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Colorado’s Best Fall Drives and Festivals

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Plan an awe-inspiring road trip through Colorado this fall, and experience the Centennial State in all its glory.  Soak in the scenery as the aspen leaves show off their brilliant yellow, red and orange hues, and take advantage of Colorado’s mild-temperatures, sunny days and blue bird skies. Enjoy hiking, biking, or horseback riding on colorful trails or experience signature fall events like Harvest Festival in Glenwood Springs or Pueblo’s Chile and Frijoles Festival. 

Scenic Drives: 

Aspen to Paonia over McClure Pass. Visitors looking to drive from Aspen to Paonia can take the scenic McClure Pass, an 8,755-foot pass south of Carbondale along Colorado 133 and the Crystal River. The road offers beautiful views of Ragged Peak, a moderately difficult and popular hiking and climbing spot, and Chair Mountain, a prominent mountain summit in the Elk Mountains range of the Rockies. Take in the majestic mountain views and the colors of the aspens along the way.
 
Boulder County Farm Trail. Enjoy a beautiful hour-long drive with a background of the Rockies that rolls along past a number of farms on the Boulder Farm Trail. Fresh farm surprises can be found at the honor-system farm stands, so bring some cash. Buy the famous sweet corn from Munson Farms, picnic on the barn balcony of Lone Hawk Farm, pick up skins of super-soft wool from Cure Organic farms and keep an eye out around town for non-farm stands. Before the drive, road trippers can enter the lottery for seats to a farm dinner at Meadowlark Farms, or end the evening at one of downtown Boulder’s top restaurants. 
 
Boreas Pass Road.  Breckenridge’s Boreas Pass Road brings endless fall foliage and panoramic views of Breckenridge. Just a short drive from Denver, start with a scenic overview of Boreas Pass Road, which ascends from downtown Breckenridge to over 11,400 feet. The fall foliage will tower over the road, as if driving through a golden tunnel. Take in the scene full of vibrant fall colors, downtown Breckenridge, the ski resort and other peaks surrounding Breckenridge.
 
Colorado 17 from Antonito to the New Mexico Border. As you head up the serene Conejos River Valley, stands of pinyon give way to the white trunks of aspen. Some of the oldest and tallest aspens in the state can be seen, photographed and enjoyed near La Manga Pass. For an even more unique experience, ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad for views not seen on any highway.
 
Highway of Legends Scenic and Historic Byway. This route wraps around two of Colorado’s burliest mountains, West and East Spanish Peak. Along the way, the highway passes beneath ancient volcanic walls that rise over tracts of pine, scrub oak and aspen. Nearly the entire route from La Veta to Trinidad on Colorado 12 begs to be photographed.
 
The San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway. The San Juan Skyway is Colorado’s first National Forest Scenic Byway and has been dubbed “The Most Beautiful Drive in America.” Towns along the route include Durango, a well-preserved descendant of the Old West; Picturesque Telluride, renowned for world-class skiing and film, jazz, and bluegrass festivals; and Silverton and Ouray, Victorian jewels tucked in deep alpine valleys. Another delight is the Mesa Verde National Park, home to one of the densest collections of prehistoric ruins in the U.S. – and five million acres of undisturbed national forest.   

Festivals & Events:

 Colorado Mountain Winefest (September 14-17). The celebration of Colorado’s wine country takes place this September in Palisade. Visitors can taste wine from 56 wineries in the region, meet with wine, cheese and peach growers, and talk with local chefs. The festival offers a chocolate and port pairing, tours of wineries, winemaker dinners and more.
 
Colorfest in Pagosa Springs (September 15-17). Celebrate the beginning of autumn at the ‘Colorfest’ weekend in Pagosa Springs by watching dozens of colorful hot air balloons ascend over the San Juan River and steamy thermal springs. There are a variety of events from September 15 through 17 including wine, craft beer, and local cuisine tastings; musical performances; a gourmet breakfast with champagne; a balloon night glow; as well as a colorful 5k Fun Run.
 
Chile & Frijoles Festival (September 22–24). This event is an excellent way to soak in the fall season and taste the pride of Pueblo — a special, intensely flavorful variety of green chile. Served smoking on a stick, chopped and tucked into a quesadilla or sprinkled in salsa, it’s the star of this show. Cooking competitions, live music, dancing, arts and crafts, and a farmers’ market round out the festivities.
 
Harvest Festival in Glenwood Springs (September 30th). Celebrate the fall colors and bountiful harvest in historic downtown Glenwood Springs with a full farmer’s market, local bands, art– to view, purchase, and create; farms, fall-themed street vendors and children’s activities in the local stores.
 
Elk Fest (September 30 – October 1). The beautifully haunting bugle of a bull elk is unmistakable, and every October spectators head to Estes Park to experience the phenomenon. The elk gather there, at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, to show off for their ladies during the start of the rutting (breeding) season. At Elk Fest, visitors can learn about these beasts’ behavior, observe them in their natural habitat, participate in a bugling contest and see performances by American Indians. 

Other Mile High Mamas Resources:

Top 20 places to see fall colors in Colorado

 
 
 
For more information on places to experience Colorado’s fall splendor, visit http://www.colorado.com/articles/10-places-see-colorados-fall-color. 
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