The best place to be in the west in the fall is, undoubtedly, Colorado. Its technicolor aspen displays, Rocky Mountain High scenery, and the feel of the impending winter combine to make an autumnal experience unmatched anywhere. Here are five of the best trails to enjoy a Rocky Mountain fall.
Electric Pass Trail
Fall is the best time to try this trail. The thunderstorm activity that influenced the name is much abated this time of year. The trailhead is south of the town of Aspen on the Castle Creek Rd, about a half a mile beyond the ghost town of Ashcroft. The trail ascends 3900 ft. in five miles to reach Electric Pass, the highest named and trail accessible pass in Colorado at 13,500 ft. The views are well worth the effort, as much of the Elk Mountain Range extends below your feet towards the west. If you begin to feel static-electricity, descend rapidly
Snowmass Creek Trail
Great for a overnight backpack trip or a long day hike, this trail leads to Snowmass Lake in the shadows of 14,092 ft. Snowmass Mountain, one of Colorado’s 54 “fourteeners”. Along the 7 mile (one way) hike, the trail passes through numerous aspen groves, allowing for up-close photography and communing with nature in relative solitude. The trailhead is reached at the end of the Snowmass Creek Road, out of the community of Snowmass.
The Maroon Bells are, perhaps, the most photographed mountains in the U.S. The peaks’ reflection in Maroon Lake has graced multitudes of postcards, posters and coffee table books. For good reason, the peaks, along with the Tetons in Wyoming, epitomize the Sierra Club calender ideal of scenic mountain beauty and the turning aspens accentuate it. The Forest Service has special regulations regarding access to the area, information is available at their web site. The hike to Crater Lake is 3.6 miles and is one of the best in the area.
Bear Creek Trail
This hike begins out of Telluride, Colorado, perhaps the most beautiful mountain town in the country. It is a short, 2.5 mile, hike up to Bear Creek Falls. Along the way, during peak leaf season, yellow aspens engulf the trail; figuratively, suffocating the hiker in an almost unmatched scene of autumnal splendor. The trail is reached off Pine Street in Telluride. The Uncompahgre National Forest has information.
Spud Lake Trail
A spectacular, easy fall hike leads to Spud Lake in the San Juan National Forest off Highway 550 north of Durango, Colorado. Numerous aspen groves are interrupted by views of the local mountains including Engineer, Graylock Peak and the Needle Mountains.