3 Ways to Experience Fall Foliage
September splendor is a thing, and it’s a sight you’ll wake up early for. It will be the priority of your hiking, biking and road trips. It is the view that makes everyone go a little quieter, snuggle in a little tighter and will leave everyone in awe, forever marking their memory.
Yes, I believe that a grove of aspens in autumn can do all that, especially in Crested Butte, where one of the largest single grove of aspens plants its roots. In today’s article we’ll explore all the best ways and places to see the fall-colors so you have a breathtaking game plan when you arrive in the Butte!
From the Bike
Fall mountain biking is certainly a favorite among enthusiasts. The colors in the high country don’t stop when those wildflowers bloom their last, and the days cool off to make for perfect biking conditions. While it’s hard to guess when the fall colors will be peaking, here are a few trail recommendations to get your MTB and fall foliage fix:
Dyke Trail: Listed as an advanced trail, this 14 mile loop will take you through technical power climbs, fast descents and creek crossings—all within the aspen groves of Kebler Pass, with mountains Ruby and Owen in the background. Looking for your “yellow brick road?” The trail is hidden among aspens and in the fall, it turns into just that.*
Lupine Trail: Listed as an intermediate trail, this 7 mile loop can be accessed easily from the mountain. It features gorgeous wildflowers, aspens and views up the slate river valley, which will be a patchwork of colors in the fall. With flowy descents and moderate climbs, this is a great trail for the whole group. It receives a lot of bike traffic, but by accessing it in the fall it will likely be less crowded.*
Up and Away, Painter Boy (easy), Awakening (intermediate): Biking on Crested Butte Mountain Resort is a great way to see fall colors with the spectacular backdrop of Mt. Crested Butte. For those willing to sweat for their descents, biking Up and Away will lead bikers past a lovely aspen grove with the peak popping out from behind. Then, take Painter Boy up to Awakening. Both meander through thick aspen groves, on flowy single track and over a couple technical spots.
From Your Own Two Feet
While you are welcome to hike any of the biking trails listed above, these three trails also offer some exceptional views:
Woods Walk: Close to town, easy to access, and easy to hike, this lovely trail is perfect for the whole family. A short drive up Whiterock Ave. towards Kebler Pass will lead you straight to the trail head and small parking area. The trail head is on the right side of the road as you’re heading from CB, and the dirt parking lot is on the left side of the road just a bit further up. The Woods Walk offers a short loop, and can be extended down towards Peanut Lake and on to Lower Loop (and a number of other trails). Take this trail through a grove of aspens, with views of Mt. Crested Butte and the slate river valley in the distance.
Three Lakes Loop: Continuing up on Kebler Pass, the trail head is about 45 minutes from town, through one of the largest living organisms in the world—the Kebler Pass aspen grove. A spectacular display of fall-foliage can be seen as you wind your way down this well-maintained dirt road towards the trail head. You’ll turn left at the Lost Lake sign, and drive another 2.2 miles to the parking lot on the left of the Beckwith Pass horse parking. The trail is 2.8 mile loop, and winds around 3 lakes and a waterfall. It also features impeccable views of the surrounding mountains and aspens.*
Peak Hike: Take in an exceptionally different view from the peak of Mt. Crested Butte. Hikers can start at the base area for a strenuous 11.5 mile (round trip) hike to the peak, or opt for the casual route, and take the Silver Queen Lift for a strenuous 2 mile (round trip) hike to the top. If you prefer your fall-foliage in a patchwork of golds, reds, and oranges against chalky gray and deep evergreen, then the view from the top of Mt. Crested Butte will be the one for you. With a birds eye view, you can take in the paint-splatter effect of the aspen groves spread out around the valley.
From the Car
Kebler Pass: If you’re looking for a drive, your best bet is to head over Kebler Pass towards Paonia and Hotchkiss. You can take in the undulating views of aspens and mountain sides lit up in gold, and make a stop in Paonia and Hotchkiss to see where a large portion of the Sunday Farmer’s Market produce originates from.
Cottonwood Pass: Another excellent tour is over Cottonwood Pass, over the continental divide—and get to it while you can, as this road will be closed for the foreseeable future starting this winter and into summer 2017 for a paving project. This bumpy dirt road starts after Taylor Reservoir (a beautiful lake in its own right), and ascends through aspens and pines, peaking out at the top of the continental divide. The view from the top is exceptional—with mountain ridges rising on either side and descending through a collage of forest, ponds and rock. You won’t be disappointed!
If your fall weekend adventures include some leaf-peeping, put Crested Butte on your map. The collection of jagged peaks washed in all the colors of fall, the crispness of the night and sunny days will make your heart well.
- Cayla Vidmar
*Thank you to Travel Crested Butte for the tips!