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3 Aug 2022

In Colorado, the turning of the seasons from summer to fall is a treasured display of Mother Nature’s magnificence. Hiking among the golden aspens is an amazing experience, yet to really get out and see what the whole state is experiencing, a scenic drive is in order. Many of these drives that have earned the coveted “scenic byway” designation, and you’ve got a backstage pass to the best fall drives in Colorado.

 

1. Independence Pass 

Elevation 12,095 feet

 

About an hour and a half from Breckenridge, accessible through the town of Leadville during summer months only, Independence Pass is an incredible drive to see fall colors and aspens at their peak. Not for the faint of heart, this pass has single lane areas and winds along the side of the mountain with places to stop along the way. The road goes through the San Isabel National forest and is covered in aspen groves and incredible views. Climb to the top of the pass to reach an elevation of 12,095 feet. Even better, you end up in the quaint town of Aspen. Continue on to see the Maroon Bells before heading back towards Glenwood Springs and I-70.

2. Boreas Pass

Elevation 11,496 feet


 

Boreas Pass is one of the best drives in Breckenridge to experience the changing Aspen trees and incredible scenery. This gravel road twists through aspen groves that takes you up to the continental divide above tree line for a breathtaking view. Take Highway 9 through Breckenridge and then turn left on Boreas Pass road. Connect Boreas Pass to Hoosier Pass for a longer adventure. 

3. Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway

Elevation: 11,319 feet

In Summit County, the Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway starts at Copper Mountain and travels over Fremont Pass to Leadville, where travelers can take one route to Granite or, to loop back to Summit, follow the extension to Tennessee Pass through Camp Hale, Red Cliff and Minturn and back to Interstate 70 east.

A gorgeous drive, this route offers lots of aspens and wide-open spaces where you get expansive views of 14ers and fall colors. General directions from Frisco: Take I-70 west from Frisco toward Copper Mountain. Take Colorado Highway 91 south to Leadville. At Leadville, there is an extension that continues south, or take U.S. Highway 24 west all the way to Minturn.

4. The West Elk Loop over Kebler Pass

Elevation: 10,007 feet

 

The West Elk Loop Scenic & Historic Byway includes the 30-mile Kebler Pass road and travels through the towns of Crested Butte, Gunnison, Montrose and Carbondale. The route also runs through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park between Montrose and Gunnison. Although a decent drive from Summit County, Kebler Pass boasts major aspens.

Kebler Pass between Crested Butte and Paonia has the largest aspen grove in Colorado and is probably our most iconic scenic fall drive. Continue on to McClure Pass, another stunning drive.

The whole historic byway loop is 205 miles and takes about six to eight hours.

General directions from Frisco: Follow I-70 west to Colorado Highway 91 south. Take Exit 195 for Colorado 91 south toward Copper Mountain/L

5. Guanella Pass

Elevation: 11,670 feet

Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway is a paved 23-mile route through Pike and Arapaho national forest land that links Georgetown and Grant. Along the byway, catch views of Grays and Torreys peaks, both Colorado 14ers.

General directions from Frisco: Follow I-70 east to Georgetown. Take Exit 228 and drive to Guanella Pass Road.

6. Rabbit Ears Pass via Cache la Poudre-North Park

Elevation: 9,426 feet

Rabbit Ears is not your average mountain pass. Instead of climbing to a high point and quickly descending, Rabbit Ears Pass climbs to around 10,000 feet and stays there for several miles. The Aspens and views of the Flattop Mountains and Catamount Lake below are spectacular, with many pull-outs to stop and take photos. Open year-round, Rabbit Ears pass is one of the snowiest roads in Colorado in winter, but the fall scenery makes the drive a must, while conditions are safer. 

The pass was named by the earliest trappers because of its appearance like rabbit ears. It’s always been a historic marker for Steamboat's Yampa Valley. Rabbit Ears pass 51.8 miles long, running from Steamboat Springs to Kremmling, just northwest of Silverthorne and I-70.

From Fort Collins: Tavelers can also access Rabbit Ears Pass coming from Fort Collins through Walden on Highway 14, a beautiful 3-plus hour drive that includes the Cache la Poudre River Canyon and Cameron Pass to the secluded valley of North Park where deer, elk and moose graze and quaking aspen mingle with massive forests.

 

Our year-round beautiful views are simply accentuated by the fall foliage. If you haven’t visited Colorado in the fall, what are you waiting for? 

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