The first day of fall is September 22, and along with the equinox, we can expect a flurry of color from the gorgeous aspen trees around Estes Park. As the days grow shorter, aspen trees throughout the area begin to turn red, orange, and golden yellow. It’s a grand display that only Mother Nature can provide, and we’re ecstatic that our resort resides right in the midst of the splendor.
If you’re thinking about making a visit to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park for the fall colors, we have all the information that you’ll need to make your stay unforgettable…
When Should You Visit?
Late September and early October tend to be the best times to see the colors changing. You can see a report on fall’s peak times to view the turning of the colors on The Weather Channel website.
Where Can You See Fall Aspen Near Estes?
Drive Fall River or Trail Ridge Roads
You can catch all of the spectacle of autumn on Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge Road weaves throughout Rocky Mountain National Park, and it provides unbeatable views of the Rockies, including glorious views of Longs Peak. You’ll see aspen along the whole stretch of road, with groves scattered among pine, fir, and spruce trees. There are plenty of pull-offs along the road which provide stunning views, even from the comfort of your car.
Trail Ridge Road is a 48-mile long road starting in Estes Park and ending in Grand Lake. The road soars over the Rockies, and it maxes out at 12,183 feet of elevation. That’s above treeline!
You won’t just see beautiful fall colors throughout this expanse of Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll also see high tundra, beautiful meadows, lush trees, striking rock formations, and awe-inspiring waterfalls. Plus, you can see some of the majestic wildlife that live in the protected park. You’re likely to see several species navigating the mountains—keep an eye out for elk, bighorn sheep, moose, black bears, marmots, pika, and more!
You can also take a drive on Old Fall River Road. This one-way dirt road starts near the entrance of the park, and it brings travelers up the mountain to intersect with Trail Ridge Road at the Alpine Visitor Center. Along Old Fall River Road, you’ll see numerous waterfalls cascading down Fall River. If you’re prone to be carsick, be warned: Old Fall River Road is steep, windy, and a bit bumpy—Trail Ridge Road is a far smoother ride!
Try Out These Hikes
Bear Lake – Bear Lake is one of the most popular hikes in the Park. In fact, you may have to take the shuttle to get to the trailhead (the parking lot fills up quickly!). Bear Lake is a quick hike, and the trail is very flat, making it a great hike for all. Bear Lake reflects the fall colors that cascade down the granite slopes that surround the lake. As Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails points out, the aspen groves around the lake have an interesting history:
“The aspen arrived in this area as a result of a large forest fire that took place in 1900. Summer picnickers along the Bear Lake shore built a campfire to heat-up a pot of coffee. Thinking that the fire was out after dousing it with water, the group left the area. However, a nearby log had ignited and slowly smoldered, until strong winds fanned it into a full-fledged forest fire that would sweep through the entire Glacier Gorge area. The “Big Fire”, or “Bear Lake Fire”, burned for two months, and was so hot that it cracked granite boulders in some areas.”
You’ll also see Hallett Peak across the expanse of the lake, as well as Half Mountain and Longs Peak.
Twin Sisters – Twin Sisters is a far more difficult hike, and it has plenty of elevation gain (you’ll hike up about 2,500 feet in elevation gain if you choose to go to the top). That said, it provides unbeatable views of numerous peaks throughout the area, including Longs Peak, Mount Meeker, Lily Mountain, Taylor Peak, and Powell Peak, as well as Estes Cone. Plus, of course, you’ll see plenty of aspen groves throughout the hike. You can learn more about the Twin Sisters Peak trail from Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails.
Alberta Falls – The Alberta Falls is downright gorgeous in autumn. The trail weaves through uncountable aspen, and, as the name promises, you’ll find yourself at the base of Alberta Falls. The hike is considered relatively easy, and it’s only eight tenths of a mile from the trailhead to see the falls. Once again, you can learn more about the Alberta Falls trail from Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails.
What You’ll Need for the Hike
First things first, if you’re planning on hiking, it’s smart to bring plenty of layers to stay warm (it can get cold quickly at altitude!). Also, pack a coat and a hat, and strap on some comfy, sturdy hiking boots. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks as well, hiking in the Rockies can stir up a hunger! Of course, don’t forget your binoculars and a camera—you’re bound to see glorious colors and capture phenomenal photos.
Visit the Autumn Gold Festival
While you’re here in Estes Park, you’ve got to check out the Autumn Gold Festival! We ring in the fall colors with a celebration that’s sure to entertain all. Visit during September 23rd or 24th this year, and you’ll find that downtown is alive with music. Celebrate the turning of the leaves with delicious food, a beverage, and some of Estes’ best local bands.
The kids will have a hoot too! They’ll enjoy face painting, games of cornhole, and a bouncey house!
Best of all, there’s no entry fee. You can learn more about the Autumn Gold Festival from the Estes Park site.
Stay With Us!
If you’re planning a trip to see the wonderful fall colors, you can’t pick a better place to stay than Rams Horn Village Resort. We’re just minutes away from the park, in the heart of Estes Valley. You’ll be mesmerized by the changing leaves that sweep across the valley, and you can even see those glorious gold colors right here at the resort! Check availability for our luxury cabins today!