If you’re lucky enough to live in Colorado, or plan to visit soon, now is the perfect time to plan your camper van road trip to see the changing leaf colors. Fall road trips are special because there are usually less crowds on the trails. If you enjoy a serene escape from town, you should definitely put a fall road trip on your calendar.
Colorado aspens usually begin their transition from green to gold in mid-September through mid-October, but it can vary from season to season. With Colorado being home to the largest number of aspen trees in the United States, it’s well worth the effort to see the foliage transform.
Here are the six best road trips in Colorado to see the fall colors in your camper van rental. We also included unique tourist stops, hikes, and camping spots nearby. Plan on taking a few days to see as much of Colorado’s high country as you can before it’s too late!
Once a mining town, Telluride is now best known for some of the most popular camping in Colorado and its world-class ski resort. In recent years it has become a major destination for folks who love taking in the views of Colorado aspens as their leaves turn all shades of orange and yellow.
Catching a ride on the Telluride and Mountain Village Gondola is a must do. This gives you a bird’s eye view of the San Juan mountains, all the leaves you could ask for, and it’s free.
Fall aspen leaves aren’t the only thing you’ll see while you visit. You’re almost guaranteed to see wildlife like elk. You may also come across beavers, porcupines, deer, hawks and more.
Maroon Bells, Aspen
The Maroon Bells are one of the most photographed peaks in Colorado, especially during the fall. Leaf watchers from all over the country head to Aspen to witness the area’s golden glow against a backdrop of blue skies and snow-capped peaks.
What’s particularly stunning is the picture-perfect mirror lake that sits just below the pair of 14ers!
This is a super easy day trip from Denver, with a number of recreational options once you get there. Park your camper van at Silver Bell Campground for a laid back panoramic view of the aspens and forest towering right outside your window. For a more up close look hike the Maroon Bells Scenic Loop.
For more Colorado fall colors head to Independence Pass, which is about an hour away from Maroon Bells. Take the drive at a leisurely pace and be sure to pull off to check out the Continental Divide trail.
Trail Ridge Road, Estes Park to Grand Lake
Trail Ridge Road, located inside of Rocky Mountain National Park, is a scenic drive full of vibrant fall colors, many of which can be viewed from above the tree line. This is a true Colorado road trip. As the highest continuous road in the country, it took 10 years to complete this 55-mile stretch.
Before you hit the road in your camper van, start your Trail Ridge tour in Estes Park. Take a stroll through downtown and hit one of the area’s many ice cream or taffy shops before you check out the famous Stanley Hotel, known from Stephen King’s film The Shining.
From there you can make your way to Milner Pass, where you can park your camper van and get some beautiful views of Poudre Lake before the trails close for the winter. Another option is to reach out to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, a group that offers guided hikes through the area.
Kebler Pass, Crested Butte to Paonia
If you’re yearning for some fall colors in Colorado, look no further than Kebler Pass. This beautiful high mountain pass takes you through Gunnison National Forest, which is famous for having some of the largest aspen groves in the country.
If you have extra time, hang around Crested Butte before you start your journey through Gunnison. The town hosts a variety of fall activities, including their music festival and film festival. You can also enjoy camping, fly fishing, and if you go late enough in the season, you can take a dog sledding tour.
Don’t miss taking a ride on the Silver Queen chairlift for a scenic flyover of Mount Crested Butte. This is the perfect way to kick off your journey through some of the prettiest mountains in Colorado. Wrap up your adventure with a trip down the Gunnison River via raft or kayak for a truly unforgettable experience.
San Juan Skyway
As the saying goes, it’s not always about the destination, it’s about the journey. That’s how we feel about this 236-mile byway that traverses the San Juan mountains from Durango to Cortez.
This drive delivers jaw-dropping views of vistas and changing aspens, but our favorite stretch is the Million Dollar Highway. If there’s any part of the skyway you go see, make it this one. It only takes about 42 minutes to drive, but you can still take your time if you want.
Don’t miss the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad which offers rides through the foliage. You can also take a more extreme approach to your leaf watching by zip lining through the aspens with Soaring Tree Top Adventures.
Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway
Established in 1918, the Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway is Colorado’s oldest byway. As you traverse along the Continental Divide, you can explore mining ghost towns, hiking trails, local community gems.
And of course nothing beats the unmatched views of dramatic fall colors.
Start your drive in two Colorado towns that offer old west charm: Black Hawk and Central City. If you’re feeling lucky try your hand at a quick round of black jack at one of Black Hawk’s many casinos or check out the Central City Opera House for some Victorian-era vibes. If you’re traveling with a mountain bike you can take a quick detour up County Road 1-S to see what’s left of Nevadaville.
Continue up the byway to pass Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which offers a handful of some of the best Aspen tree hikes in Colorado. As you make your way towards the end of this nearly 60-mile stretch, you’ll make your way through Rocky Mountain National Park as you descend into Estes Park.
Explore Fall in Colorado in a Camper Van
Ask any Colorado local and they’ll tell you fall is best enjoyed on the road. There’s nothing like breathing in the brisk mountain air and seeing the shimmering golden aspens that grace Colorado’s mountains every season.
Don’t let chilly temperatures and shorter days halt your adventure plans. With our fleet of camper vans offered throughout Denver, Fort Collins, Boulder and Telluride, you have plenty of options for where you want to start your journey.
Keep in mind that the leaves don’t stick around for long. We’re talking a few weeks to catch a glimpse of them at their most vibrant. So start planning your Colorado road trip today.
Ready to see Colorado's fall colors?
Fall is a great time to road trip with GoCamp because van rentals are discounted for the low season. There are also lower nightly minimums in the fall, so you can take that quick weekend trip.
Travel between October 1 and April 30 to take advantage of GoCamp's low season rates.