Fall is one of the most—if not the most—beautiful times of the year, and when it comes to fall leaf peeping, some areas in Ski Country do it better than others. From golden aspen groves to mountainsides painted in hues of orange, red and yellow, there is no shortage of scenic views in our top mountain towns. From hikes to lovely afternoon drives with a cup of coffee, there is no wrong way to experience fall foliage.
We've made it easy and comprised a list of the top five mountain towns for fall leaf peeping this year:
Photo: Telluride Ski Resort
The San Juan Mountains truly to come life during the fall season as the leaves change from their green summer state to the vivid golden tones you see shared all over the internet. Fall colors start to make their debut in Telluride during mid-to-late September, and last for about three weeks. The many golden aspen groves can be seen from a number of places, including the scenic San Juan Skyway where you'll find the most color variations.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the changing leaves, there are a number of great hikes perfect for leaf peeping: Ajax Peak, Bridal Veil Falls, Bear Creek Canyon, Cornet Falls, Hope Lake, Jud Wiebe Trail and the San Miguel River Trail.
Aspen Snowmass, CO
Photo: Jeremy Swanson / Aspen Snowmass
Consistently ranked as one of the top spots for leaf peeping in the U.S., Aspen Snowmass does fall unlike most other mountain towns. Peak foliage season hits typically around the third or fourth week of September, and can easily be viewed from anywhere around town! The changing colors don’t last long, so you'll want to plan your trip before you'll see more leaves on the ground than in the trees.
Some of the best hikes for viewing fall leaves in Aspen include the Maroon Bells, Cathedral Lake, American Lake, Hunter Creek and the Government Trail. For those are looking to embark on a scenic a drive, check out Maroon Creek Road, Castle Creek Road and Independence Pass to witness golden aspens that stretch on for miles.
Crested Butte, CO
Photo: Crested Butte Mountain
Sitting at the end of Kebler Pass Road, Crested Butte gives visitors access to Colorado's largest aspen grove, which transforms into a sea of yellow during the autumn season. The fall leaves start to hit their peak in conjunction with other Colorado areas: mid-to-end-September. Whether you are looking to hit the trails on your mountain bike or on foot or take a scenic drive, there is no shortage of beautiful views in Crested Butte.
Perfect for cooling off on a hot September day, mountain bikers can get their fall foliage fix on the Dyke Trail, Lupine Trail or Up and Away, Painter Boy and Awakening. Hikers can also experience some exceptional views on the Woods Walk trail, Three Lakes Loop and Peak Hike. And for those who would rather enjoy an aromatic cup of coffee while driving through the trees, Kebler Pass and Cottonwood Pass are the roads for you!
Park City, UT
Photo: Park City Mountain
When it comes to fall foliage in Utah, Park City delivers some of the best views year after year. Blanketed with hues of yellow, orange, red and even purple, the mountains around Park City offer visitors a large variety of vivid colors on aspens, maples, oaks, evergreens and more that can impress even the most seasoned of leaf peepers. Although it varies from year to year, the peak for viewing fall leaves hits from mid-September to mid-October.
Located in the perfect area for scenic autumn drives, visitors will want to check out Mirror Lake Highway, Guardsman Pass, Parley's Canyon and Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Those searching for the perfect hike to do a little leaf peeping will enjoy Lost Prospector Trail, Mid Mountain Trail and the Desolation Trail.
Vail/Beaver Creek, CO
Photo: Beaver Creek Mountain
Located just 20 minutes away from one another, Vail and Beaver Creek are often lumped together when it comes to visiting the two internationally-acclaimed ski towns. The area may not have the incredible wildflowers during the summer, but the two towns do have the fall foliage. The third week in September to the first week in October serve as the peak time for leaf peeping, which will become apparent by the many travelers coming in from Denver to catch a glimpse of the golden seas.
Ideal hikes for the changing leaves are at an elevation of 8,000–9,000 feet. Arguably the best hikes to view leaves in Beaver Creek are Aspen Glade, Allie's Way and Village-to-Village, while Sylvan Lake and Nolan Lake are great areas for leaf peeping near East Vail. Additional Vail hikes include East Lake Creek and Piney River Falls.