Spectacular leaf peeping drives from Vail | VailDaily.com

Spectacular leaf peeping drives from Vail

by Liana Moore
Special to the Daily
The drive over Independence Pass boasts some of the most stunning gold fall colors in Colorado. The fall foliage in Snowmass itself is also impressive.
Jeremy Swanson | Special to the Daily

The crisp Colorado Fall mornings set in a couple of weeks ago here in high country. Then the bright yellow colors started popping from the Aspen groves. Colorado’s leaf peeping season is upon us. Time to hop in the car and enjoy a spectacular drive to your favorite mountain town. Or, maybe visit a town in Colorado to which you’ve never been before. Here are some of the most spectacular fall aspen leaf drives from Vail that end at a fun destination.

Over Independence Pass to Snowmass, Colorado

Some of Colorado’s mountain passes are not for the faint of heart, Independence Pass included. This pass is paved the entire way so no four-wheel drive is needed. But it is a winding road with steep cliffs. However, these characteristics yield some of Colorado’s most spectacular fall golden aspen colors.

Make your way over to Snowmass, Colorado at a leisurely pace. This ski town built up the mountainside charmed our entire family. Take a hike on the Rim Trail and find the Yin-Yang about a mile and a half in. You will enjoy spectacular views of the mountains beyond as well as the village and ski mountain. Perhaps you will even get to shake tails with some deer, or dodge bear scat on the trail. Then hike back and recharge with a delicious breakfast and coffee from Fuel.

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Enjoy an invigorating day on the mountain challenging yourself in Lost Forest or whizzing down the new Forest Flyer alpine coaster. Or, enjoy dinner at the Artisian in Stonebridge Inn. The Artisian is sure to impress every member of your family. Our five-year-old devoured his huge bowl of macaroni and cheese and informed me that it was even better than my homemade extra cheesy version. Our foodie daughter savored her Mahi from the kid’s menu. My certified organic “Ora-King” salmon, palisade peach and Olathe corn relish, herb risotto was so delicious I didn’t offer to share. My husband certainly enjoyed his grilled New York strip loin.

Snowmass has plenty of spacious slopeside condominiums perfect for families, with many more new lodging offerings coming soon. We really enjoyed the balcony of our Top of the Village condo. It truly was the top of the village where the street dead-ended into the mountain. It was spacious and I could imagine spending a week there with family.

Through Breckenridge over Hoosier Pass to Colorado Springs

Once upon a time I actually spent a fair amount of time on this pass during peak aspen leaf season. A few years back my car died here. Phone service is limited and I was finally able to make the calls I needed by waving my phone about in the air. But there is possibly not a more beautiful place to be stranded. And, if you get lucky enough you might get to ride with a tow truck driver who can enthrall you with stories of demolition derby they have with the unclaimed broken down vehicles on their lot.

This pass is actually not scary. Drop offs are scarce but golden aspens are not. This is the back road through Breckenridge to Colorado Springs.

For family lodging, plus fun accommodations check out the newish Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs. Your hotel room comes with entry to this large indoor water park. From a wave pool to a variety of water slides it is sure to keep all the kids in the family entertained regardless of the weather.

Gateway Canyons Resort

The terrain surrounding Gateway Canyons Resort is different from the many other mountain towns of Colorado. South of Grand Junction feels like the middle of nowhere on a winding road sandwiched between canyons. The area to the north of Gateway Canyons Resort has the most vibrant orange and red colors of fall that I have seen in Colorado. These may perhaps be the most unique fall colors in Colorado.

Don’t be fooled into thinking there won’t be much to do at Gateway Canyons Resort just because it is in the middle of nowhere; the resort was created by John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel.

Where else in the world could you view breathtaking canyons from a helicopter, play realistic outdoor laser tag, ride a horse amongst spectacular scenery, relax at the spa, mountain bike, hike, see an one-of-a-kind 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 concept car, take a fast sports car out for a drive or learn the history of the area from a Curator of Curiosity? Gateway Canyons Resort, is a luxury oasis in the middle-of-nowhere, Colorado. Surrounded by canyons on all sides this resort is an interesting blend of New Mexican design style and enchanting vistas mixed with Colorado colors and locale.

Red Mountain Pass from Vail to Durango, Colorado

This is a bit longer of a drive from Vail but has a couple of spectacular mountain pass options. Perhaps the most spectacular is Red Mountain Pass between Ouray and Silverton. I’ve driven Red Mountain pass in the summer, fall and even winter. It is perhaps the most scary and most beautiful of Colorado mountain passes, so has to be included on the list. If you don’t want to drive the pass you can get to Durango via another route. Then take the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to see some of the most spectacular fall colors in Colorado. There are brew and wine trains running now, a fall photography train Saturday, Sept. 22 and Sunday, Sept. 23. Then in October, they offer a Great Pumpkin Patch Express.

If you have time while in Durango take a day to see Mesa Verde National Park. I imagine the fall colors are beautiful here too. But the history is most impressive. Thus UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made these cliffs their home from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300.



Liana Moore is Chief Mama Blogger at Insider Families. She can be reached at http://www.insiderfamilies.com, https://www.instagram.com/insiderfamilies/, http://www.facebook.com/InsiderFamilies or liana@insiderfamilies.com.

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