It’s almost that wonderful time of the year when the mountains show off their gorgeous clusters of golden aspen trees. Typically, in the Salida area, the fall foliage colors peak in late September to early October. (Although, weather conditions can easily affect how quickly the fall colors arrive and how long they last.) If you’ll be coming to the area during prime leaf peeping time, you’ll find that there are lots of places that are perfect for seeing the changing colors. While you’re here, we want you to have the chance to experience the fall foliage like the locals do. So, here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy the changing leaves in and around Salida.
At Creekside Chalets & Cabins
If you’re staying with us on your fall vacation, you won’t be able to miss all the beautiful aspen trees. After all, there are 10 acres of them! To get the full impact of the fantastic colors, we suggest that you spend some time outside during the golden hour (either shortly after sunrise or shortly before sunset). A walk along the creek during either of these times is sure to provide you with plenty of picture-perfect sights. It’s also quite lovely to enjoy your morning coffee or an afternoon cocktail outdoors while admiring the changing light and stunning surroundings.
For even more changing colors, you can take the short drive into Salida. The town is charming all year long but the golden leaves just help to make it that much more picturesque. We love strolling along the Arkansas River in the autumn, especially after a hearty meal in one of the town’s amazing restaurants. Another great spot for enjoying the colors is from the top of S Mountain. You’ll be treated to stunning views of both the town and the valley. Many of the trails in both the Arkansas Hills and Methodist Mountain Trail Systems give you great chances to see the golden aspens.
Depending on your preferences, you can opt to hike or bike these trails. Either way, both trail systems provide plenty of viewing opportunities as well as trails for all levels of hikers and mountain bikers.
Monarch Pass is just about a 15-minute drive from Creekside Chalets and Cabins. Here, you’ll find even more of a variety of hiking and biking trails, many of which are over 11,000 feet in elevation. The high elevation helps to ensure that the views go on and on. However, it may also make these routes more difficult for those who are sensitive to high elevations. So, if you aren’t used to these types of altitudes, you may want to give yourself extra time acclimating before you attempt them.
If you’re a mountain biking enthusiast, you may want to tackle the Monarch Crest Trail. It’s considered to be one of the best trails in the country, with up to 36 miles of high altitude singletrack. All of these trails provide plenty of leaf peeping opportunities, so make sure that you bring your camera with you. One additional note: while you’ll see the Monarch Crest Tram when you arrive at the top of the pass, please note that it typically closes for the season in mid-September. So, although you won’t be able to use the scenic ride to get a look at all the golden aspen trees, you can still stop into the gift shop, which stays open until mid-November.
A Bit Further Out
The drive up to the top of Cottonwood Pass is bound to be breathtaking. It’s a little over an hour’s drive away, but it will be well worth it. As you travel up Cottonwood Pass Road among the Collegiate Peaks, there’ll be no shortage of golden aspens as the valley is one of the state’s most aspen-heavy areas. While the west side of the pass is closed at the time of this writing, the parking area at the top is still open and accessible. You’ll find a few hiking trails nearby and, of course, amazing mountain views.
For an even more memorable experience, enjoy a picnic up at the top of the pass. Then, on your way back, take some time to explore Buena Vista. It’s yet another charming mountain town full of great restaurants and delightful shops. Check out our Best of Buena Vista article to get a better idea of what you can look forward to during your time in town.
If you love and are experienced with mountain driving, we suggest that you take a day trip up to Independence Pass. It’s about a 1.5-hour drive from Creekside Chalets and Cabins. But the drive is packed full of wonderful scenery. On your way to the pass, you should consider stopping at Twin Lakes. The lakes are incredibly beautiful and ringed by aspens, so the golden leaves will be reflected in the water – which is even more breathtaking on days when the wind is calm and the lakes look like mirrors.
The road up to and over Independence Pass is narrow and winding, so it’s best left to those who’ve had plenty of experience with these types of roads before. Magnificent scenery and hiking opportunities abound at the top. If you have the chance, you might even want to consider extending your road trip for about another 40 minutes and heading down the pass straight into Aspen. While it will still be too early in the season for skiing, Aspen’s status as an iconic Colorado mountain town means that it features plenty to see and do even in the off season.
Please note that in the event of heavy snowfall, Independence Pass may be closed. While it’s usually open until late October or early November, mountain weather can be fickle. Check out the COtrip website for up-to-date information on road closures and other travel alerts.
Do You Need Fall Lodging?
Creekside Chalets & Cabins boasts beautiful one-to-three bedroom chalets that are ideal for family and friends alike. Our chalets are also pet-friendly! You can check availability and book online or give us a call at (719) 539-6953. We’re happy to help you with any questions that you have!