Five fall color hotspots near the Denver metro area #2: Rocky Mountain National Park & Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

Sawtooth Mountain seen from Highway 72

Joshua Hardin

This adventurous day trip starts in Estes Park and snakes through some of the Front Range’s most prized aspen viewing locations. In Rocky Mountain National Park, look for golden trees at the base of Trail Ridge Road, in Horseshoe Park, or along the shores of Bear Lake.

The elk rut coincides with fall foliage season in the park so watch for bulls protecting their harems or locked in combat with rival males. Also listen for the bugling noises they make to attract potential mates. To embark on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, start in Estes Park and follow Colorado State Highway 7 under the picturesque cliffs of Longs Peak, Mount Meeker and Copeland Mountain.

At Raymond, continue south; the byway now follows State Highway 72 through Ward. Keep your eye out for the jagged Indian Peaks to the west, such as Sawtooth Mountain, framed by aspen trees in fall foliage along this part of the byway.

Just south of Nederland, the byway continues on State Highway 119. Here you will see views of James Peak and Mount Evans, and many more golden-colored trees along the way. At the end of the byway, you can choose to seek a different type of gold at a casino in the gambling towns of Black Hawk and Central City or continue a few more miles south to reach Interstate 70 and return to Denver. Late September is usually the best time to take this trip.

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