Head to Backcountry Brewery for microbrews, seasonal libations, burgers, nachos and the brewery’s famous buffalo chili.
When you’re ready to hit the road: Pop by Uncle John’s Farm Stand located right on Hwy 9 at the turn to the Frisco Bay Marina. This little stand offers Colorado grown produce at affordable prices. During the summer months the stand sells Palisade peaches, Rocky Ford melons and a variety of other seasonal produce. During the fall, this is a great family stop to grab a pumpkin for carving.
Wherever you end up, fall in Summit County is pretty special. This is the “calm before the storm” of opening day of ski season, when the crowds arrive once again.
Come to the high country and take a breath of crisp fall air before the snow falls!
Tell us about your favorite hike or favorite fall lunch spot!