Fall in Chaffee County feels magical–the leaves are changing and the skies seem even more blue with the peaks ablaze in yellow and orange. Nights are cool and there’s plenty to do–even if you hate pumpkin spice! Here’s a quick list of fun activities for your fall adventures in Salida and Chaffee County.
Leaf Peeping Hikes near Salida
It wouldn’t be fall without a hike through the leaves. Peak season in Chaffee County varies by elevation. Luckily there are hikes available at a variety of elevations near Salida so you’re covered anytime from late September through October.
- North Fork to Blank’s Cabin. This beautiful trail is great for the moderate hiker looking to get out into some beautiful fall colors. The beginning of the trail is steep, but it eventually mellows out and becomes a nice walk. Some hikers might choose to make it shorter and not travel the entire distance to Blank’s Cabin. You’ll still see beautiful colors. This is a great hike from Creekside Chalets. Our property sits on CR 240, the access point for the hike. If you’re feeling adventurous, this trail can also be used to summit Mt. Shavano (14,236), one of the most popular 14ers in the area. Be sure to research your route and be prepared if you’re planning to summit.
- Greens Creek Trail. This creekside trail is chock full of aspens and the groves are gorgeous in the fall. The moderate hike begins after a 15 minute drive up a dirt road (2-wheel drive is fine with decent clearance). The trail eventually meets up with the Colorado Trail. Many hikers continue until they have their fill of the leaves and then turn back. This is a great hike with dogs. The creek runs immediately next to the trail for a good water supply. Proximity to Creekside Chalets is incredibly close. The trailhead is just down the road from our location in Maysville.
- Gray’s Creek. Hikers can choose to go the full 8+ miles to summit Mt. Ouray (13,971) or simply hike part of the trail and enjoy the plentiful leaves along the way. You can also head down the mountain toward O’Haver Lake from the trailhead. This road leads to the campground and travels through aspen groves. Parking at O’Haver and walking up the road is also a good way to experience these golden leaves.
- Sand’s Lake. This is more of a stroll than a hike, but it provides good color later in the season. It’s also in Salida. It makes a perfect quick leaf peek on a day packed with other activities in town. Walk upstream from Sand’s Lake and follow the wide trail into cottonwood groves. The path goes by the river. You’ll also find some informational placards about wildlife and a few benches. This is a great option for late season leaf peeping and those looking for a casual walk. Great for dogs, but be aware you’re sure to see other four-legged friends on the trail.
Scenic Drives in Chaffee County
Driving through the mountains of Colorado can take your breath away any time of year but fall might just be the best time for a scenic ride. Driving lets you see how different colors pop at varying elevations. Plus, you can take everything in at your own pace. Try one of these classic drives near Creekside Chalets:
- Marshall Pass
This beautiful drive begins when you take a dirt road off of Poncha Pass and head up into aspen tree heaven. It’s also navigable with a 2-wheel drive vehicle. If you’d like, stop off at picturesque O’Haver Lake for a short walk or snack spot on your way up the pass. Continue your drive and be ready to have your socks knocked off with fall colors–you’ll be surrounded by the many aspen groves this drive is famous for. (You’ll likely see some mountain bikers heading down from rides on the Monarch Crest Trail, so be aware and share the road.) Once you loop around to the town of Sargents, you’ll be back on Highway 50, just 30 minutes from Creekside Chalets. This is the perfect scenic loop for anyone staying at the property!
- Cottonwood Pass
This beautiful drive takes you up into the aspens with ample time to stop for short hikes or views. Cottonwood Pass heads up into the Collegiate Peaks from Buena Vista. Cottonwood Lake sits near the top of the pass and is a fantastic spot to stop and see the views. If you’re looking for a great loop, the pass heads past Taylor Reservoir and into the town of Crested Butte on a newly paved road accessible to 2-wheel drive vehicles. If you’re staying at Creekside Chalets, this makes a perfect full day loop with stops in some of the most charming mountain towns in the state.
- Aspen Ridge
A classic drive from Salida, this road goes near the ghost town of Turret. You can loop through Buena Vista if you’d like to drive the whole ridge (40 miles). The road is steep at times–you’ll want a 4-wheel drive vehicle to complete the whole drive. This drive also offers breathtaking views of the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range. This range is home to the three highest peaks in Colorado. Views will not disappoint! And when the colors are in high season, it feels like driving in a yellow aspen cloud.
Local Fall Activities in Salida
For more fall flavor that doesn’t involve a long drive or hike, hang out in the town of Salida and enjoy other perks of the season.
- Guidestone Pumpkin Patch at Hutchinson Homestead & Ranch
This local event is perfect for families with young kids. A team of horses pulls families out to the pumpkin patch in a wagon, providing great views of surrounding mountains. There are pony rides, a small hay bale maze for little ones, and other charming activities for a fall family outing. Bonus: this takes place at Hutcheson Homestead, a historic piece of Chaffee County history. You’ll also be supporting Guidestone, a local agricultural non-profit.
- Farmer’s Market and Shed Fest
The Foodshed Alliance hosts a farmer’s market in both Salida and Buena Vista throughout the summer and early fall. Salida’s picturesque market sets up in Alpine Park, just a few blocks from the downtown historic and creative district. Market runs from 9-12 in the fall. The last market of the year takes place at the end of October. Dubbed Shed Fest, this event takes all the fun of the regular farmer’s market with fun extras. Expect a pie baking contest, a kids costume contest, a performance from the Salida circus, arts, crafts, kids activities, live music, food and more.
- Salida Ghost Tour
If the fall feels get you in the mood for something spine-chilling, check out these downtown walking tours. This “PG-13” tour covers about 12 blocks. You’ll learn about local ghosts and chilling historic tales. It’s also a great way to see Salida, as long as you’re ready to hear about its spooky dark side.
- Halloween in Salida
Salida blocks off F Street for a night of trick-or-treating and a Thriller flash mob with zombies. It’s also a great time for adults looking to hit the town–the bustling music scene will surely be happening on both the night of Halloween and the weekend before. KHEN, the local community radio station, provides a weekly Live Music Calendar. Local establishments often host costume contests and other spooky celebrations.
Last but not least, the best way to spend a beautiful fall day might be to just stay at Creekside! It’s our favorite way to enjoy the leaves. Stroll the 10 acres of Creekside Chalets property, nestled in a beautiful aspen grove with a creek running through. Chairs and benches are scattered through for your enjoyment and dogs are welcome. Each chalet has a private hot tub so you can soak and watch the leaves spin under the blue skies with family and friends. You can even order a small fire pit with all the fixings for s’mores right to your cabin. Come see why fall is our favorite time at Creekside!