Hike of the Week: 5 fall hikes to try out before the leaves fall
Hike of the Week
This year, our fall foliage season seems to be taking its cue from the calendar, and with the autumn equinox now behind us, we are starting to see our forests turn to gold. Marked by crisp, cool days and crystal clear skies, fall is one of the best times to hit the trails in Eagle County. With only precious few weeks left to enjoy hiking before the snow starts to fall, here are Walking Mountains’ recommendations for five local and different fall hikes.
The Martin Creek trail in Minturn is a beautiful trail during peak color. Hiking 3 miles up this trail will take you through young and old aspen forests, as well as a beautiful mixed aspen and fir forest that highlights some of the more unique elements Colorado’s forest ecology. You will pass through almost continuous aspen forest along this trail, with intermittent viewpoints of the Cross Creek valley. Keep an eye out for moose and other wildlife, as they are not uncommon sightings here.
Stag Gulch & Big Park
With a mix of gamble oak, aspen forests and sweeping vistas, the Stag Gulch trail to big park is a fall classic. The first miles of the hike feature shrub oak, which adds a firey hue to Colorado’s ever-present golden fall foliage. After hiking through open shrub hillsides however, you will enjoy gorgeous aspen forests as you make your way to Big Park where you will marvel at panoramic views of the Gore and Sawatch Mountain Ranges.
Starting at Camp Hale, a hike to Kokomo Pass in the fall offers a different fall foliage experience than the other hikes on this list. As you climb above the valley floor, you will enjoy views of golden aspens beneath you. However the real treat is once you break out the of the spruce and fir forests. Although not as iconic as Colorado’s aspens during fall foliage, during this season the alpine grasses and forbs turn a mix of burnt orange and maroon making the alpine uniquely beautiful. Combine the fall colors of the dwarfed alpine vegetation with some of the best vistas in Eagle County and Kokomo Pass is a an excellent addition to your fall hitlist.
Whiskey Creek Loop
The Whiskey Creek and Meadow Mountain loop is a beautiful 10-mile hike only minutes from Vail. Starting at the forest service station near Minturn, hike on the newly-opened Evercrisp trail to the junction with the Whisky Creek Trail. Turn left and climb through a mix of aspen forests and grassy meadows to the Line Shack where you will take in gorgeous views of the Gore Range & Vail Mountain. Descend the old service road on meadow mountain, and hike past some of the oldest & largest aspens in Eagle County.
East Lake Creek
It doesn’t take long for the East Lake Creek trail to prove spectacular, making this one of the best options for a short autumn hike or walk. Hiking just a mile through rolling terrain will take you through ancient aspen groves and past periodic openings with vistas across the creek valley. If you’re short on time and looking to see some of the best fall foliage views in the valley, this the place to start.
For more information on hiking these trails, read Walking Mountains’ past Hike of the Week articles or see the US Forest Service trail sheets.
Whisky Creek Loop: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5186500.pdf
East Lake Creek: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5186331.pdf
Nathan Boyer-Rechlin is the Community Outreach Coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center. He manages all things hiking. For questions about fall hiking with Walking Mountains or current trail conditions, you can reach him at (970) 817-9725 x144 or at email@example.com.