As much as I love the beauty of the fall foliage, I hate the fact that winter is around the corner. It’s kind of a love-hate relationship I have with the season. Nevertheless, the husband and I decided to take a short fall vacation towards the end of September. As always we had the google maps open trying to figure where we should go. We decided to book our flights to Denver, Colorado and rent a car and explore the Rocky Mountains. We took off a couple weeks later on our 4 day long trip to Colorado.
This was my first trip to Colorado, and I must say it was pleasantly surprising to see the beautiful fall foliage up in the mountains. I always thought Colorado was more a winter destination with the mostly coniferous vegetation (what I call the christmas tree), but obviously I was wrong. Turns out Aspen City, known worldwide for it’s ski resorts, has much more than that to offer. The mountains have several kinds of trees from the Aspen tree family. These Aspen trees based on their genetic makeup, change to vibrant colors in fall. It definitely is a treat to the eyes to see the palette range from bright yellow to gold to orange.
If you are anything like me and love picturesque, scenic destinations, you should visit Aspen in the last week of September. The drive to Aspen from Denver has many scenic byways that you can access. The showstopper though is the view of the Maroon Bells. The Maroon Bells are apparently the most photographed mountains in north america and I can totally see why. Only a 30 min bus ride away from Aspen city, this is a must see attraction. The bus service runs every 20 min through the day during fall. You can even book your bus ride ahead of time or just go to the Aspen Highlands Ski area and get on the bus. Once you get to the Maroon Bells, you can spend as much time as you want by the lake mountain gazing or hike up the mountains. But be sure to make it back to the bus pick up area before the last bus ride back to the city. Aspen Chamber website provides you with an updated schedule for the bus service.
Oh, one interesting thing you need to know about Aspen, there are no chain restaurants or fast food joints in the area. Dining in Aspen is a tad bit more expensive than you would think. The restaurants are locally owned, most of them are pretty good. But if you are planning to just grab a quick bite and don’t want to burn your pockets, New York Pizza joint is a must try. They sell pizza by the slice, $4 a slice and have the best white pizza sauce I have ever eaten. We also ate at some other very hippie food joints like The Hops Culture and loved every bit of it. The Aspen downtown has this very hip and happening atmosphere with the backdrop of the most beautiful painted mountains. It is a perfect to place to spend your fall evenings, walking on the beautifully brick paved roads.
Not too far away from Aspen is another tiny little town called Leadville. It is about an hour and a half drive from Aspen, towards Denver. So if you are going to Aspen from Denver you should make half a day stop at Leadville. The only attraction there is the historic, scenic train ride which is about 2 hours long. The train ride is very suitable for families with kids, if you just want to relax and take a ride through the mountains and enjoy the scenic views. You can book the train ride on the Leadville Train Ride website.
One other thing we totally enjoyed, was soaking in the natural hot springs. There many hot springs out in the wild that could be accessed by hiking the trails if you are looking for unattended natural springs. The one we were at is in Glenwood Springs, an hour away from Aspen.
All in all, our fall getaway was one of the most memorable. Just remember, Colorado is not only the winter wonderland that we know it to be.