Fall foliage in Vail: 7 ways to experience changing of colors in the Rocky Mountains
From horseback rides to hiking trails, don't miss the spectacular fall colors this year
This time last year, the valley was in the thick of fall colors, with the leaves changing and fall foliage excursions on everyone’s weekend plans — it goes fast when it does happen.
With fall colors coming a little later this year, here’s a look at seven ways to enjoy the spectacular fall foliage in the Rocky Mountains this year
Beaver Creek Stables
With stables on Beaver Creek Mountain, excursions from Beaver Creek Stables don’t have to travel far to see the fall colors. Choose from one- or two-hour rides, a three-hour picnic ride and rides to Beaver Lake as well as Beano’s cabin for dinner. There’s also a sunset ride. Beaver Creek Stables has horses for ages 7 and older, as well as ponies for younger riders to test their skills. With over 60 horses, experience wranglers and beautiful trails to explore, experience fall in the Rocky Mountains with Beaver Creek Stables.
Located 1 mile northeast of Vail Village, Vail Stables has been leading horseback rides for more than 17 years and offers adventures into the backcountry of the White River National Forest. Among the trails to explore is Bear Hollow, taking riders through an Aspen forest with open views of the Gore Range, Vail and Beaver Creek. Rides vary from one to two hours. Looking for a new fall tradition? Try goat yoga at Vail Stables.
In the thick of summer, the gondolas in Vail turn every day. However now, in the late season, the gondolas are open Fridays through Sundays through Sept. 29. The Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead Village is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gondola One in Vail Village is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dogs are not allowed up the gondolas, but they are allowed to download (if you hike up). Gondolas in Vail are an easy way to get an elevated view of the fall foliage. Purchase gondola tickets online or at ticket offices in the villages.
Beaver Creek’s Centennial Express is open on Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 29, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Enjoy a scenic ride up, and enjoy activities at the bottom such as a bungee trampoline, mini golf, gem panning, ropes courses and a climbing wall. Purchase gondola tickets online or at the ticket office in Beaver Creek.
Via mountain bike
The valley is full of mountain bike rental shops, and the mountains are full of trails, from easy to advanced. Consider renting a bike, or taking your own, out on your favorite aspen trail during the fall. Don’t forget the GoPro, though, as it can be difficult to stop and enjoy the fall foliage when you’re whizzing through the trees.
The Beaver Creek Hiking Center and Walking Mountains Science Center are great places to start for guided hikes. Expert guides know the best trails to hit this time of year, as well as some fun knowledge of the area and environment. Pete Petrovski, director of the Beaver Creek Hiking Center, has 11 hikes perfect for those seeking the fall colors.
- Discover Loop in (Beaver Creek)
- Spruce Saddle Loop (Beaver Creek)
- Cross Creek (Minturn)
- Piney River Falls (Vail)
- North Trail (Vail)
- Buck Creek (Avon)
- Lost Lake (Vail)
- Shrine Ridge (Vail)
- East Lake Creek (Edwards)
- Nolan Lake (Eagle)
- Lake Charles (Eagle)
Colorado’s mountain passes can be intimidating in the winter, but during the fall, scenic roads are a great way to take in the changing colors. Drive careful, be prepared to stop and don’t forget your camera. Consider taking a drive and stopping for lunch in a town you might have driven right through. There’s Independence Pass to Snowmass, Hoosier Pass through Breckenridge and Red Mountain Pass from Vail to Durango. An easy drive out of Vail is on U.S. Highway 6 through Minturn, past Red Cliff and into Leadville.
Despite being landlocked, experience the fall gold rush from the river, or post up at Nottingham Lake in Avon with views of Beaver Creek. Stand-up paddleboards, float trips and other excursions are available to see the colors from Colorado waters. Anglers at local fishing shops also know the good spots to fish this time of year, both for colors and bites.
Via art classes
Alpine Arts Center offers art classes for children and adults in Vail and Edwards, as well as workshops, drop-in sessions, events and public exhibits. The Cocktails & Canvas classes in the fall often yield fall foliage artwork to take home. Other classes include Cupcakes & Canvas, Cocktails & Clay as well as kids camps.
Welcome to fall in Colorado, where a red flag warning one day is followed the next day by snow and rain.