fall foliage in Colorado late September


Oct 27, 2013
I'm dreaming of autumn colors! I want to do a short-ish notice fall hiking trip in Colorado (based on good flight prices/itineraries), but I'm suffering from information overload with so many options. So: Any suggestions for lesser known areas or specific hikes - or places to avoid for the hordes of people- to see aspens turning in Colorado? I'd even appreciate suggestions for well known areas if they're amazing enough to warrant the attention!

-I've found cheap flights to Denver or Albuquerque, then I'm willing to drive up to 5 hrs after that (though shorter would be preferable), so most of the state is within reach.
-I would be arriving Sat 9/26 and departing Sat 10/3. I'll have 6 full days in between to fill with mainly hiking plus some scenic driving.
-I will be car camping and dayhiking, not backpacking.
-I will have a mid-size SUV rental, so no 4WD roads but can handle slightly higher clearance than a sedan.

Are any NFS campgrounds still open this late in the season or do I need to plan on dispersed camping? For these dates, should I be targeting the central or the southern part of the state for peak foliage? Seems like with the warm, dry summer it may happen a little later than average, but weather can be fickle.

Many thanks in advance!
The drought makes them change earlier and it goes quicker than otherwise.

Last year on the front range things were peaked last week of September (I remember quite well because first time in forever we actually timed a little driving/photo tour just right).

No suggestions beyond what you've already likely googled. Further away you can get from Denver there will be less crowds, though this year it seems like there are simply crowds everywhere outside.
You could fly into Grand Junction. Cheap.
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The drought makes them change earlier and it goes quicker than otherwise.

Good to know, I had assumed the opposite.

Sent you a PM.
Thanks for the suggestions!

You could fly into Grand Junction. Cheap.
I would love to, but it's still over double the price of DEN. I'd rather fly on Southwest and drive a little further; most of my Grand Junction flight options are on American, and they were back to running completely full flights when I flew them a few weeks ago. It was disconcerting sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers again.
Sometimes it is later - just really depends on the overnight temps.

They are saying due to the heavy, early season snow storm and freeze the best bets will be the southern part of the state. I've seen a good bit of brown already, but colors in central Colorado appear to have started. Hwy 72, a notorious stretch for good color is just starting. The road to Brainard Lake is pretty good right now. I heard Kenosha Pass, another popular spot is also decently on its way.

As for places to avoid people...just hike a mile in.
Blue River between silverthorne / green mountain res on Friday.