The Leaf Peepers Guide to Salida

Autumn is right around the corner in Salida. It’s a gorgeous time of year! Mother Nature creates breathtaking displays of shimmering orange, yellow, and red foliage on the clusters of golden aspen trees on the mountainsides. The cool, crisp weather is perfect for biking, hiking, and scenic drives. 

Usually, Salida’s fall foliage colors peak in late September to early October. Though weather conditions can affect how quickly the fall colors arrive, and how long they stick around. Regardless, they won’t be around forever! If you visit Salida during these prime leaf-peeping weeks, you’ll find plenty of perfect places to enjoy Mother Nature’s display. While you’re here, we want you to relax, take a deep cleansing breath, and experience the fall foliage as the locals do. From vigorous mountain biking to mellow strolls and scenic drives, here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy the changing leaves all around Salida.

Salida’s Best Trails for Leaf Peepers

Fall Mountain Biking Salida, Colorado
Fall Mountain Biking Salida, Colorado

Salida is a mountain biking mecca! Whether you’re on foot or wheels, check out these intermediate-to-challenging bike routes for the most amazing views:

  • Monarch Crest Ride Colorado is designated as an IMBA EPICS. This 35-mile Monarch Crest route near Salida is one of the most beloved trails year-round. In the fall riders enjoy a stunningly beautiful, technically varied, high-alpine singletrack that doesn’t require super-human abilities to complete. 
  • The Rainbow Trail is 24 miles (39 km) of rather challenging mountain biking, ranging in intensity from intermediate to difficult. Online reviews say the best part of this ride is the remarkably fast and smooth final descent back to the car. 
  • For the serious endurance rider, take on the Salida Big Friggin’ Loop. It’s a CRAZY difficult 104 mile (167 km) route and is considered the unofficial, unsanctioned endurance training trail of Colorado. It’s long, it’s tough, and you’ll probably need a GPS. This route is not for beginners.

Don’t forget about Salida’s Bike Fest! This annual event is a weekend packed with fun bike-related events. Every age and ability is welcome to join in the fun starting on  Saturday, September 19th. You will want to stick around for the main event on Sunday, the Monarch Crest Crank. This historic fundraiser benefits The Alliance, which helps victims of domestic and sexual abuse. More terrific Salida bike routes can be found at

Salida’s Best ATV/Jeep Tours 

Not only is Salida a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, but it also stands as one of the best places for off-road adventurers. While there are many ways to see the Rocky Mountain State, going on a 4×4 tour is a surefire way to unveil places rather unknown, off the typical tourist trail, and deeper into the heart of mountain country.

The mountains are full of epic landscapes that careen through mountains, valleys, and rivers. Some you will only get to see if you grab a set of wheels and head off into the sticks. From beyond the boundaries of civilization, there are dozens of sites worth seeing, all accessible with off-road Jeeps. Some of the most notable include: 

  • Mount Antero
  • Hancock Pass 
  • Tin Cup 
  • Old Monarch Pass
  • Taylor Mountain Timberline
  • Ute Mine Country
  • North Fork Reservoir (CR 240)

For those who would like to rent a Jeep or book a guided tour, there are many vehicle options to suit every need. All tours and Jeeps rented from Rocky Mountain Jeep Rental are family-friendly and appropriate for all ages, including children. Choose from manual or automatic 2-door Wranglers, and 4-door Grand Cherokees or Chevy Trail Blazers.

Guided tours are offered as half-day or full-day excursion and include the adventures as noted above in addition to individually designed programs to take explorer virtually anywhere they want to go.

Speaking of photography, let’s look at some of Chaffee County’s most stunning drives, sure to inspire your inner artist.

The Most Beautiful Autumn-time Scenic Drives of Chaffee County

We think says it best: “Chaffee County is an extremely diverse area of Colorado holding a wealth of outdoor adventures, out of this world scenery, and friendly welcoming communities.”

Check out these scenic drives to get a feel for everything Chaffee County has to offer:

  • The Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway runs through the heart of Chaffee County and showcases everything that makes this valley special. Passing by towering mountains, pristine ranches, and the beautiful Arkansas River, the byway connects Buena Vista, Granite, Poncha Springs, and Salida. 
  • The Aspen Ridge is an opportunity to get off-road with a picnic. This graded dirt road leads to lush meadows and expansive views of the Continental Divide. It’s known among locals as one of the best ways to view the changing aspens trees during the Fall. Spur roads lead adventurous leaf-peepers to other exciting views. Adventurous souls can continue the trip over the ridge into Salida. Be advised, this section can be rough and gets washed out, so four-wheel drive and sound tires are a must.
  • Cottonwood Pass Road (aka county road 306) tops out at more than 12,000 feet above sea level. It’s recognized internationally as one of the most beautiful places on earth to see a sunset! 360-degree-views include several mountain ranges with even taller peaks! Afterward, stop by Cottonwood Hot Springs for a relaxing and meditative soak in the mineral pools.

Check out our blog for more scenic drives and road trip destinations around Salida.

Leaf-Peepers Relax at Creekside Chalets

Creekside Chalets visitors hail from around the globe. They come to Salida to bike, hike, fish, relax and rejuvenate in our fresh mountain air.

  • Autumn is an ideal time to visit Salida for folks who suffer from outdoor allergies, as pollen is extremely low. 

Nestled among picturesque peaks of Chaffee county, there is no shortage of lovely views for leaf-peepers at our cabins. Surrounded by the bright gold aspen leaves in the fall, you’ll never be left wanting when it comes to picture-perfect surroundings. After a refreshing day in the mountains or downtown, come home to comfort at Creekside Chalets for the relaxing experience you deserve. Contact us for a reservation today!

Related Reading & Resources: 10 Places to See Colarado’s Fall Color