It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, I’m not talking about Christmas. I’m talking about that quiet time between summer and winter when the golden aspen leaves flutter in the sunshine. Vail weather cools off a little, and Mother Nature brings some of the best hiking and biking weather of the year. Think sunny and high 60’s or 70’s during the day, and 40’s at night. Perfect!
Vail’s fall season is one of the top times of year to visit. There are still tourists, but not as many. There are restaurant specials, lodging specials, and a surprisingly strong line-up of events for those who would get easily bored without something on the schedule. The best thing about fall; however, is being surrounded by some of the most gorgeous scenery you have ever seen. Photographers and nature aficionados flock to the mountains this time of year. Anyone else who stumbles upon the fall foliage by accident feels like they have hit the jackpot. It is simply stunning from mid-September through early October. If you do decide to come out to enjoy the colors, here are a few drives and hikes you won’t want to miss:
Hwy 24 from Minturn to Camp Hale – This drive starts just south of Vail and travels 15 miles along Colorado Scenic Byway: Highway 6 & 24. You’ll travel up and over Battle Mountain Pass, past the historic mining town of Red Cliff, past ghost town Gilman, and eventually arrive at Camp Hale, where the Army’s 10th Mountain Division training during World War II. There are pull offs the whole way for photo opportunities. Mango’s restaurant in Red Cliff has an awesome roof top patio for lunch, happy hour or dinner.
Glenwood Springs/ Aspen Loop – This drive is an all day event, but well worth it. We suggest heading west on I-70 to Glenwood Springs, then southeast to Aspen on Highway 82, up and over Independence Pass and back to Vail on Highway 6 & 24 through Leadville and Red Cliff. There are plenty of stops along the way and you’ll cross the Continental Divide near Independence Pass. This drive is 4 hours round-trip with Aspen being the half-way point and a good lunch stop.
Booth Falls – This iconic Vail hike is like an interstate highway in the summer, but I can tell you from experience there are less people on it in the fall. I went up this trail after work last week and only saw 2 other people. Traffic aside, the hike takes you through aspens almost the entire way to the falls , and that alone makes it one of the best fall hikes. There are also nice views back towards Vail Mountain. It is fabulous!
East Lake Creek – This hike requires a 25-minute drive to the trailhead in Edwards, but is well worth it. Not only are you hiking through aspens, the ground cover also turns gold and the result is stunning. Especially in the late afternoon. One hint: The hike goes mostly downhill on the way in which means the hike out is all uphill. Keep this in mind, so you don’t get carried away and hike further in than your ability level can handle on the way out.