7 Sweet Spots for Fall Colors Near Leadville & Twin LakesSeptember 14, 2021
Leaves are changing color in Leadville, Colorado, with gold on the mountains. Make sure you catch the fall colors in the mountains this year! Here are 7 sweet spots where you can see them:
1) Scenic Drive 1: Twin Lakes and Independence Pass
Bright yellow aspen light up the mountainsides behind Twin Lakes, large blue glacial lakes. Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, Colorado’s two highest peaks, rise just to the north. Large aspen groves stretch across Mt. Elbert’s lower flanks. Take Highway 82, part of the Top of the Rockies National Scenic and Historic Byway, into Twin Lakes for stunning views of the lakes. Continue west to Aspen for even more jaw-dropping scenery. Yellow and orange leaves glow on both sides of the road as it twists from Twin Lakes up to the summit of Independence Pass (12,095’) and down the western side to Aspen.
2) Mt. Elbert Forebay Reservoir
A little off the beaten path and just up the hill from Twin Lakes is a hidden gem. Mt. Elbert Forebay Reservoir boasts shores shimmering with gold aspen, right at the foot of its namesake mountain. Take Highway 82 to County Road 24 (not Highway 24) just east of Twin Lakes Village to access this scenic spot.
3) Scenic Drive 2: I-70 to Leadville
Just getting to Leadville in the fall is awe-inspiring. From Interstate 70, both roads to Leadville follow the Top of the Rockies National Scenic and Historic Byway across the Continental Divide, with spectacular autumn views of lakes, valleys, and Colorado’s highest peaks. Coming east from Denver, take Highway 91 from Copper Mountain over Fremont Pass (11,319’). Approach from the west along Highway 24 from Minturn, over Tennessee Pass (10,423’).
4) Leadville Scenic Train – Fall Photo Specials
Book a seat on the Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad and journey high into the San Isabel National Forest, where the mountains are ablaze with yellow, orange, and red. See the headwaters of the Arkansas River Valley and sweeping vistas of Colorado’s two highest peaks. The train runs daily through Oct. 8 (twice a day on weekends), then daily Saturdays and Sundays until Oct. 31st. Fall Photo Weekend Specials are longer, three-hour rides that offer even more scenery and relaxation on weekends in September, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Reservations are required.
5) Fall Horseback Rides
See the leaves from horseback with Leadville’s Halfmoon Packing & Outfitting. Spend a day horse camping along the Colorado Trail. The ride winds through dark timber, aspen groves, and open fields and climbs above timberline to a 12,000’ overlook. Lunch is included. Shorter half-day or hourly rides take you to the top of Mt Zion, for a panoramic view of Leadville, Twin Lakes, and Turquoise Lake. You can also enjoy the fall colors from a horse-drawn wagon.
6) Mineral Belt Trail
Bike or walk Leadville’s famous 11-mile Mineral Belt Trail, a paved loop around town that highlights Leadville’s historic mining structures. The trail passes through stands of aspen and offers wide-open views of the Sawatch Range in its autumn glory. You can rent a bike or e-bike in town.
7) Top of the Rockies Zipline
See the leaves from a bird’s-eye view as you fly along a zipline at 11,200’! For the rare opportunity to ride a zipline over a train—and for maximum leaf-peeping—check out the five-hour rails and zipline tour.