We all love our pumpkin spice lattes and halloween parties, but the best part of fall in Colorado in undoubtably getting outside to enjoy the beautiful fall colors.
Here's a list of 8 of the best day trips to take to soak up this fall weather
1) Georgetown and Silver Plume You can't miss the Georgetown Loop Railroad, which you can catch in either Georgetown or Silver Plume. There are several options, including a 1hr 15min loop on the train, or a 30min train ride and mine tour that travels into a tunnel. After your railroad adventure, explore the historic streets of small town Silver Plume. If you’re not the one driving home, be sure to make a pit stop at Bread Bar (a converted 1800s-era bakery, open weekends only) on your way out of town.
2) Frisco and Silverthorne These two towns are nestled near the shores of Dillon Reservoir, and while Silverthorne may be best known as that mountain town with outlet shopping, the area’s got plenty more to explore once you dig a little deeper. A drive here will not only get you sweeping views of the mountains in autumn, but also access to the towns’ dining scenes with options that span from German sausages (at Frisco’s Prosit) to pasta on a patio (at Silverthorne’s Sauce on the Blue). After you eat, head to Frisco’s Historic Park for a walking tour, or get closer to nature at one of the numerous parks and trails in the area -- the towns are surrounded by public lands so let your wanderlust lead the way.
3) Fort Collins You don’t get a nickname like “Fort Fun” without earning it, and while Denver’s neighbor to the north packs in plenty of entertainment all year long, fall is a standout with all the classic activities including pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and Rams football games (at their brand new stadium). Or change things up with a visit to one of the city’s cultural draws like the Center for Fine Art Photography or the Fort Collins Symphony. Then, if you dare, stay into the evening and add even more chill to the air with a ghost tour of the city’s most haunted spots.
4) Estes Park As the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, this mountain town is a popular destination. But in autumn, you get an added bonus: Elk in full rut. What does this mean? It’s mating season for the thousands of elk that call this area home so bull elk are out in full force showing off -- sparring with each other, rolling in mud, and bugling loudly -- it’s basically LoDo on a Saturday night for wildlife. After taking in your own personal National Geographic moments, head to the Historic Park Theater to catch a movie or live event. Built in 1913, it’s the oldest operating movie house in the U.S.
5) Breckenridge Home to one of Colorado’s most popular ski resorts, you don’t have to wait for the hill to open to have a great time in Breck. In fact, heading up here during fall, and before all of the ski tourists descend, is actually the ideal time to explore the town. For starters, it’s home to one of the best places to get a dose of fall colors: Boreas Pass Road. This small, mostly dirt road will take you from downtown Breckenridge to over 11,400 feet through sections of golden Aspen tunnels. Back in town, spend some time exploring downtown in search of the many unique public art works scattered throughout, including a futuristic robot and a statue of Ullr, the Norse god of skiing who’s celebrated every winter here during the ultimate mountain party, Ullr Fest.
6) Idaho Springs Just a quick drive from Denver, Idaho Springs is a town you likely pass by a lot on your way up I-70, right? Well, fall is the time to make it your destination instead. This trek is all about relaxation with a soak at Indian Hot Springs. Skip the big swimming pool option and go for either the geo-thermal caves (each is equipped with a large, gender-specific hot tub), or the indoor private baths for a bit more solitude. After soaking away your troubles, be sure to refuel your body before hitting the road to head back to town at favorites like Tommyknocker Brewery (try the Root Beer Burger) and Smokin’ Yards BBQ (pro tip: Spring for a combo plate so you get guaranteed leftovers to take home).
7) Eastern Plains Denverites spend a whole lot of time exploring the Rockies while everything east of I-25 is largely forgotten. Yes, there are some spots worth seeing between the interstate and Kansas, including plenty of farms where you can score veggies, a stash of fall pumpkins, and fire-roasted green chiles. One of the best farms to visit is Miller Farms, which is just a 45-minute drive northeast of town. Their Fall Harvest Festival, which lasts from Labor Day through mid-November, gives you the chance to not only pick fresh produce straight from the field, but also to explore their collection of oddities which include everything from a collection of antique tractors to a “UFO” that you can crawl inside of, to a jumping pit filled with Crocs scraps. Keep heading east, about an hour and 15 minutes from town, to find the I-76 Speedway where you can experience dirt track races for just $10 a ticket.
8) Paint Mines Interpretive Park Skip the fall crowds seeking out foliage altogether with a jaunt to this little known area south of Denver and east of Colorado Springs. With 750 acres of geological formations and four miles of trails, this area is just big enough to make you feel like you’ve been dropped on another planet, but small enough to thoroughly explore on a day trip. Native Americans were also drawn to this pastel-hued landscape as shown by evidence of humans in the area from as long as 9,000 years ago. Though you’re not likely to find crowds of people here in a fall day, you do have a good chance of spotting wildlife with coyotes, falcons, mule deer, and mountain lions known to occupy the area. The nearby town of Calhan is small with a population under 1,000, but if you’ve got some extra time, make a stop at Cadillac Jack’s Antique Store, where you’ll find over 100,000 items (seriously), including a huge collection of antique toys, thousands of old license plates, neon signs, and so much more.
Read more about these destinations, and check out an interactive map on Thrillist.